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More than 300 Students Kidnapped in Nigeria by Armed Groups

The school from which students were kidnapped on March 7. Photo credit: CNN

The past week, over 300 students have been kidnapped by armed groups in two separate incidents in northern Nigeria. On March 7, 2024, at least 287 students were abducted from a school in the town of Kuriga, located in the northwestern Kaduna State. Two days later, on March 9, 15 more students were kidnapped by armed militants from Sokoto State’s Gidan Bakuso village, which is also in the northwestern region, bordering Niger. These two incidents have once again demonstrated the inaccessibility of education to the people of Northern Nigeria, who experience severe poverty and threats from non-state armed groups in the form of abductions, mass killings, and the seizure of farmlands and mining sites. These conditions continue to make access to schooling even more difficult in a region with already low levels of education.

On the morning of March 7, armed groups arrived with motorcycles, surrounded the public school, and marched the students into a forest, occasionally shooting their guns in the air. One person who attempted to resist the militants and free the students was reportedly shot and killed.[1] Nigerian authorities arrived at the scene hours later. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, it is believed that the attack was carried out by one of the armed “bandit” groups that have proliferated in northern Nigeria recently. These armed groups are not motivated by a coherent ideology, unlike the Islamist militants such as Boko Haram that have been in conflict with the Nigerian armed forces in the northeastern part of the country. Reportedly, bandit groups mostly recruit from the nomadic herder communities that have been involved in conflicts over access to food and water resources with other farming communities.[2] While armed bandits are the primary suspect for the kidnapping of 15 students on March 9 in Sokoto State, some believe that Islamist groups were involved.[3] Armed groups like Boko Haram, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), and Group of Partisans for Muslims in Black Africa (JAS) are still active in Northern Nigeria.


The 287 students kidnapped in Kaduna State makes this the highest number of students abducted in a single incident since Boko Haram’s 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from the Chibok village.[4] At least 100 of the 287 students are estimated to be aged 12 and under. According to the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), between 2020 and 2021, 1436 students were kidnapped from schools in Nigeria.[5] Most kidnappings are done for ransom money, one of the primary sources of income for the armed militants. Others are forced to labor in farmlands and mines that tend to be seized from the local population. It is also known that some students who were abducted in the past were forced into marriages with militants.


Universities have also been targeted with kidnappings. For example, on April 20, 2021, armed groups abducted at least 20 students from Greenfield University, demanding ransom money for their release.[6] At least five students were killed after the students’ parents failed to meet the demands of the militants. The GCPEA also reported that universities were used for military purposes on eight different occasions in 2020 and 2021.


Northern Nigeria is already battling widespread impoverishment and lack of educational and transportation infrastructure. Therefore, attacks by non-state armed groups put education at serious risk. In a region with already very high rates of school absenteeism, it is likely that attacks like these will further cause parents who fear for the lives of their children to want to keep them out of school. The Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isa Sanusi, criticized President Tinubu and his government for failing to address the problem of insecurity around schools in northern Nigeria and called for the Nigerian government to uphold its commitments to protect children and ensure their education as a party of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.[7] President Tinubu was elected in 2021 with promises to tackle the problem of kidnappings.[8]


Endangered Scholars Worldwide (ESW) is deeply concerned with the attacks on schools in Nigeria which do not only put the lives of students at grave risk but also endanger the future of primary, secondary, and higher education, access to which are fundamental human rights. We call upon the Nigerian government to take swift measures to ensure attacks against students and schools are transparently investigated and those responsible are accordingly brought to justice. ESW further calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and individuals dedicated to the promotion and defense of human rights to hold the Nigerian government to account and to demands all efforts be made to resolve conflicts in the region.

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