Between Abduction and Freedom

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From December 2020 to February 2021, over 600 school children have been kidnapped in their various schools across a bandits-rampaged northwest and northcentral Nigeria. While government authorities maintain that no ransom was paid to secure the abducted children’s release, some news sources suggest the payment of millions of naira. The contradictions in this information may have shifted the focus from the recurrence of schoolchildren’s kidnap in Nigeria. However, the rate of ransom kidnap in Nigeria has become more apparent and lucrative in Nigeria. In a valid attempt to quantify the costs of kidnapping in Nigeria, a report by SB Morgen, a Nigerian consulting firm, puts the figure at $11 million between 2016 and 2020.

Historically, usual targets of kidnapping have been the affluent and the highly placed. However, in recent years it has moved to motorists, school children, residents of rural and urban communities’ in non-violent and violent regions of the country. Kidnapping in Nigeria has become a flourishing criminal activity. In the last few years, kidnapping for ransom has been on a steady increase. News and anecdotal reports show that kidnapping is the most instant and indiscriminate crime among Nigeria’s significant security challenges. Kidnapping has taken different dimensions and undertaken by multiple armed groups. From kidnapping for ransom, hostage-taking by terrorists, bandits, and children’s abduction for child-soldier, child-trafficking and child-labour purposes.

In the current string of schoolchildren’s abduction, there is a worrisome slippery slope. The rescue efforts’ unclear terms have had little significance in demystifying the reported payment of a ransom to release the abducted children. The situation may encourage kidnapping gangs, bandits and terrorists to increase targeted abduction of school children with the hope of getting millions of naira as a reward. While the Nigerian government needs to intensify the securitisation of areas prone to attacks, it must make meaningful efforts to change a brewing narrative that school children’s abduction has become a lucrative venture. Also, the alleged payment of ransom, if true, will give non-state armed groups the funds to acquire more weapons and logistics to unleash more terror in the country. The burden of Nigerian security agencies is to intensify aggressive measures to end the kidnapping spree currently prevalent in Nigeria.

Additionally, the wave of kidnapping in Nigeria will affect school enrolment and attendance. The Nigerian Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, disclosed on Thursday, 21st January 2021, that the number of out-of-school children dropped from 10.1 million to 6.946 million in 2020. Undoubtedly, the current war on education will affect the recorded success of school enrolment in Nigeria. On 1st March 2021, the Niger State government advised parents not to allow students’ abduction to discourage them from sending their wards to school. The Niger state government’s call comes after the kidnapping of 27 students in a school in Kagara, Niger state and the impact it may have on the victims, their families and other community members. On this basis, state governments in areas prone to non-state armed groups’ menace must stop the operation of boarding schools. The war on education in Nigeria must move government to introduce dynamic solutions to ensure Nigerian children’s continued education without being exposed to violent attacks and ransom kidnaps.