- The head of the has demanded the immediate release of the remaining Nigerian schoolboys abducted by armed men last week.
- The demand has been made following the rescue of more than 300 of the boys who were forcibly taken from their school on 11 December.
- Secretary-General Antnio Guterres called for the “immediate and unconditional release of those who remain abducted.”
The head of the United Nations on Friday demanded the immediate release of the remaining Nigerian schoolboys abducted by armed men last week.
The demand has been made following the rescue of the majority, if not all, of the 344 of the boys who were forcibly taken from the Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, in northwest Nigeria on 11 December 2020.
Secretary-General Antnio Guterres, in a statement issued by his Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said the UN chief commended “the swift action taken by the Nigerian authorities to rescue the children” while also stressing the importance thatthose children and their families are now “provided with the necessary health and psychosocial support.”
His main message however was to call for the “immediate and unconditional release of those who remain abducted.”
According to news reports, the boys arrived by bus in the capital of Katsina, and were met by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. State authorities are saying that the children were abducted by local bandits, casting doubt on the initial claim of responsibility by militant Jihadist group, Boko Haram.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, tweeted that he was “delighted” that the schoolboys had been freed, and congratulated the Nigerian Government for securing their release, calling on authorities to “make schools safe for teaching and learning.”
‘An unimaginable ordeal’
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, pointed out that for one week, “parents were awake at night, crying and awaiting the return of their sons.”
“My thoughts and solidarity are with these children, their families and the Kankara community who have endured an unimaginable ordeal this past week,” said UNCEF Nigeria Representative Peter Hawkins on Friday.
While expressing his relief that some of the children were reported to have been freed, he also called on the attackers “to release all children immediately,” including any others being held captive throughout the country.
Last Friday’s attack during the middle of the night, in a place where children should feel secure, was “an outrage,”. the UNICEF envoy said.
“Schools should be safe”, he upheld. “Children should never be the target of attack and yet, far too often in Nigeria, they are precisely that victims of attacks on their schools”
Attacks on educational facilities deprive young people of the right to an education, make them fearful of going to the classroom and cause parents to become frightened of sending their children to school, the UNICEF official said.
“These attacks are a grave violation of children’s rights,” according to Mr. Hawkins, who referred to this incident as “a disturbing reminder” of the heavy toll that violence takes on civilians in northwest Nigeria, including children.
“No cause justifies attacks against children and schools” – UNICEF Representative
Learning without fear
The UNICEF representative said: “No cause justifies attacks against children and schools.”
He said that “such cruel disregard for humanity must come to an end,” underscoring that schools be “safe places to study and develop, and learning cannot become a perilous endeavor.”
Mr. Hawkins pushed for interventions to ensure school safety so that “all Nigerian children can learn without fear.”
“I am so happy,” retired health worker Shuaibu Kankara, whose 13-year-old son Annas Shuaibu was among the boys abducted, told the Reuters news agency on Friday.
“We are so grateful to the governor of Katsina and all those who worked hard to secure their release,” Kankara said, adding that his only concern was to be reunited with his son.
The UN Secretary-General called for “increased efforts to safeguard schools and educational facilities in the country,” and reiterated the UN’s solidarity and commitment in “supporting the Government and people of Nigeria in their fight against terrorism, violent extremism, and organized crime.”