By: NOLAN PAGE
On the morning of Monday, March 15, gunmen stormed the elementary school of Rama village in Kaduna State, Nigeria while students were arriving. It had initially been reported that an unknown number of students had been abducted by the bandits, but it has since been confirmed that the only people who have been abducted are three teachers named Rabiu Salisu, Umar Hassan, and Bala Adamu and two students who had been reported missing have been found.
This comes as the most recent of a recent series of abductions, particularly disturbing because this is the first event where it is believed that an elementary school was targeted specifically to abduct hostages and hold them for ransom. The Nigerian Government has made promises to heighten security in schools, but gangs of bandits remain powerful, especially in Northwestern Nigeria. In the past four months alone, there have been 6 abduction events at Nigerian schools. In total, more than 700 have been abducted and a group of 39 students seized in early March as well as the 3 teachers in the most recent event, have still not been released.
These situations are usually resolved through negotiation between bandits and the Nigerian Governments, and though governors of the affected Nigerian States deny it, it is widely believed that ransoms are being paid to resolve these situations. Knowing that they will be able to claim ransom money for hostages has incentivised bandits to organize and perform these abductions. Ahmed Idris, reporting for Al Jazeera, an international news channel, stated that, “The number of abductions in the north is just mind-boggling. It’s becoming the most lucrative criminal enterprise in Nigeria today – and it’s growing fast.”
This problem has grown so prominent that some secondary schools in the states of Kano, Yobe and Katsina have decided to close in order to avoid putting their students at risk.This pattern of targeting schools for mass abduction was established back in 2014 in the widely publicized Chibok abduction when 370 schoolgirls were abducted from a school in Chibok, 100 of whom have still not been found. In 2015, Nigeria passed a Safe Schools Declaration to put policies in place to protect schools from these abductions and refine responses to these attacks, but as evidenced by the recent school kidnappings, it has not been effective enough and there have been widespread calls for Nigerian States to change their policies and do more to protect schools with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari tweeting, “State governments must review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles. Such a policy has the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences.”