More than 1,000 students have been arrested in mass abductions for ransom by criminal gangs in the central and northwestern states of Nigeria since December 2020, with dozens still in captivity. .
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) confirmed that there have been 20 attacks on schools in Nigeria this year, more than 1,400 students have been kidnapped and 16 children have died.
Most of the students were released following ransom negotiations. However, the release of the students came only after a few weeks or months of confinement, often in the squalid conditions in rural camps.
UNICEF said in a statement: “Families and communities in Nigeria remain fearful of returning their children to the classroom due to numerous school attacks and student abductions.“.
Parents reunite with their children after a school kidnap in Nigeria (Image: AP)
According to UNICEF, more than 37 million Nigerian children will start the new school year this month. Meanwhile, it is estimated that about 1 million children will likely not return to school. Some states have had to temporarily close schools after the kidnappings.
The central and northwestern states of Nigeria have long grappled with tit-for-tat violence between nomadic herders and farming communities vying for arable land, grazing and water resources. . The attacks escalated with the appearance of criminal gangs, armed bandits raiding villages, stealing livestock and kidnapping for ransom.
In 2021, gangs of robbers targeted many schools and colleges in the Northwest region of Nigeria. They kidnap and move the students to hide in the woods, while the subjects negotiate a ransom.
Last week, in the northwestern state of Zamfara, about 70 students were kidnapped and released this week. The Nigerian army has begun to launch an offensive against gangs of kidnappers and robbers in this area.