Preventing Boko Haram Abductions of Schoolchildren in Nigeria

Authored by: Crisis Group Africa

Categories: Human Rights, Statebuilding, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Human Development, National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violent Extremism
Country: Nigeria
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2018
Citation: Crisis Group Africa. Preventing Boko Haram Abductions of Schoolchildren in Nigeria. Issue brief. April 12, 2018.

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Executive Summary

On 19 February, militants from Boko Haram’s Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction seized 112 schoolgirls and one boy from the town of Dapchi in Yobe state, north east Nigeria. Five girls, tragically, are reported to have died; one fifteen-year-old, Leah Sharibu, remains captive. But in mid-March the militants released 107 of the children, marking a contrast to kidnappings that took place in Chibok in neighbouring Borno state in 2014. Of the 276 girls Boko Haram abducted from the school in that town, 112 are still missing.

The Dapchi girls’ release, reportedly the result of talks between the Nigerian government and insurgents, offers a glimmer of hope that negotiations might help diminish levels of violence. But the five deaths and continuing ordeal of Sharibu, the last girl held by the group, are deeply disturbing – as is the mere fact of this latest mass kidnapping. The abductions illustrate that Boko Haram remains a menace to swaths of northeast Nigeria. They throw into doubt the government’s claim to have defeated the movement; instead, insurgents may be newly emboldened to keep fighting. The kidnappings cast a pall over education, particularly of girls, and thus the prospects for socio-economic development in the region.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s government should redouble efforts to recover all missing children – the one Dapchi girl, the 112 Chibok girls and the many others snatched by militants over the past four years. It should launch an independent investigation into the Dapchi abductions to identify shortfalls in the security forces’ performance and publish the findings. It also should tighten protection for schools and communities in the northeast, by deploying more security personnel and reviving the policies laid out in the 2014 Safe Schools Initiative. While military operations must continue, the government should also sustain the talks it appears to have initiated with insurgents in search of a durable end to hostilities.