Nigeria: Eight years after Chibok more than 1,500 children abducted by armed groups
Of the 276 abducted Chibok children, 16 were killed and 109 remain unaccounted for
Upsurge in abductions has led to school closures and rise in child marriage
‘The trauma of not knowing where my children are is silently killing me’ - Mother
‘Nigeria is failing to protect vulnerable children’ - Osai Ojigho
Eight years after the abduction of 276 Chibok school girls 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 in a new investigation published today (14 April).
The increasingly brazen manner of recent abductions has highlighted the Nigerian authorities’ ongoing failures to prevent these crimes from taking place or bring the perpetrators to justice.
Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director, said:
“Nigeria 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.
“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 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.”
Nearly 1,500 abductions in a 22-month period
On 14 April 2014, 276 schoolgirls were abducted by Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok, a town in northeast Nigeria. Some of the girls managed to escape, while others were released following campaigning efforts and government negotiations. Despite efforts to free all the pupils, 109 of the girls remain in captivity, and at least 16 have been killed.
Since then, abductions have continued. Between December 2020 and October last year, 1,436 schoolchildren - and 17 teachers - were abducted from schools in Nigeria by armed groups. The recent upsurge has triggered prolonged school shutdowns - and in turn led to a decline in school enrolment and attendance, as well as a rise in child marriage and pregnancies of school-age girls.
Dozens of children still missing
Of the more than 1,500 school children who have been abducted in northern Nigeria since the Chibok attack, at least 120 students remain in captivity. They are mostly schoolgirls, and their fate remains unknown.
Of the 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 murdered, while one of the 333 students kidnapped in Kankara was also killed. Five of the 276 students kidnapped in Dapchi were killed, while one student, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity. And five of the 136 school children kidnapped from Salihu Tanko Islamiya School in Tegina have also been killed.
One pupil who was interviewed by Amnesty spoke of the persecution she has experienced in her local community after returning home.
“They call us Boko Haram wives and our children are not even allowed to mingle with other kids in the village.”
“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 would fulfil their promise to help us.”
Amnesty interviewed seven parents of schoolchildren who remain in captivity, who described their ordeal as “traumatising”.
One mother to Chibok schoolgirls who remain 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.”
Parents of children who continue to attend school told Amnesty they felt constant fear that their children may never return after leaving home in the morning. Parents whose children are due to start school face the dilemma of whether to enrol them at all.
A father-of-three in Jangebe town told Amnesty:
“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.”