URGES FG TO PRIORITIZE THE SAFE RETURN OF THE REMAINING CHILDREN IN CAPTIVITY

By Vincess Okushi

The Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities and Nigeria Mourns have expressed joy over the recent rescue of 137 schoolchildren in Kuriga, Kaduna State.

The groups while commending the officers and men in uniform for securing the rescue of the children who were kidnapped by “bandits” two weeks ago said it serves as a succor to the families, adding that they were acutely aware that the ordeal is far from over, as significant numbers of the nation’s children still being forcefully held by armed bandits in various places across the country.

In a statement by the Executive Director, of Global Rights Abiodun Baiyewu, on behalf of the group, today Wednesday 27th March 2024 also uses the medium to call on the Nigerian government to immediately prioritize the safe return of all the remaining students still in captivity.

Our call is not limited to the children mass abducted in Kaduna; we also amplify the voices of the families of the scores of children across Northern Nigeria who were kidnapped while in pursuit of their education and have remained in captivity for extended periods.

We remember the incidents of the Chibok Girls’ abduction 10 years ago with about 110 of them still in captivity and Leah Sharibu without the government doing much to rescue them. The urgent need for their rescue cannot be overstated.
Every hour these children remain in the hands of their captors is filled with torturous anguish for their families and their communities and depreciates their quality of life. We therefore call on President Tinubu, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, to mobilize all necessary resources to ensure their safe return without further delay.
Moreover, we are forced to call out the conflicting reports regarding the actual number of students kidnapped at Kuriga. According to a school teacher who was interviewed soon after the incident took place, 287 pupils were kidnapped. At the point of that announcement and in subsequent statements, the state government did not refute the numbers presented by the school—a fact that he later glossed over when he represented the numbers in an interview after the rescue of 137 of the pupils.
This situation underscores the need for transparency and accountability in handling such critical incidents. Clarity regarding the number of victims is essential not only for accurate reporting but also for effective coordination of rescue efforts and the provision of victim-centered support for the affected families. In light of this, we call upon the government to provide a comprehensive and accurate account of the incident, including a detailed breakdown of the number of students abducted, their identities, and any updates on their status. Transparency in communication is crucial to fostering trust between the government and the citizens it serves, particularly in times of crisis.
Furthermore, we emphasize the critical importance of providing comprehensive support to the rescued children to help them navigate the profound psychological trauma they have endured. The horrors of abduction and captivity can leave lasting scars on young minds, impacting their emotional well-being and hindering their ability to reintegrate into normal life. We should note that these abductions and the subsequent treatment meted out to the victims (who are usually female and/or children) are grave crimes against humanity and should not be treated by the Nigerian state with levity.
Consequently, we call upon the government to allocate resources for specialized counseling and mental health services tailored to the needs of these children. Qualified professionals must be deployed to offer psychological support, trauma-informed care, and rehabilitation programs to assist them in processing their experiences and rebuilding their lives. Adequate provisions must be made to address their immediate physical and emotional needs, including access to medical care, social services, and the continuation of their education.
It is incumbent upon the government to demonstrate its commitment to the well-being of these children by prioritizing their holistic rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Failure to provide necessary support could exacerbate their trauma and hinder their long-term recovery.
The government must perform its constitutionally sanctioned duty to protect its citizenry by prioritizing measures aimed at preventing future occurrences of such heinous acts.
We therefore urge the government to act swiftly and decisively in
implementing comprehensive support measures for the rescued children, reaffirming its duty to protect and safeguard the welfare of all Nigerian citizens, especially the most vulnerable among us.
Enhancing security measures around schools and vulnerable communities, improving intelligence-gathering capabilities, and addressing the root causes of insecurity are paramount to safeguarding the lives and well-being of our citizens.
We demand justice for them including compensation for the survivors and families of victims and demand that those behind these abductions and any aiders and abetters be fished out, named, and prosecuted.
As a Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities and Nigeria Mourns, we mourn the trauma inflicted upon these children and their families, and we stand in solidarity with them during this challenging time. We reiterate our unwavering commitment to the protection of every Nigerian child and the pursuit of justice for all victims of violence and injustice.
Together, let us work tirelessly towards a Nigeria where every child can pursue their education in safety and security, free from the fear of abduction or harm.

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