The trauma still marks Nigeria ten years after the mass kidnapping of schoolgirls

Over a hundred of these girls are still being held in captivity. Even worse, another 1,500 students have been abducted since the incident in Chibok. These days, Nigeria is commemorating the shocking experience.

Armed groups see the young people as “commodities” in a lucrative business, where kidnappings can be turned into money that is used to finance other types of criminal activity.

Villages in the mineral-rich northern regions of Nigeria are particularly vulnerable. Here, the presence of the police authorities is very scattered, and it is almost free for organized criminal activity.

The news agency AP has spoken to five families who have experienced having their children kidnapped. The consequences are often major family trauma and increasing reluctance to send the children to school, particularly in the north of the country.

The development exacerbates the crisis in the education sector in a country of 200 million people, where at least 10 million are school-age children who are kept at home. This is among the world’s largest dropouts among school children.

One among many

12-year-old Treasure is a number in the statistics. He is one of the 1,500 who have been abducted. In July 2021, he was one of over a hundred fellow students who were kidnapped in the northwestern state of Kaduna.

Ransoms did not lead, and Treasure eventually became the only one in this group that the perpetrators would not let go. He finally managed to escape and wandered alone in the forest last November. Exhausted and covered in dirt and grime, he stood in the doorway at home one day.

AP has not been able to speak with Treasure. He is under medical treatment and has not said much. The relatives, among them cousin Jennifer, tell about the hours when the kidnappers appeared at the boarding school at the school in March 2021. Jennifer was kidnapped a few months before Treasure, but from the same school.

– I have not come to grips, and my family is still struggling with what happened. Treasure hardly wants to talk about it. I don’t think life will ever be the same, says Jennifer.

She sits closely with her mother, who cries silently as the traumatic event is relived. Jennifer sleeps poorly and suffers from nightmares, even more than three years after her release.

Different groups – same terror

Unlike the Islamic extremists who were behind the kidnappings in Chibol ten years ago, the brutal gangs terrorizing the villages of northwestern Nigeria today are made up of former herdsmen and nomads. They are in constant conflict with permanent farmers. At least this is the authorities’ version.

With the help of armed smugglers, who easily cross Nigeria’s porous borders, these gangs operate without any central leadership and no fixed structure. The attacks mostly take place based on financial considerations.

Some social analysts see the kidnappings as a symptom of the greatly deteriorated security situation throughout the country. According to the Nigerian consulting firm SBM Intelligence, almost 2,000 people have been kidnapped for ransom so far this year.

A former local church leader in Kaduna, Pastor John Hayab, says the armed gangs find the kidnapping of school children far more sensational – and lucrative. Hayab himself has been an intermediary in the negotiations that have resulted in releases.

Failing security

The security lapses that resulted in the mass kidnapping in Chibok remain unaddressed at many boarding schools, according to Unicef’s office in Nigeria.

A UN survey shows that only 43 per cent of the minimum measures have been implemented at the 6,000 schools that were investigated. Then it is a question of simple measures such as fences and guarding.

Bola Tinubu was elected president in March 2023, among other things, promising to end the kidnappings. After one year in power, there appears to be little will and little ability to accept the seriousness of the situation and do something about it, says Nnamdi Obasi. He is a senior adviser at the Nigeria office of the International Crisis Group.

– There is no targeted strategy to deal with this crisis, nor have resources been allocated, he says.

Treasure’s trials

Treasure was the youngest of the over a hundred students who were taken from Bethel Baptist High School in Chikun area of ​​Kaduna in 2021. The others were released in groups after a ransom was paid, but Treasure was held back, says Pastor Hayab.

The family clung to hope even as the months passed. His grandmother Mary Peter remembers well the night he suddenly appeared on the doorstep.

– His first words were that he was very hungry. He wanted something to eat right away, says the grandmother. Treasure had then been gone for two years and three months.

– Treasure has lived through hell on earth. We have to work hard to get him back from the terrible experiences, to get him to put this behind him, says Pastor Hayab.

Sting like that

Nigerian politicians decided in 2022 that it is forbidden to pay ransom in kidnapping cases.

But desperate families shell out, knowing kidnappers can be ruthless and take the lives of children from families who delay paying in cash at agreed locations.

Even with a ransom, there is no guaranteed solution. Several victims have complained that the security forces turn their backs, even when they have been informed of the whereabouts of the child kidnappers.

#trauma #marks #Nigeria #ten #years #mass #kidnapping #schoolgirls
2024-04-17 01:25:24

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.