Gunmen release hundreds of kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria

Gunmen have released hundreds of girls who were kidnapped from a boarding school in northwestern Nigeria on Friday.

“Our girls are now safe,” Zamfara state governor Bello Mattawelle said in a tweet early on Tuesday.

The governor also posted the pictures of young girls arriving at the state house wearing yellow headscarves.

Last Friday, armed men stormed the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State, northern Nigeria, around 1 a.m. with Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and abducted hundreds of schoolgirls.

The abduction also occurred some eight days after armed men abducted dozens of students and workers of Government Science College in Kagara, Niger State.

Last year, armed men abducted over 300 schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State. Aside from Kankara and Kagara, hundreds of secondary school girls have also been abducted from Chibok, in Borno State; and Dapchi in Yobe State.

President Muhammadu Buhari expressed “overwhelming joy” over the release of abducted female students in Zamfara State.

Reacting to the development, the President said, “I join the families and people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the  release of these traumatized female students.”

President Buhari said he was excited that their ordeal came to a happy end without any incident, adding that “being held in captivity is an agonizing experience not only for the victims, but also their families and all of us.”

However, while celebrating the release of the students, the President called for greater vigilance by the people so that human intelligence could be collected early enough to nip the bandits’ plans in the bud.

He warned that the time has come to reverse, completely, the grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping. “Ransom payments will continue to prosper kidnapping,” he warned, while urging the Police and the Military to go after these kidnappers and bring them to justice.

Buhari and Biden 
Presidents Muhammadu Buhari with Joe Biden

Following the mass abduction, Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) sent an open letter to the UN Security Council and its members urging them to “urgently hold a special session on Nigeria and to visit the country to press the authorities to end continuing abductions of students and the increasing level of insecurity across the country.”

The organization also urged “the Council and members to treat the failure of Nigerian authorities to prevent and prosecute attacks on students, and to end the growing insecurity in the country as a fundamental breach of the UN Charter and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.”

In the letter dated February 26, 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Attacks on schools and abductions of students are a violation of children’s rights. Nigeria has legal obligations to ensure the immediate release of the abducted students, teachers and family members, provide the necessary counselling following the traumatic experience, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security. The focus of the meeting is the contribution of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in countering terrorist threats. UN Photo/Manuel Elias 25 September 2019 United Nations, New York 
A wide view of the Security Council meeting on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security. The focus of the meeting is the contribution of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in countering terrorist threats. UN Photo/Manuel Elias September 25, 2019 United Nations, New York

According to SERAP, “These abductions and attacks also undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. If not urgently prevented and combatted, such attacks may rise to the level of threat to international peace and security. The first ‘purpose’ listed for the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”

Secretary-General António Guterres at the virtual event "We the Peoples" commemorating the United Nations seventy-fifth anniversary. UN Photo/Mark Garten 10 January 2021 New York, United States of America 
Secretary-General António Guterres at the virtual event “We the Peoples” commemorating the United Nations seventy-fifth anniversary. UN Photo/Mark Garten January 10, 2021 New York, United States of America

The letter, read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is failing to uphold its responsibility to protect Nigerian students from increasing abductions, and attacks on other people by armed men, and if not urgently addressed these abductions and attacks may constitute threat to regional peace and security, and by extension, international peace and security.”

“Ensuring the release of the students and holding perpetrators accountable will contribute to ending impunity. A UN Security Council resolution would help to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent and concrete measures to end the abductions of students, secure their safety and promote the security and safety of all Nigerians.”

“The Security Council must act now to protect Nigerian students and other citizens, if the Council is not to be accused of failing the people of Nigeria.”

“SERAP urges the Security Council and its members to publicly condemn these terrorist attacks, express concern about the protection of Nigerian students and other people and communities affected by the violations of international law and press the authorities to put in place mechanisms for bringing those suspected to be responsible to justice, and victims to be receive redress, including adequate compensation and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“According to our information, some armed men today abducted over 300 schoolgirls at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The armed men arrived in the school around 1am with Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and abducted the students.”

“This abduction occurred some eight days after armed men abducted dozens of students and workers of Government Science College in Kagara, Niger State. Last year, armed men abducted over 300 schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State. Aside from Kankara and Kagara, hundreds of secondary school girls have also been abducted from Chibok, in Borno State; and Dapchi in Yobe State.”

“There are continuing reports of attacks against innocent citizens, including unlawful killings, destruction and pillage of property by terrorists across the country. The attacks have been fuelled by impunity that has plagued the authorities’ response to the problem.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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