Nigeria: More than 1,500 children kidnapped by armed groups

Eight years after Boko Haram’s horrific kidnapping of 276 high school girls in Chibok, Nigerian authorities are still not up to the task and failing in their duty to protect children. Result ? The fear of kidnapping leads to a sharp drop in school enrollment.

*The group called Jama atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda a Waati Wal Jihad, better known as Boko Haram, whose name can be translated as “Western education is a sin”.

More than 1,500. That’s how many students have been abducted by armed groups in Nigeria since 2014. Kidnappings, which are becoming increasingly brazen, illustrate the Nigerian authorities’ inability to prevent them and show that they have failed to learn the lessons of Boko Haram*’s kidnapping of Chibok schoolgirls eight years ago.

Nigeria is failing in its duty to protect vulnerable children. By refusing to respond to warnings of imminent attacks on schools in the north of the country, Nigerian authorities are failing to block the mass kidnappings that have affected thousands of students.

Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria

The authorities are very reluctant both to investigate these attacks and to bring the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to justice. Each new attack is accompanied by new kidnappings, depriving young people of their right to freedom and leaving victims’ families without hope of accessing justice, truth or redress.

The increase in kidnappings is also leading to longer school closures. So we see in the affected regions a decrease in enrollment and attendance at schooland an increase in child marriage and pregnancy among school-age girls.

Forgotten children: the numbers

Of more than 1,500 students abducted in northern Nigeria since the Chibok attack on April 14, 2014, at least 120 remain in captivity. They are mostly girls and we don’t know what fate awaits them.

At Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri: Of the 102 students kidnapped, nine are still in detention.

Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna State: Of the 121 students abducted, only one remains in captivity.

At the University of Greenfield: Of the 19 students kidnapped, five were murdered

In Dapchi, Yobe State: Of the 276 students kidnapped, five were murdered and one remains in captivity

At the Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Tegina: Five of the 136 kidnapped students were murdered

1 436kidnapped students

17kidnapped teachers

Between December 2020 and October 2021 in schools in Nigeria by armed groups.

A flashback to the kidnapping of the Chibok high school girls

In April 2014, 276 high school girls were abducted from a high school in Chibok, a small town in northeastern Nigeria. Some managed to escape, but others were finally released after an intensive campaign by civil society organizations and negotiations with the authorities.

Despite efforts to free them, 109 high school girls abducted in Chibok remain in captivity, while at least 16 lost their lives following their abduction.

Also read: In Nigeria, 1000 days after high school girls were kidnapped

Stigma and Trauma: Testimonies

We met one of the students who was able to return home after being kidnapped by Boko Haram. She told us that since her return she has been stigmatized by her own community.

They call us Boko Haram women and our children are not even allowed to meet with the other children in the village.

Kidnapped high school student who was able to return home

Another said: “I’m happy to be back home, but it’s difficult without financial support. The government promised to help us, but we’re still waiting. I just want to go back to school and continue my studies. I hope the government keeps its promise and comes to our rescue. »

We interviewed seven parents of students whose children are still in captivity. They told us about their ordeal, which was marked by trauma and frustration.

We have sent our children to school, but they are neither at school nor at home. I don’t know if I’ll ever see my daughters again. The trauma of not knowing where my children are is slowly killing me. I am degrading myself socially and psychologically.

A mother of a high school girl from Chibok

Another mother said: “It seems that the government is not really mobilized on this matter and I have lost hope of finding my daughter one day. I’m tired of going to the authorities. And then the support and compassion of the community diminishes every day. I’m desperate ! Desperate! »

Live in constant fear

On days when their kids go to school, parents are always afraid that kidnappers will come back to kidnap them. Parents whose children have to start university are also faced with a dilemma: to enroll or not. If they do, they fear their children won’t come home.

In an interview, a father of three in the village of Jangebe said: “I’m lost while I’m talking to you. My friends and I are debating whether or not to enroll our children in school. We fear they will be kidnapped by bandits. In fact, schools in most areas are closed for fear of attacks. »

Our concerns

Nigeria must immediately respect the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to which it is party.

The Nigerian authorities must take concrete steps to prevent child abductions, ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials and free the hundreds of children who remain in custody.

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