- Nigerian authorities increasingly failing to protect children
- More than 1,500 school children abducted by armed groups since Chibok incident
- Fear of abduction causing drop in school enrollment
Eight years after the chilling abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram, more than 1,500 Nigerian school children have been abducted by armed groups, and the Nigerian authorities are failing to protect them, Amnesty International said today in a new investigation.
The increasingly brazen manner of recent abductions show that the Nigerian authorities are failing to prevent these crimes from taking place, and have not learned any lessons from the abduction of the Chibok school girls eight years ago. Meanwhile, the families of abducted children are left without any hope of reuniting with their loved ones.
“Nigerian is failing to protect vulnerable children. By refusing to respond to alerts of impending attacks on schools across the north of the country, the Nigerian authorities have failed to prevent mass abductions of thousands of school children,” said Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director.
“In all cases, the Nigerian authorities have remained shockingly unwilling to investigate these attacks or to ensure that the perpetrators of these callous crimes face justice. Every fresh attack is followed by further abductions that deprive school children of their right to liberty — and leave victims’ families with no hope of accessing justice, truth, or reparations.
The Nigerian authorities must urgently comply with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to which it is a state party. They must take concrete steps to prevent the abduction of children and ensure that those suspected of criminal responsibility face justice in fair trials and rescue the hundreds of children who remain in captivity.Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Directo
The recent upsurge in abductions is also leading to prolonged shutdowns of schools. As a result, affected regions have seen a decline in school enrollment and attendance, as well as a rise in child marriage and pregnancies of school-age girls.
Of the more than 1,500 school children who have been abducted in northern Nigeria since the Chibok attack on 14 April 2014, at least 120 students remain in captivity. They are mostly schoolgirls, and their fate remains unknown.
Of the 276 schoolgirls abducted in Chibok by Boko Haram, 109 are still unaccounted for. Of 102 students who were kidnapped from the Federal Government College in Birnin Yauri, nine are still being held by their captors. One of the 121 students abducted from Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State remains in captivity.
Five of the 19 students abducted from Greenfield University were brutally murdered, while one of the 333 students kidnapped in Kankara was also killed. Five of the 110 students kidnapped in Dapchi were killed, while one student, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity. Five of the 136 school children kidnapped from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina have also been killed.
Stigmatization and trauma
One returnee* who was interviewed by Amnesty International lamented the stigmatization she has suffered in her local community after returning: “They call us Boko Haram wives and our children are not even allowed to mingle with other kids in the village.”
Another said: “I am happy to be back home, but it’s been difficult with no financial support. The government promised to help us, but we are still waiting for them. I just want to go back to school and continue with my studies. I wish the government will fulfil their promise to help us.”
Amnesty International interviewed seven parents of schoolchildren who remain in captivity, who described their ordeal as traumatizing and frustrating.
A mother of some of the Chibok girls still in captivity said: “We sent our children to school, but they are neither in school nor at home. I don’t know if I’m going to see my daughters again. The trauma of not knowing where my children are is silently killing me. I am socially and psychologically degenerating.”
Another mother said: “It does not appear that the government is on top of the matter, and I am not hopeful that I might reunite with my daughter someday. I’m already getting tired of following up with the authorities. Also, community support and sympathy are declining every day. I’m hopeless! I’m hopeless!”
Parents whose children are still in school told Amnesty International they felt constant fear every day that their children go to school that abductors will return to abduct their children. Similarly, parents whose children are due to be studying face the dilemma of whether or not to enrol them. If they do, they fear their children may not return home.
Speaking to Amnesty International, a father of three children in Jangebe town said: “I’m confused right now as I speak to you. My friends and I have been contemplating whether we should enrol our kids in school or not. We fear that they might be carted away by bandits. In fact, in most of our neighbouring communities, the schools are closed for fear of attacks”
In April 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, a town located in northeast Nigeria. Some of the girls escaped captivity on their own, while others were released following campaigning efforts by civil society organizations and negotiations by the government.
Despite efforts to free them, 109 girls abducted from the Chibok school remain in captivity, while at least 16 school children lost their lives after being abducted.
Between December 2020 and October 2021, about 1,436 school children — and 17 teachers — were abducted from schools in Nigeria by armed groups.
*All names omitted to protect the identity and safety of interviewees.