The Horror of Being Kidnapped: How the Nigerian Government Should Respond

By: Ilana Friedman

April 14th, 2014 was a day of horror for the 250 girls who were seized from their school by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram translates to “Western education is forbidden,” expressing hatred the group has for Western culture. Some girls, as young as eleven, have been able to escape the harsh conditions, yet, four years later, at least 100 are still being held in captivity. These women have lived for years with some as sex slaves, some forced into marriage, and some watched their family members get killed upon their kidnapping.

Boko Haram has been a major threat to Nigerians for over a decade, displacing millions of from their homes. The Nigerian government has been battling the Islamist extremist group for nine years, and until recently, has been successful. Violence escalated in December 2017 through a series of suicide bombers and attacks on various military convoys. The Islamic extremist group engaged in attacks on the American military.

In February of this year, Boko Haram struck again. Another group of young girls was kidnapped from their school, Government Girls Secondary School in Dapachi. Another 110 were dragged into trucks unwillingly and driven away from their school not knowing when they would be able to return. On March 21st, 2018, all but six of the captured girls were released. Of those released, some were captured in 2014 meaning they were held hostage for four full years.  

The government still needs to work hard to combat the Islamist group in order to protect its citizens and the young women of Nigeria. Boko Haram’s ultimate goal is to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. President Muhammadu Buhari has called for the Nigerian army to intensify efforts against Boko Haram to increase protection in towns that have suffered capturings. The government has not been the best at responding to the acts of violence in Nigeria. President Buhari tweeted on February 21st,  after the abduction of school girls, “I have directed the Military and Police to mobilize immediately to ensure that all the missing girls of Government Girls Secondary School, Dapachi, are found. The Minister of Defense will also lead a Federal Government delegation to Yobe tomorrow, to ascertain the situation.”

Families of the girls had to wait 24 hours to hear what the government was going to do about the kidnappings. That’s 24 more hours to worry about the health of their daughters who could ultimately be killed by the Islamist group. If the government had acted more promptly, the situation could have de-escalated sooner.

Following the release of 110 girls, the government needs to take action to help the families and girls readjust to their lives. They should be assisted through new programs to enhance security in schools, therapy sessions, and more protection for the civilians of Nigeria. Policy change needs to occur in order to prevent Boko Haram from attacking again. The United Nations and other allies should also take action to help the Nigerian government strategize ways to combat Boko Haram and prevent the Islamist group from taking over. Specifically, the government needs to formulate better strategies to combat domestic terrorism. The first step needs to be increased protection for young women throughout the country.

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