August 19, 2022

Gunmen attack university in Nigeria's capital, kidnapping six – The Washington Post

  • November 8, 2021
  • 4 min read
Gunmen attack university in Nigeria's capital, kidnapping six – The Washington Post

DAKAR, Senegal — Gunmen kidnapped four staffers and two of their children from the University of Abuja early Tuesday, the university said, staging the first high-profile attack on a campus in Nigeria’s capital as the nation confronts a wave of mass abductions.
Criminal gangs normally strike schools across the north of Africa’s most populous country, a phenomenon that has driven a generation of school dropouts.
More than 600 schools in the region have closed this year — temporarily or indefinitely — because of a mix of pandemic restrictions and organized crime, researchers say. An estimated 3 million students have stopped attending school.
For Nigerian students living in fear of the next mass kidnapping, there is only one defense — to run
Abuja is known as an oasis of relative calm. The city of about 3.5 million is home to the government and President Muhammadu Buhari, who has repeatedly pledged to vanquish kidnappings with an escalated military campaign.
But abductions remain a stubbornly grim part of life in the rest of Nigeria. People are grabbed out of cars, buses, markets and their homes. The military outpost near the University of Abuja didn’t deter Tuesday’s kidnappers.
“The gunshots lasted from after midnight until 2 a.m.,” said Geoffrey Nwaka, a soil science professor who lives close to campus. “It’s not secure at all. Our security guards don’t have enough weapons to defend the area. Nobody is safe.”
At midday, authorities continued to pursue the gunmen. One of the captives is a prominent economics professor, according to local newspaper reports.
“Efforts are being made to ensure their safe return,” the university posted on its Facebook page. “A sad day for us, indeed!”
Nigeria is also grappling with an extremist threat in the country’s northeast. The Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, which has declared itself opposed to Western-style education, gained international notoriety in 2014 by kidnapping more than 270 female students from a school in the town of Chibok.
The kidnapping bandits have become copycats, analysts say, attacking schools to drum up harsh publicity and pressure local leaders to pay large ransoms.
Hundreds of students have been dragged from educational facilities this year. One of the worst attacks occurred in February, when 317 girls were abducted from a school in Zamfara state in Nigeria’s northwest. (Like most other kidnapping victims, they were released after secretive negotiations.)
Kidnapping is a lucrative industry.
Between 2011 and 2020, Nigerians spent at least $18 million to liberate themselves or relatives, according to a report from SB Morgen, a consulting firm that analyzed data from open sources.
The problem stems from weak law enforcement and economic desperation, said Idayat Hassan, the director of the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja.
Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, at 33.3 percent, and a shortage of well-equipped police officers.
“Some areas have 30 officers for 50,000 people,” Hassan said. “Bandits see that they can probably get away with it and that the immediate payoff is huge.”
An average of 13 people were kidnapped each day in the country in the first half of 2021, according to a report cited in Nigerian media, amounting to 2,371 victims — but researchers caution that the figure is conservative. (Nigeria’s population is about 213 million.)
“We had the illusion that Abuja was impregnable,” said Kola Alapinni, a human rights lawyer in Abuja, “but we should have known it was just a matter of time.”
Ismail Alfa in Maiduguri, Nigeria, contributed to this report.
Read more:
Nigerian children who escaped Boko Haram say they faced another ‘prison’: Military detention
Nigeria confronts second mass kidnapping of schoolchildren in nine days
Boko Haram claims kidnapping of over 300 boys in northwest Nigeria
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