Nigerian authorities are failing children as at least 61 children in northern Nigeria remain in captivity months after their abduction during mass attacks on schools, Amnesty International said today.
In a series of attacks, bandits have forced children into captivity, subjecting them to horrific and degrading treatment, and terminating the education of thousands of young people.
Many abducted children have been released after negotiations, but more than 61 children remain in captivity months after abductions this year, including:
At least 56 children of Federal Government College in Kebbi state are still in captivity 167 days after their abduction on 17 June. 102 school children as well as eight academic and non-academic staff were abducted during the raid.
In Kaduna, three students abducted from Bethel Baptist High School on 5 July have spent 149 days in captivity. At least 121 children aged between 10 and 15 were abducted during the raid.
Children, including an infant, are among the 66 people still in captivity after their abduction on 31 October at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Kaduna state.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, said:
“No child should go through what children are going through now in Nigeria. Education should not be a matter of life and death for anyone. Nigeria is failing children once again in a horrifying manner.
“When education institutions are targeted or attacked, the damage and consequences can be major and far-reaching. The protection of children’s lives is paramount, and the Nigerian authorities have a duty to ensure that the country’s educational sector is not further threatened by the abductions, intimidation and killing of school children.”
“The Nigerian authorities must provide protection for schools and children. Attacks on schools are a violation of international law and the authorities must ensure that these attacks are properly investigated, and alleged perpetrators brought to justice in fair trials without recourse to the death penalty.”
Schoolchildren at constant risk of death or abduction
Children in orphanages, schools and places of worship are often abducted and held in captivity for weeks, sometimes months, depending on when or if the demands of their abductors are met. Children in school buses or walking to schools are also sometimes ambushed and abducted for ransom.
Schoolchildren in some parts of northern Nigeria are constantly at the risk of death or abduction. More than 780 children have been abducted for ransom since February 2021 during mass attacks on schools or religious institutions, with some of the children killed during the attacks. Parents of the abducted children or the school authorities are sometimes made to provide food and clothing for the children while in captivity.
The future of thousands of schoolchildren in Northern Nigeria remains bleak as hundreds of schools in some states have been closed indefinitely due to rising insecurity. Many children abandoned education due to the psychological trauma of witnessing violent attacks or living in captivity.
A primary school teacher who teaches in the community where 317 school children were abducted on 26 February 2021 in Jangebe LGA, Zamfara state told Amnesty that insecurity has drastically reduced school attendance, as children are afraid of attending to school even when forced by their parents.
A 15-year-old boy who sustained injury while escaping mass abduction in his school told Amnesty that he would not be returning to school, whenever it reopens: “If school reopens, I won’t go back to the boarding school, I will rather become a day student elsewhere. Anytime I remember what happens I get scared; it’s disturbing, I want all the children most especially my cousins to be rescued”.
Death in captivity or during attack
Two girls and a boy abducted from Federal Government College in Kebbi state on 17 June this year were found dead, days after their abduction. Two of the children were shot in their legs while the third was suspected to have died of ill-health.
On 6 June, the body of a three-year-old boy abducted at the Salihu Tanko Islamic School in Niger state was found few kilometres away from the town, while five other children abducted during the raid also died in captivity. At least 136 children aged between three and 15 were abducted during the raid and freed on the 26 of August after months in captivity.
On 17 February, Benjamin Doma was killed while trying to escape during an attack on Government Science College Kagara, Niger state. 27 school children were also abducted during the raid.
On 19 September, Edeh Donald, a student of Marist Comprehensive Academy in Abia state, died when their school bus was attacked by gunmen.
Attacks on schools must end
Section 27 of the Child Rights Act prohibits the abduction of children. Having ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Nigeria has an obligation to take appropriate measures to prevent the abduction of children and to guarantee children’s right to education. Amnesty International Nigeria has repeatedly called for the protection of children during crisis and an end to attacks on schools.