Nearly 300 Nigerian students released following abduction in Kaduna

Nearly 300 children and staff who were kidnapped by gunmen from a school in northern Nigeria earlier this month have been freed unharmed, according to the governor’s office in Kaduna, just days before a N1 billion ransom deadline.

The kidnapping of 287 students on March 7 in Kuriga, a desert village in northwestern Kaduna state, was the first major abduction in Africa’s most populous country since 2021, when more than 150 students were seized from a Kaduna high school.

According to a security source, the students were recovered in a forest in neighbouring Zamfara state and are being transported by the army to Kaduna for medical checks before being reunited with their families.

Boko Haram abducted 276 pupils from a girls’ school in Chibok, northern Borno State, a decade ago.

Some of the girls have not been released.

Since then, the strategy has been extensively copied by criminal groups with no ideological affiliation.

Uba Sani, the governor of Kaduna, stated that the release of the Kuriga pupils was arranged by the country’s National Security Advisor.

He did not provide further details.

“The Nigerian Army also deserves special commendation for showing that, with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded and security restored in our communities,” Sani stated in a press release.

The gunmen last week demanded a total of 1 billion naira for release of the missing children and staff.

The government had said it would not pay any ransom. The practice was outlawed in 2022.

But kidnappings by criminal gangs demanding ransoms have become an almost daily occurrence, especially in northern Nigeria, tearing apart families and communities that have to pool savings to pay ransoms, often forcing them to sell land, cattle and grain to secure the release of their loved ones.