- Title: Desperate Nigerians sell homes, land and crowdfund to free their children
- Date: 24th August 2021
- Summary: NIGER, NIGERIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AMINU SALISU LOOKING AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HIS ABDUCTED SON
- Embargoed: 7th September 2021 10:00
- Keywords: 000 children abducted crowdfunding for ransom kidnapping in northwest Nigeria more than 1 raising ransom
- Location: NIGER, KADUNA AND LAGOS, NIGERIA
- City: NIGER, KADUNA AND LAGOS, NIGERIA
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Africa,Crime/Law/Justice,Crime
- Reuters ID: LVA003ERN1LXZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: After armed men snatched seven of Abubakar Adam's 11 children in northwestern Nigeria, he sold his car and a parcel of land and cleaned out his savings to raise a ransom to free them.
He sent his 3 million nairas ($7,300) into the bush, together with payments from other families in his town of Tegina.
The kidnappers took the money, seized one of the men delivering it, and sent back a new demand for more cash and six motor-bikes.
The 40-year-old tyre repairman told Reuters he was still waiting for any sign of what happened to his children three months after the mass abduction.
''I had a car and a plot of land, I sold them all. I have sold everything that I have, what is left with me is just my life which if they say I should sell to rescue my children, sincerely speaking, I will sell it,'' Adam told Reuters.
Kidnappers have taken more than 1,000 students since December amid a rash of abductions across the impoverished northwest.
Around 300 of the children have still not been returned, according to a Reuters tally of reports.
President Muhammadu Buhari has told states not to pay anything to kidnappers, saying it will encourage still more abductions.
Security agencies say they are targeting the bandits with military action and other methods.
Meanwhile, hundreds of parents are facing the same quandary: sell assets, borrow and ask friends and family for cash to raise the ransoms themselves, or risk never seeing their children again.
Abubakar Garba-Hassan is a headteacher at a school where more than 130 students were taken.
''What pains us is that the federal government is silent, the federal government is just looking on. Is it because it's an Islamic school? Is it because it happened in a village?'' he said.
Kidnappers collected more than $18 million in ransom from June 2011 to March 2020 in Nigeria, according to an estimate by Lagos-based analysts SBM Intelligence.
That flood of cash brought a flood of new kidnappers, said Bulama Bukarti, an analyst in the Extremism Policy Unit of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
He estimated there were currently around 30,000 bandits operating in the northwest.
Kidnapping has become a tempting career choice for young men at a time of economic slump, double-digit inflation, and 33% unemployment.
In December, gunmen kidnapped 344 boys from the Government Science Secondary School in the northwestern state of Katsina during a night-time raid.
The kidnappers released the boys a week later, but it set off a spate of similar kidnappings across the region.
The bandits took a page from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which seized more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok in 2014.
That group had ideological aims and forced some of the girls to marry fighters.
The armed kidnappers in the northwest are commercially motivated, experts say.
''You can't tell parents to not pay the ransom and that you (government) will not pay the ransom, and ask parents to allow their loved ones, their little children to stay in the bush forever. No parent will do that,'' Bulama Bukarti said.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed, in an interview with Reuters, defended the strategy not to pay ransoms.
Instead, he said, the government had destroyed multiple bandit camps and tried other approaches to tackle banditry.
He declined to give details, citing the need for secrecy around ongoing operations but said all levels of government are working to free the children.
''The government is winning the war. I know that while we cannot use this kind of media to discuss strategy as it is security issues, I want to assure you that the government is getting to the root of the problem," Mohammed said.
Aminu Salisu's eight-year-old son was taken in the same daylight raid on Tegina's Salihu Tanko Islamic school in May, alongside more than 130 students.
Salisu cleared out his own savings and sold everything in his shop to raise his contribution.
The owner of the school sold off half the grounds. Together, with the help of friends, relatives, and strangers, the people of Tegina said they raised 30 million nairas.
But that still wasn't enough for the bandits.
Salisu said his whole aim of agreeing to be one of those to deliver the ransom was to set his eyes on his son again, but that never happened.
''I was one of the people who took ransom money to the abductors. My intention was just to be able to see my son, even if it meant they killed me. But when we got there the abductors asked me to go back, so that only the other person would follow them to drop the money. My whole intention of going was to see my son face-to-face,'' he said.
The abductions have piled more pressure on President Buhari, who promised to tackle insecurity at his inauguration in 2019.
They have also tested the security services.
The military pitted against the kidnappers in the northwest, Islamist insurgents in the northeast, separatists in the southeast, and piracy in the Delta, is deployed to at least 30 of Nigeria's 36 states.
The government of Niger state, which includes Tegina, declined to comment. Officials working with the governor said they needed to keep their efforts secret.
Meanwhile, the challenges keep mounting.
(Abraham Achirga, Bosan Yakusak, Angela Ukomadu)
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