There have been several cases of kidnappings around Nigeria over the years. These are some of the most memorable.
Two weeks to Christmas last year, an unfortunate episode happened at Kankara, the headquarters of Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State, when gunmen invaded the Government Science Secondary School in the town and abducted over 340 pupils.
About 800 students were said to be at the school on December 11 when the attack occurred, but some of the pupils were able to scale the fence of the school and run to safety as the school’s security personnel tried to repel the bandit.
Although the schoolboys were freed about six days later, the incident brought back to memory the kidnappings of schoolgirls at Chibok (Borno State) and Dapchi (Yobe State) in 2014 and 2018, respectively.
In recent years, the country has also witnessed a series of kidnapping by armed groups and terrorists, with a 2020 report by SB Morgen showing that between 2011 and 2020, over $18m (N6.9bn) had been paid in ransom to kidnappers by their victims.
Out of this figure, SBM stated that around $11m (N4.2bn) was paid between 2016 and 2020, which makes it appear that kidnapping has become a business.
This report highlights 10 of the unforgettable kidnapping cases in the past few years in the country, starting with the Kankara schoolboys’ incident.
Kankara schoolboys kidnapping
In the evening of December 11, 2020, a gang of gunmen on motorcycles reportedly invaded the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, where over 800 pupils resided.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), was said to be around in his home town of Daura, Katsina State when the attack occurred.
In the operation that reportedly lasted about an hour, the school’s security personnel were said to have repelled the gunmen while waiting for police reinforcement.
As the police arrived and engaged the gunmen in a gun duel, the attackers reportedly retreated but escaped with 344 schoolboys. Several students were said to have scaled the fence of the school to escape.
A day after the incident, the armed forces said they found the gang’s hideout in a forest and exchanged gunfire with them.
By December 14, Katsina State Governor, Aminu Masari, said the kidnappers had contacted them and negotiations were ongoing for the pupils’ release.
A day later, an audio message purporting to be from Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, went viral online, with the sect claiming to be in the custody of the pupils. However, the audio could not be verified to confirm it was Shekau’s voice.
The Katsina State government later said that the abductions were carried out by criminal gangs, consisting mostly of former Fulani herders who wanted to take revenge against others through the kidnapping.
By December 17, Masari said all 344 of the victims had been freed from where they were being held in a bush in neighbouring Zamfara State.
Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping
An unforgettable kidnapping incident that did not only shook Nigeria but also the world was the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State on April 14, 2014.
The kidnapping, carried out by the Boko Haram terrorist sect, generated massive outrage from international organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, as well as from leaders from countries such as Canada, China, France, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Most of the countries also reportedly offered to assist Nigeria with intelligence to recapture the girls.
On the night the attack happened, some girls were reportedly loaded into trucks and the rest walked several miles until other trucks came to take them away into Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram terrorists were known to have fortified camps.
Meanwhile, some of the girls have been released in the months that followed while several are still missing as of today.
At the time the incident took place, Amnesty International said it believed the Nigerian military had four hours’ advance warning of the kidnapping but failed to send reinforcements to protect the school.
The incident was also believed to be one of the issues that tainted the administration of the former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapping
Four years after the Chibok schoolgirls kidnap, a similar incident occurred when, on February 19, 2018, Boko Haram kidnapped 110 schoolgirls from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College at Dapchi, Yunusari Local Government area of Yobe State.
Five schoolgirls were said to have died on the same day of their abduction.
The then state governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, reportedly blamed the Nigerian Army for the attack, saying they removed a military checkpoint from the town.
A month after, the girls were freed except one, a Christian girl named Leah Sharibu, believed to have not been released by the terrorists because she refused to abandon her faith and convert to Islam.
Since then, several individuals and advocacy groups have been criticising the Federal Government for failing to secure Leah’s release almost three years after the incident.
In August 2018, an audio message was released of Leah pleading for her freedom. In October 2018, her parents disclosed that Boko Haram had threatened to kill their daughter later that month, should the government not meet their demands.
In February 2019, social media reports circulated about her death. But the reports were dismissed and described by the government as politically motivated disinformation.
On May 14, 2019, Leah celebrated her 16th birthday in Boko Haram custody, after she had spent over 400 days in captivity. Some Muslims were reported to have gathered to pray for the release of the girl on May 16, 2019.
In January 2020, Leah was reported to have given birth to a baby boy after being forcefully converted to Islam and married off to a Boko Haram commander.
UNIMAID lecturers’ kidnap
One of the kidnap cases that also shook the country was that of the lecturers of the University of Maiduguri, Borno State in July 2017.
Boko Haram terrorists had ambushed the lecturers, who were part of an oil exploration team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, were on an oil prospecting mission to the Lake Chad Basin.
The team comprised UNIMAID staff, members of the Civilian Joint Task Force, and military personnel.
The terrorists killed five staff members during the ambush and abducted four others, the UNIMAID chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities confirmed.
The university said the deceased comprised two geologists, two technologists and a driver.
The Nigerian Army also confirmed that nine soldiers and one other person were killed in the ambush.
On July 28, Boko Haram released a video of three of the kidnapped lecturers, appealing to the Federal Government and others to help secure their release.
After over 200 days in captivity, Boko Haram released the workers.
According to reports, also freed were 10 women kidnapped by Boko Haram on a military/police convoy on Damboa road, near Maiduguri.
Babington Macaulay schoolgirls abduction
On February 29, 2016, about 15 gunmen reportedly attacked Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in the Ikorodu area of Lagos State at about 8pm, firing gunshots in the air during an operation in which three schoolgirls were abducted.
The schoolgirls were thereafter reportedly taken by the gunmen through Majidun to a creek via a canoe.
The girls were freed some days later after reportedly collecting a ransom.
Confessing to the crime in June 2016 after his arrest by the police, a kidnap kingpin, Felix Sylva, said he coordinated the girls’ abduction and others in the state, saying he got N300,000 as ransom before the girls were freed.
Nigerian-Turkish College students, teachers’ abduction
On January 13, 2017, the management of Nigerian-Turkish International School in Isheri, Ogun State, confirmed that eight persons, including five students and three staff members of the college, were kidnapped by gunmen. One of those kidnapped was a Turkish national.
The school said the kidnappers gained entrance into the compound through the school’s fence, saying the assailants dug a portion of the fence near a swamp.
The abductors reportedly arrived at about 9.30pm and went straight to the female hostels, where they seized the victims. After 11 days in captivity, the students and staff members were rescued by the police, although there were claims in some quarters that the school and the students’ families parted with millions of naira as ransoms.
Boko Haram’s kidnap of six aid workers
In apparent anger towards relief agencies treating the victims of insurgency, Boko Haram terrorists on July 18, 2019, abducted six aid workers while their convoy was driving to Damasak, Borno State.
The terrorists later released a video of the six aid workers in which a woman who’s an employee of the Action Against Hunger pleaded for the release of her and others.
Action Against Hunger confirmed the identity of its worker as well as three health workers and two drivers who went missing following the July 18 attack. Another driver was killed during the attack, Human Rights Watch reported.
In September 2019, the terrorists killed one of the hostages, the Paris, France-based Action Against Hunger said in a statement.
Meanwhile, that was not the first time suspected Boko Haram insurgents targeted and attacked aid workers in the country. In 2013, suspected Boko Haram terrorists killed about nine polio workers in Kano State.
Kidnap, execution of ICRC workers
One of the heartbreaking kidnap incidents was in March 2018 when Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped two aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross along with one other health worker in Rann, Kala-Balge Local Government Area of Borno State.
However, Boko Haram killed one of them in September and the other one month after. The duo were reportedly working with internally displaced persons at a health centre in Rann when they were abducted.
Three other humanitarian workers and eight members of the security forces were killed during the kidnap.
The ICRC described the executions as devastating news while the Federal Government called it “inhuman and ungodly.”
ABU students’ kidnapping
In another attack on the university community, gunmen on November 15, 2020 kidnapped nine students of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
The students were reportedly travelling to Lagos for a programme at the Nigerian French Language Village in Badagry when the incident occurred.
One of the students who escaped with a gunshot wound said the kidnappers demanded N30m ransom from each student’s family. The kidnappers, however, reduced their demand to N1m as ransom for each student.
However, seven days after the attack, the students regained their freedom, though it was unclear whether their families paid the ransom.
Four Borno aid workers’ kidnap
In another unfortunate attack on humanitarian agencies, Boko Haram terrorists in June 2020 kidnapped four aid workers and a security agent from different organisations in an ambush while travelling between Monguno and Maiduguri in Borno State.
However, a month later, the terrorists killed all the hostages, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance confirmed.
Security experts task govt to end kidnapping
Due to the increasing wave of kidnappings across the country, some security experts have tasked the government at various levels to work on solutions to reduce the menace.
A security expert based in Lagos, Mr Johnson Olakunle, told our correspondent that the government must employ various security technologies to tackle the crime.
He said, “When a problem keeps occurring, it’s not that there is no solution. The political will must be there. If not, how many more people does the government want to be kidnapping victims before finding solutions to the crime?
“There are various security technologies like drones that the government can employ to monitor the activities of bandits and terrorists across the country. The question is: Is the government willing to acquire those technologies, because the funds are there?
“Also, the welfare of security forces must be taken into consideration. This is important. If the security forces are well taken care of, well trained, and provided with sophisticated weapons, they can prevent some of these incidents before they even happen. The security agents will excel at their job if they are well motivated.”
Another security researcher, Mr Ahmed Lawal, told Sunday PUNCH that the government must wake up to end kidnappings in the country.
Lawal stated, “It is unfortunate that we wake up almost every day hearing that so-so person has been kidnapped. Insecurity is a sign of incompetence, to the best of my understanding.
“And really, we don’t need to keep proffering any solutions to the government on how to tackle kidnappings and other insecurity forms. The government has some of the best brains in the system whose job is to do that. And most importantly, we have the security chiefs, who have a wealth of experience. Ending insecurity is all about having the political will.”
Meanwhile, in a 2020 report titled, ‘The economics of the kidnap industry in Nigeria: SBM expressed concern that in many parts of the country, kidnapping appeared to have become a business, especially for otherwise unemployed youth.
The agency warned that kidnapping might increase as the country slipped into recession driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and the fall in oil prices, as more people were being put out of work.
When contacted to speak on the matter, the spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force, Frank Mba, didn’t pick calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to his mobile as of Saturday.
Source: The PUNCH