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Mass Abductions Becoming Normalized in Nigeria, Experts Say


Parents of abducted children of the Salihu Tanko Islamic School wait for news on their children in Tegina, Nigeria, June 1, 2021. A number of students were abducted Sunday and one person was killed at a school in Nigeria's north central Niger State.

For weeks now, Niger state in Central Nigeria has remained a hotspot for kidnappings in the country.

State authorities said around 70 gunmen on motorbikes carried out an attack on the Islamiyya School on Sunday afternoon. One person was killed during the attack and scores of children between five and 13 years old were herded into the nearby bush.

But that wasn't Niger state's only kidnapping last weekend. Resident Enoch Obemeasor said his neighborhood was also the scene of an attack in which numerous people were abducted.

"They started operation around 10 o'clock, over three hours operation," Obemeasor said. "They kidnapped 17 people, but two escaped and they took away the remaining 15."

For months, kidnap-for-ransom crises have rocked Nigeria, especially in the north of the country. School students have been most adversely affected.

Since December, nearly 1,000 school children have been kidnapped, leading to the shutdown of schools, leaving millions of kids without a place to learn.

Experts, however, said although citizens are growing weary of the frequent mass kidnappings, public outrage in diminishing.

Hosea Adama, former chairman of the Chibok community where some 276 girls were taken by Boko Haram in 2014, explains why.

"Everybody is tired, people are suffering," Adama said. "You're facing your own problem. It will be difficult for you to come out for somebody else. Everyone is facing his own problem. So it has become difficult for people to come out and make agitations about kidnappings."

The Chibok abductions in 2014 sparked global outrage and announced Boko Haram's notoriety.

Recent mass abductions in the country have yet to attain that level of recognition.

Vivian Bellonwu of Social Action Nigeria says the level of outrage remains the same, but citizens are becoming more tactical in their expression of outrage as a result of a government efforts to suppress its most vocal critics.

"Nigerians are responding in diverse ways; truly, the thing is that we have never had it this bad," Bellonwu said. "We're having a situation where we are being bombarded by multifaceted dimensions of insecurity. So citizens have been reacting. There have been reactions, but what you are seeing is a systematic attitude by the state to suppress these reactions."

This week, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari responded to rising insecurities and tweeted, "There must be zero tolerance for all those bent on destroying our country by promoting crime and insurrection."

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