ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria’s northwestern state of Kaduna ordered the immediate closure of 13 schools on July 5, after shooters attacked a secondary school and abducted an unknown number of students.

Unidentified shooters stormed the Bethel Baptist High School in Damishi town, Chikun local government area, in the early hours of July 5, taking away an unknown number of students and teachers, according to local police.

Umma Ahmed, an official in charge of education affairs in the state, said that the 13 schools ordered to be closed are believed to be vulnerable to gunmen attacks.

Nigerian police said that the actual number of students kidnapped by the gunmen on July 5 has yet to be determined, but 26 students and one teacher had regained their freedom as security operatives chased after the gunmen.

Map of Kaduna and Damishi town Nigeria

Kidnap-for-ransom attacks have plagued northern Nigeria in recent years, disrupting education activities.

Shooters attacked the Federal Government College in Birnin Yauri, a province in Kebbi State, northwestern Nigeria, on June 18, kidnapping five teachers and more than 80 students, mostly girls.

The heavily armed bandits entered the town on motorcycles from the neighboring Rijau forest in Niger State.

A teacher at the school who witnessed the attack said the armed bandits broke through the gate, killed a police officer, and went straight to the students in classes.

Nafiu Abubakar, the spokesperson for Kebbi State Police Command, confirmed the killing of one of his officers during the attack.

“There was gunfire between the gunmen and policemen who attempted to repel the attack,” Abubakar said. “It was in the gunfight that we lost a policeman, and some student sustained injuries.”

 

This was the third assault in less than a month by armed gangs in Kebbi State, a region where kidnap for ransom is rapidly becoming an established criminal industry.

On April 20, 2021, armed bandits stormed Kasarami village in the Chikun province of Kaduna State and kidnaped at least 20 students and two staff members.

After one month in captivity, 15 students were released, but five were killed.

report by United Nations Children’s Fund shows that out of the 10.5 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, 30 percent are in northern Nigeria.

report from SB Morgen, an intelligence firm, said at least $18 million was paid to kidnapers between June 2011 and March 2020.

The report, titled “The Economics of the Kidnap Industry in Nigeria,” found that the majority of that figure (nearly $11 million) was paid out from 2016 to March 2020, “indicating that kidnappings are becoming more lucrative.”

In reaction to the ransom payment to criminal gangs, Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi sponsored a bill criminalizing the payment and receiving ransom money for kidnaped persons.

The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which has sailed through the second reading in the Senate, recommends a 15-year sentence for anyone who pays ransom to kidnappers.

“Kidnappings has become a fast and lucrative business, and it has now remained the most virulent, pervasive, and intractable form of banditry in Nigeria,” Onyewuchi told Zenger News.

In one of its reports, Chatham House found that “the Boko Haram insurgency has exacerbated low levels of education and literacy in northeast Nigeria.”

The report also noted that “in addition, government security forces have also used schools for military purposes, further reducing children’s right to education.”

(With inputs from ANI)

(Edited by Amrita Das and Kipchumba Some. Map by Urvashi Makwana)



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