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The kidnapping in Kaduna state on March 7 was a significant incident that garnered national attention and renewed concerns about security in Nigeria. More than 130 students were abducted from a school in Kuriga, Kaduna state, marking the first mass kidnapping in the country since 2021. After days of backchannel engagement, the students were released unharmed just before a ransom deadline. Government spokesman Abdulaziz Abdulaziz confirmed the release of 137 students, disputing media reports that stated 286 students and one staff member were taken.

Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna state expressed gratitude for the safe return of the students, attributing their release to security operations coordinated by the national security adviser. The Nigerian Army was also commended for its role in degrading criminal elements and restoring security in communities. However, there was a discrepancy in the number of children reported to be kidnapped and the number ultimately released, suggesting a lack of proper audit to determine the exact number of abducted students. Abductions of students by armed groups in Nigeria are common, with recent incidents reported in different regions of the country.

The Kaduna gunmen demanded a ransom of 1 billion naira for the release of the children and staff, threatening to kill the victims if the payment was not made within 20 days. President Bola Tinubu refused to pay any ransom, as the practice was outlawed in 2022 to deter attackers. Negotiations likely took place between the government and the kidnappers to secure the release of the students. Kemi Okenyodo emphasized the importance of holding those responsible for the abductions accountable to put an end to the widespread practice and criminal activities.

Since 2014, over 1,400 children have been abducted from schools in Nigeria, starting with the infamous case of the Chibok girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Some of the Chibok girls remain in captivity, while other mass kidnappings have occurred in subsequent years with varying outcomes. The release of the Kuriga school children was a source of relief for their families and the nation, but efforts to address the root causes of these abductions and hold perpetrators accountable are essential to prevent future incidents. The government and security forces must work together to ensure the safety of children and communities across Nigeria.

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