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Nigeria: Kidnappings force Christian school closures

by Heather Preston

A number of Christian schools have been ordered to close in northern Nigeria following a spike in kidnappings.

Local authorities have now ordered the closure of 13 "vulnerable" education facilities after some 140 staff and students were abducted from a Baptist high school in southern Kaduna. 

Gunmen stormed Bethel Baptist High School in Damishi town of Chikun Local Government Area in Kaduna State, early on Monday, at around 2am.

"They fired shots sporadically as they kidnapped the students", said police spokesman Mohammed Jalije.

According to Christian persecution charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the attack on the Bethel Baptist was one of four incidents which took place in Kaduna State within a 24-hour period.

Among the schools identified for closure by the Kaduna State Schools Quality Assurance Authority are Deeper Life Academy in Maraban Rido, Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Secondary School in Ungwar Maje, St Peter's Minor Seminary in Katari, and Bethel Baptist High School.

Kidnappings have become an increasing issue in Kaduna State since the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram Islamist militants in Borno state, which has led to further school attacks across northern Nigeria which authorities say have been carried out by armed militia.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is concerned that President Muhammadu Buhari has "lost grip on the leadership of this nation, especially in his ability to provide security for citizens" and should "seek foreign assistance before it is too late."

CSW's CEO Scot Bower said: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Kaduna state, who continue to bear the brunt of a critical security failure. The closures and withdrawal of children from educational facilities is a desperate measure, giving the unfortunate impression of an inability to address a situation that has been allowed to spiral inexorably.  
"This decision is likely to hurt the education and future prospects of the students concerned, while merely offering a short-term solution to a phenomenon which is part of a state wide crisis requiring a comprehensive response.  As the other attacks that occurred clearly illustrate, people are no longer safe in hospitals, let alone in their own homes."

A spokesperson for President Muhammadu Buhari has urged security agents to take swift action to rescue those abducted from Bethel Baptist High School.

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