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Insecurity: Student Kidnap Victims In Northwest Nigeria Narrate Ordeal

Many Nigerian students have fallen victim to abduction in the last few years following a spate of insecurity in the region.

Dangulbi Umar, a 300-level law student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, was on his way to school from his village at Dangulbi, Zamfara State, when he was kidnapped by terrorists. 

Abducted on July 25, 2021, Umar spent nine days in captivity. He told HumAngle that the public vehicle transporting him to school was attacked by a terror group that shot sporadically at them. 

“Although our driver and other passengers escaped, I was unlucky. Two cars were attacked at the time of the incident. While they captured three people in the first vehicle, they only succeeded in kidnapping me and my sister in our vehicle,” he said. 

“They blindfolded us and forced us to trek in the forest for several hours. At some point we stopped and they asked me to tell them about my father and his riches. I told them he is not rich. I replied that my father is Liman, Imam in Dangulbi village and some of the kidnappers said they know him.” 

The kidnappers spent the night negotiating ransom with his father. They started with a N100 million demand down to N5o million following his father’s plea. 

The negotiation lasted nine days. During this time, the kidnappers fed the victims with Tuwo (a local meal made from maize flour) thrice daily until their families agreed to pay N1 million ransom collectively.  

“My brother’s friend took the money to them. The kidnappers covered their faces. They described one village to him called Kango in Zamfara near the forest where we were kept.

After receiving the ransom, they released Umar and others to their families. 

Kidnapping in Nigeria 

Data from Nigeria Security Tracker shows that the country has recorded a total of 849 kidnap incidents between 2011 and Jan. 2020. These have led to no fewer than 529 deaths. 

About 1,990 people were kidnapped and 288 kidnappers were neutralised by security agencies within the period. Over $18 million was paid as ransom for victims between 2011 and 2020. 

The terror groups have in the last few months focused more on schools, kidnapping and killing of students in secondary and tertiary institutions. Efforts by authorities to curb the menace are yet to yield positive results.

The Nigerian Senate in 2017 approved the death sentence for kidnappers. The bill also prescribes a 30-year jail term for persons who collude with kidnappers in the country. This has also been domesticated at the state level. 

Despite this, the illicit operations continue across Nigeria. Aside from Umar, some students shared their bitter experiences with this reporter.  

“I spent three months in their den”

Ibrahim Taafe told HumAngle that he spent three months in a kidnap den in 2019. He was kidnapped on June 1, 2019, and regained his freedom on Aug. 31 of the same year. 

He was in his National Diploma one at the Federal Polytechnic, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State, when the incident occurred. 

Ibrahim Saad Taafe, a student of Federal Polytechnic Kaura Namoda, Zamfara was held for three months. Photo: Ibrahim Taafe

“The kidnappers that raided our village were up to 20 and they were all fully armed with AK 47. They wore military uniforms as a disguise. We trekked in the forest for hours and were later transported on motorcycles. By the time I counted, I realised we were 23 victims including two women,” he narrated. 

In those three months in the forest, they were fed rice and beans. Unfortunately, three of the victims were killed. 

“One man had two wives and seven children. They used him as a scapegoat to tell others what they are capable of doing if our families refused to cooperate. They also killed two teenagers who were about to write their Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations because their parents told the kidnappers they didn’t have the money requested for their release.” 

He said the terror group negotiated with victims’ families amidst torture. Some victims also died as a result of hunger and torture. The terrorists collected N1 million each from 13 people and N500,000 from the remaining seven abductees.

Usman Musa, a 400-Level Geographical Science student from UDUS, was kidnapped from his father’s shop at Eggon Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, around 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2020. 

The six kidnappers were on facemasks when they carried out the operation. Unlike other survivors, he regained his freedom the following day. 

Usman Musa, a 400-Level Geographical Science student was kidnapped from his father’s shop. Photo: Usman Musa

“They came at the time of maghrib prayer without a motorcycle or car,” he recalled. Musa was taken to a forest where negotiations were done with his parents. 

“They demanded the sum of N20 million, using my phone to call my parents. But I wasn’t allowed to know what they were telling them.”

Musa did not disclose how much his parents paid but confirmed that a huge amount was given before he regained his freedom 

“They collected the ransom in cash within the vicinity of where I was kidnapped. I wasn’t myself until I was handed over to my parents after payment of ransom. Three of the kidnappers went for the money while the other three stayed with me in the bush. We called the police but months later, no one has been arrested,” he concluded.

Yusha’u Cisse, a student of UDUS, said he miraculously escaped death following the shot on his thigh by a member of the terror group that attacked his village at Sabuwa LGA of Katsina State on July 24, 2021. 

The terror group which came around 12:25 a.m., left two members of his family dead.

Yusha’u Cisse, a student of UDUS, escaped death after being shot in the thigh. Photo: Yusha’u Cisse.

“They came into our house. They went to my elder brother’s place, requesting for money and his phones. I was perplexed when one of them flashed his torchlight in my direction and shouted to the others, saying, ‘look at him there, look at the rich one here among them’. I got the beating of my life.

“They kept beating me till I fainted. One of the gang members later came back and shot me,” Cisse, who is now healthy and back to school, narrated. 

But these are just a few among many other victims of the deadly trend in Nigeria. Some did not survive to tell their story while many remain traumatised and unable to share their experiences.

Expert Weigh-in

While speaking with Dr Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i, a Senior lecturer from History Department, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, he explained that the root of banditry and kidnapping in Northwestern Nigeria was as a result of lack of access to justice, extortion, the collapse of the grazing reserves, lack of inclusion in governance, ethnic profiling of the Fulani and collapse of local conflict mechanism.

He further noted that several attempts have been made by both States and Federal Government to end the incessant conflict in the Northwest.

“The establishment of Operation Sharan Daji and Operation Harbin Kunama are part of the responses proffered to end banditry in Northwest part of the country. In addition to that, Peace and Reconciliation committees were set up by some state governments and amnesty programmes to solve the rural insecurity in North-West, Nigeria, ” he explained.

He, however, concluded that modern banditry is fundamentally associated with the rise of armed groups whose preoccupation was the violent destruction of life and properties in the rural areas. 

“There are lots of conflict entrepreneurs benefiting from the conflict and there is an ongoing debate over the Boko-Haram bandits alliance in the Northwest.”

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