NEARLY 300 schoolgirls kidnapped last week in northern Nigeria have returned home, the state governor has confirmed.
The 279 girls were abducted from their boarding school in Jangebe, Zamfara State, on Friday, and taken into a forest. After their release, some of the girls described being been beaten with guns by their kidnappers.
Authorities insisted that no ransom was paid, although such kidnappings are usually carried out for ransom, and have become common. A kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, in 2014, carried out by the Islamist militants Boko Haram (News, 2 May 2014), attracted global attention and a social-media campaign, #Bringbackourgirls, but most kidnappings of schoolchildren and others since then have been the work of criminal gangs who want ransom money.
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, said that he felt “overwhelming joy” at the news of the girls’ release.
Pope Francis had made an appeal for their release. Speaking on Sunday in the Vatican, he condemned the “vile kidnapping” and said: “I am near to their families and to them. Let us pray that our Lady may keep them safe.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury posted on Twitter that the wave of kidnappings in Nigeria was an “appalling crime”. “The failures of the security services are catastrophic,” he wrote.
The Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Henry Ndukuba, speaking before the girls’ release, warned that “Nigeria is on the brink of becoming a failed state.”
The Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria had also issued a statement, warning that Nigeria was “on the brink of a looming collapse”. They called on the government to act to prevent armed groups’ taking the law into their own hands with assassinations, kidnapping, and banditry,
“We, of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, are very highly disturbed about the present state of instability in the land. This must not be allowed to fester and degenerate.”
Even as the girls’ release was confirmed, details of an attack in north-western Nigeria emerged, in which the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were damaged in a raid by militants linked to Islamic State. The attack came just hours after the Governor of Borno State had visited the area to distribute aid to internally displaced people.