Suspected Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped at least six children, three teachers, and the driver of a Christian school bus in Nigeria’s Ekiti State. The incident, which occurred on Monday night, has sparked heightened concerns about the safety of Christians in the region. The abductors have demanded a significant ransom for the release of the captives, adding to the growing wave of violence against Christians in Nigeria.
Abduction and Rescue Effort
The targeted group, comprising students and educators from Apostolic Nursery and Primary School in Emure-Ekiti, were returning from a trip when they fell victim to the militants. The Ekiti State government has confirmed the incident, assuring the public that rescue efforts are underway. Governor Biodun Oyebanji has called for citizens to remain calm and vigilant, urging them to cooperate with authorities.
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Ransom Demand and Previous Incidents
The kidnappers have reportedly demanded a ransom of 30 million NGN (over $32,000 USD) for the release of the abducted children and adults. This tragic event follows the recent murder of two Nigerian traditional rulers by suspected Muslim herdsmen, further highlighting the pervasive threat faced by Christians in the region.
Response from Authorities
Ekiti and Ondo police have launched a joint search and rescue operation in the area of the kidnappings. Governor Oyebanji has affirmed that security agencies are actively pursuing the abductors, emphasizing the government’s commitment to ensuring the safe return of the children and teachers.
The perpetrators are suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, a group with a history of targeting Christians in Nigeria. These Fulani militants, also known as the Fulani militia, often operate as radical Muslims, launching relentless attacks on villages across the country. The recent abduction aligns with their strategy to target Christians and symbols of Christian identity.
International Response and Concerns
The global community, particularly religious freedom advocates, has expressed deep concern over the ongoing persecution of Christians in Nigeria. The U.S. Secretary of State’s recent omission of Nigeria from the list of Countries of Particular Concern for religious freedom violations has drawn criticism. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called for a congressional hearing to address this omission, emphasizing the need for a re-designation.
Calls for Action
In response to the alarming situation, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has introduced a bipartisan resolution in the House. The resolution calls on the Biden administration to re-designate Nigeria as a country violating religious freedom. Rep. Smith also urges the appointment of a Special Envoy to Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region to monitor and combat atrocities in the region.
The abduction of the Christian school group in Ekiti State sheds light on the persistent threats faced by Christians in Nigeria. As rescue efforts continue, the international community is closely watching the situation, urging decisive action to address religious freedom violations. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for concerted efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of religious minorities in regions plagued by violence and persecution.