Nigerian government authorities have recently closed at least 618 schools across six northern states to protect students amid a recent string of abductions by bandits tied to the Islamic terror group Boko Haram, Nigerian newspaper This Day reported Monday.
Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, and Kano states have all shuttered their schools in recent days.
“In Sokoto, the state government has closed all boarding schools along border towns,” according to This Day.
News of the mass school closures followed one day after Nigerian security forces in Kaduna state “foiled attempts by bandits to abduct 307 pupils” from the Government Secondary Science School in Ikara on March 13, the newspaper revealed.
“Between the late hours of Saturday night and the early hours of today (Sunday), suspected bandits stormed the Government Science Secondary School [in] Ikara … in an attempt to kidnap students,” Samuel Aruwan, the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, told reporters on March 14.
“Fortunately, the students utilized the security warning system in place and were thus able to alert security forces in the area,” he said.
“The security forces comprising the troops of the Nigerian Army, the police, and some security volunteers, moved swiftly to the school and engaged the bandits, forcing them to flee,” he added.
“[T]he Kaduna State government can confirm to you that all 307 students have been verified safe and present. The attempted kidnap was foiled completely and no student was taken from the school,” Aruwan claimed.
Aruwan confirmed to reporters two days earlier, on March 12, that unidentified gunmen kidnapped 39 students in a raid on a college in northwestern Nigeria’s Kaduna state overnight on March 11.
“The abductors stormed the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Mando, Kaduna state, around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, shooting indiscriminately before taking students,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
The Kaduna state commissioner for internal security said 39 students were still missing as of March 12 despite the Nigerian Army’s successful rescue of 180 pupils following a standoff with the militants.
“Further checks in the wake of the attack by armed bandits … indicate that 39 students are currently unaccounted for,” including 23 young women and 16 young men, Aruwan said in a statement.
Nearly 300 girls were kidnapped from Jangebe’s Government Secondary School in northwestern Nigeria’s Zamfara state on February 26 before being allegedly released on March 2 under murky circumstances. An official government ceremony to return the girls to their families saw officials refuse to hand over the girls for several hours and ended with Nigerian soldiers firing upon disgruntled parents demanding their daughters’ release.
Boko Haram is known to contract local criminal gangs across northern Nigeria to help stage abductions for ransom. Security experts suspect that local bandits believed to be associated with the jihadi group likely carried out the Zamfara abduction at Boko Haram’s request. Nigerian government officials denied paying a ransom to secure the Zamfara girls’ release.
Boko Haram is a Nigerian terror group based in northern Borno state that has carried out an Islamist insurgency across northern Nigeria and its neighboring countries — Chad, Cameroon, and Niger — since the early 2000s. Security experts have linked the jihadi group to the surge in school kidnappings across Nigeria’s north over the past several weeks.