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Nigeria defence chief says bad intel hinders fight on kidnappings

Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria’s Defence Chief General Chris Musa said on Monday the military was being fed bad intelligence by informants, hampering the fight against armed kidnapping gangs who continue to abduct students and residents in the north of the country.

The military announced on Sunday that it had rescued 137 students abducted by gunmen earlier this month in northwestern Kaduna state. The school children arrived in Kaduna on Monday.

Nigerian Major General Christopher Musa attends an event in Ngarannam in Nigeria, on 22nd October, 2022. PICTURE: Reuters/Christophe Van Der Perre/File photo

Musa told Reuters that the military was too stretched and often relied on informants to pursue the armed gangs, known locally as bandits, often with little success.

“They [informants] make the troops go elsewhere and when they get there, they meet nothing and allow the bandits to commit acts of criminality,” said Musa.

Musa said there had been no confrontation with gunmen during the rescue of the Kaduna students. But he would not say how the students were freed or if any of the gunmen were taken into custody.

There have been at least 68 mass abductions in the first quarter of 2024 mostly in northern Nigeria, according to risk consultancy SBM Intelligence.

Musa said once bandits retreat to Nigeria’s vast forests, it becomes difficult to pursue them. That is because gunmen quickly trek through the forest, often for days with their victims.

“Once they go in there, getting them out is difficult. The aircrafts cannot see them quite easily,” he said, adding that Nigeria’s vast and loosely patrolled northern border made the situation worse.

The kidnappings have prompted some state governments to recruit what they call community guards.

“Now, state governments on their own are going to pick people who have no training and deploy and we are discouraging them from doing that,” he said.

Nigerian students and staff who were kidnapped this month sit after they arrived at the local government house in Kaduna, Nigeria, on 25th March, 2024. PICTURE: Reuters/Garba Muhammad

Meanwhile, more than¬†100 Nigerian students and staff who were kidnapped this month arrived at the local government building in the country’s north on Monday, a day after they were freed by the army.

“There are here 131 students, six others are currently being hospitalized and will be eventually discharged when they get better,” said Major General MLD Saraso of the Nigerian army.

He said one of the 138 people abducted, a school staff member, had died in captivity. The army announced on Sunday it had rescued 137 hostages – 76 female and 61 male – in the neighbouring state of Zamfara, days before a deadline to pay a one billion naira ($US690,000) ransom for their release.

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One security source said he saw 14 black bags, which he assumed contained the ransom money, being delivered to the Dansadau enclave in Zamfara State. He asked not to be named for fears of the possible repercussions.

Information minister Mohammed Idris told a press briefing in Abuja that no ransom was paid.

School officials and residents put the number of students kidnapped on March 7 in the town of Kuriga in the northwestern state of Kaduna at 287 while Governor Uba Sani put the figure at over 200.

Given the discrepancies in the numbers reported, it was unclear if any hostages remained captured. Kuriga elders said Sani had told them all the hostages had been freed.

The abduction of students in Nigeria began over a decade ago when jihadist group Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a school in Chibok in north-eastern Borno State. Some of the girls have still not been released.


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