In recent years kidnapping has become a lucrative business for criminals in the north, mainly where their activities go unchecked. They get away with carting people off, demanding large sums of money as ransom. One new trend that has been plaguing the region is school kidnappings. Armed men storm into schools and pick up unsuspecting students along with their teachers or caretakers, then proceed to ask for massive amounts of money in exchange for their return.
The first incidence of school kidnappings in Nigeria dates back to 2014 when 276 girls in Chibok were kidnapped by the terrorist organization Boko Haram.
In the last six months, more incidences have risen. On December 11, 2020, armed men kidnapped 300 boys from Government Science School in Kankara, Katsina State. They were held captive for six days before being released.
Soon after, 27 students were taken from Government Science Secondary School in Kagara, Niger state. They were released ten days later.
Then this scourge moved into Kaduna when three different schools were attacked. 20 students of Greenfield University, a private school, were kidnapped, five of whom were killed for failing to provide the ransom on time. Likewise, 30 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization were taken hostage until their families raised the money for their release.
Citizens of the state had barely recovered from this incident when 120 students from Bethel Baptist High School were kidnapped on July 5. These kidnappings have caused many parents to pull their children out of school especially boarding school, for fear that they may be next.
The pandemic that ravaged the entire world in 2020 already caused these children to miss out on the school year. The kidnappings have made it even harder for many students to return to the classroom as their parents and guardians live in fear of another attack.
These attacks have been going on without reprisals from security forces. Instead, the government has resorted to paying ransoms. In states where the government does not bring these children home, their parents pool their resources together to pay off the kidnappers.
This has made mass abductions of school children a lucrative business for criminals who camouflage under the title of “bandits”, a term the government uses to describe these criminals.
Many have condemned paying the ransom as they believe it only fuels these abductions and inspires more criminal gangs to attack schools. They think the government should find ways to tackle this crisis other than paying off the bandits and rewarding “repentant” criminals with amnesty.
These criminals also seem to have more sophisticated weapons than the security forces. They broke into a military stronghold, The Nigerian Defence Academy(NDA), and kidnapped several officers, shattering any faith citizens left in the security forces.
Also, not much is done to help students who have been kidnapped after their release, some of whom were beaten, raped and even impregnated by their captors. They do not receive any form of therapy or treatment to help with the horrors faced while in captivity. They just go home and are expected to live like nothing ever happened.
In a country with an estimated 10 million out of school children, these kidnappings are adding more to that figure.