What you need to know:
- Following the release of the 42 people, President Buhari commended the nation's security and intelligence agencies and the government of Niger state for their responses.
Twenty seven Nigerian schoolboys, three teachers and 12 members of their families who were abducted last week have been released but other attackers are still holding more than 300 schoolgirls.
The abductees were received by the chief of staff to the governor of Niger state, Mr Ibrahim Balarabe, when they arrived in Minna, the State capital of Niger, on Saturday.
The students of the Government Science College in Kagara, Niger state, were abducted on February 17 and freed in the early hours of Saturday, after 11 days in captivity. One student was killed during the attack.
The 42 people arrived accompanied by security personnel to see the state governor, Mr Abubakar Bello, at the government house.
Food and medical personnel, staff of the school and families had been waiting at the location.
Security was tightened at the government house with thorough screening of every vehicle.
Senator Shehu Sani said he spoke with the principal of the school, who confirmed the release of the students.
It came almost 48 hours after 317 schoolgirls were abducted by bandits in Zamfara state.
The gunmen suspected to be bandits abducted the schoolgirls at Government Secondary School Jangebe in Zamfara state at about 1 am on Friday.
On December 11, 2020, over 300 schoolboys of Government Science Secondary Schools in Kankara, Katsina State were abducted but were rescued after less than three days of negotiations.
Boko Haram terrorists introduced the abduction and killing of students on February 14, 2014, when they abducted more than 276 schoolgirls at Government Science Secondary School in Chibok, Borno state.
Some of the students were rescued in 2017 while others are yet to be found.
Four years later, gunmen hit Government Girls’ Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, and abducted 119 schoolgirls, who were also rescued, save for Leigh Sharibu, who refused to convert to Islam.
Buhari on the spot
Meanwhile, reputable rights organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap), has written to the UN Security Council and its members, asking them to treat the growing insecurity in Nigeria as a fundamental breach of the UN Charter and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.
In the letter dated February 26 and signed by Serap Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organiSation said attacks on schools and abductions of students are a violation of children’s rights.
Serap said these abductions and attacks also undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and if not urgently prevented and combatted, may rise to the level of a threat to international peace and security.
”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. If not urgently addressed, these abductions and attacks may constitute a threat to regional peace and security, and by extension, international peace and security.”
Serap further said that ensuring the release of the students and holding perpetrators accountable will contribute to end the impunity.
“A UN Security Council resolution would help to put pressure on 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 deputy director said.
“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.”
Fear of heavy casualties
President Buhari on Friday described the abduction of school children as inhumane and totally unacceptable, saying: “This administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments”.
“No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement,” he said.
He added, “We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.’’
The President said that the primary objective is to rescue the hostages unharmed.
He noted that “a hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors”.
“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government.,” he said of the attackers. “They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution.”
Similarly, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, condemned the abduction of the students.
“I can tell you that the secretary-general condemns this in the strongest possible terms and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
“As we’ve said before, schools should always remain safe spaces to learn without fear of violence,” his spokesman, Mr Stephane Dujarric, said in New York on February 26.
Call for tighter security
Following the release of the 42 people, President Buhari commended the nation's security and intelligence agencies and the government of Niger state for their responses.
"We are happy they have been released," he said in a statement issued by his spokesman Garba Shehu, while sympathising with those affected by the ordeal.
He warned that the country will not continue to suffer these attacks that threaten the growth of education, security and the life of the future leaders at the same time putting the nation in a negative light.
Mr Buhari also reiterated his earlier advice to school owners, particularly the state and local governments, as well as religious organisations, to scale up security around their schools.
He directed all security and intelligence agencies in the country to "hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice".
Mary Noel-Berje, the spokesperson to the governor of Niger state, confirmed in a statement that "kidnapped students, staff and family members of the Government Science College Kagara have regained freedom and received by the Niger state government", without giving an exact number of victims freed.
Noel-Berje said more details will be given later.
A group of gunmen had on February 17 stormed the boarding school at Kagara town of the Rafi local government area of the state, and whisked away 42 people, including 27 students, three school staff, and 12 family members of the school staff.
Additional reporting by Xinhua