Nigeria receives 4 million doses of covid-19 vaccines from U.S. government

By Felix Onuah

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigeria has received 4 million doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines donated by the United States government, its health minister said on Monday, as the West African country battles a third wave of infections.

Osagie Ehanire said the vaccines, which arrived on Sunday, are undergoing validation by the country’s drug regulator. He said the doses will be distributed to the local states once they are certified fit for use.

The U.S. government last week shipped nearly 10 million doses to two of the most populous African countries – Nigeria and South Africa.

“Vaccination in Nigeria should soon begin with the arrival … of Moderna vaccines, thanks to the United States government,” Ehanire told a coronavirus briefing in Abuja.

He said Nigeria would receive over 40 million doses by the end of the year, without providing details.

The primary healthcare agency said last month that Nigeria had exhausted an initial supply of nearly 4 million shots and expects to receive nearly 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of August, including the U.S. government donation.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has seen a rise in coronavirus cases since mid July. Some 174,315 cases and 2,149 deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began in early 2020, official data shows.

It recently detected the highly contagious Delta variant, with the health minister warning that the country was going through a third wave of the infection.

Resident doctors in Nigerian public hospitals began an indefinite strike on Monday over grievances that include the delayed payment of salaries and allowances, the doctors’ union said, as coronavirus infections rise.

(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Police in Nigeria secure release of 100 kidnapping victims

LAGOS (Reuters) – Police and government authorities have secured the release of 100 people, including women, children and nursing mothers, who were kidnapped from their village in northwestern Nigeria over a month ago, a local police spokesperson said.

Nigeria is battling an increase in armed robberies and kidnappings for ransom, mainly in northwestern states, where thinly deployed security forces have struggled to contain the rise of armed gangs, commonly referred to as bandits.

The released captives had been abducted on June 8 from Manawa village in Zamfara state, Mohammed Shehu, the state’s police spokesperson, said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday.

He said their release had been secured “without giving any financial or material gain.”

“They will be medically checked and debriefed before (being) reunited with their respective families,” the statement added.

While northeastern Nigeria has faced a decade of insecurity, including attacks by Islamist militants including Islamic State-allied Boko Haram, the current wave of kidnappings is primarily financially motivated.

Lagos-based consultancy SBM Intelligence estimates that kidnappers took 2,371 people across Nigeria in the first half of this year, demanding ransoms totaling 10 billion naira ($24.33 million).

The bulk of those were abducted in the northern states of Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger. SBM said it could not accurately assess how much has been paid in ransoms.

Over 200 students as well as scores of others taken in kidnapping raids are still being held captive.

($1 = 411.0000 naira)

(Reporting By Libby George, additional reporting by Maiduguri newsroom and Camillus Eboh in Abuja; Editing by Joe Bavier)

U.N. agency says 41 million on verge of famine

By Maytaal Angel

LONDON (Reuters) – Some 41 million people worldwide are at at imminent risk of famine, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) warned on Tuesday, saying soaring prices for basic foods were compounding existing pressures on food security.

Another half a million are already experiencing famine-like conditions, said the WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley.

“We now have four countries where famine-like conditions are present. Meanwhile 41 million people are literally knocking on famine’s door,” he said.

The WFP, which is funded entirely by voluntary donations, said it needs to raise $6 billion immediately to reach those at risk, in 43 countries.

“We need funding and we need it now,” said Beasley.

After declining for several decades, world hunger has been on the rise since 2016, driven by conflict and climate change.

In 2019, 27 million people were on the brink of famine, according to the WFP, but since 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has been added to the mix.

World food prices rose in May to their highest levels in a decade, U.N. figures show, with basics like cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar up a combined 40% versus year ago levels.

Currency depreciation in countries like Lebanon, Nigeria, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe is adding to these pressures and driving prices even higher, stoking food insecurity.

Famine-like conditions are present this year in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, as well as in pockets of Nigeria and Burkina Faso.

But Beasley warned against “debating numbers to death” as happened in Somalia in 2011 when 130,000 people – half the eventual toll from starvation – had already died by the time famine was declared.

The WFP, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, says around 9 percent of the world’s population, equivalent to nearly 690 million people, go to bed hungry each night.

(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; editing by John Stonestreet)

Nigeria urges U.S. to move Africa Command headquarters to continent

ABUJA (Reuters) – The United States should consider moving its military headquarters overseeing Africa to the continent, from Germany, to better tackle growing armed violence in the region, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday.

Nigerian security forces face multiple security challenges including school kidnappings by armed gangs in its northwest and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as well as the decade-long insurgency by Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which also carries out attacks in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

West Africa’s Sahel region is in the grip of a security crisis as groups with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State attack military forces and civilians, despite help from French and United Nations forces.

Buhari, in a virtual meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, said U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), should be relocated to Africa itself.

“Considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM headquarters… near the theatre of operation,” said Buhari, according a statement issued by the presidency.

He spoke a week after the death of the longtime president of Chad, Idriss Deby, in a battle against rebels.

Deby was an important Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants and under him Chadian soldiers formed a key component of a multinational force fighting Boko Haram and its offshoot, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

“The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region,” said Buhari, a retired major general.

AFRICOM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja; Additional reporting and writing by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Gunmen abduct 30 students in northwest Nigeria as payoffs ‘boomerang’

By Garba Muhammad

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Gunmen kidnapped around 30 students in an overnight raid on a forestry college in northwest Nigeria, an official said on Friday, the fourth mass school abduction since December in a country where violence is on the increase.

An armed gang broke into the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, located on the outskirts of Kaduna city near a military academy, at around 11:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Thursday, Kaduna state’s security commissioner, Samuel Aruwan said.

After a distress call, the army rescued 180 people in the early hours of Friday but “about 30 students, a mix of males and females, are yet to be accounted for,” he said.

“A combined team of army, air force, police and DSS (Department of State Services) troops are conducting an operation to track the missing students.”

The city is the capital of Kaduna state, part of a region where banditry has festered for years. Hours before the kidnapping, Nigeria’s federal government said it would “take out” abductors after earlier criticizing local deals to free victims.

Kaduna resident Haruna Salisu said he had heard sporadic gunshots at around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday from the area of the compound, where the concrete perimeter wall had a large hole in it on Friday.

“We were not panicking, thinking that it was a normal military exercise being conducted at the (nearby) Nigerian Defense Academy,” he said by phone.

“We came out for dawn prayers, at 5:20 a.m., and saw some of the students, teachers and security personnel all over the school premises. They told us that gunmen raided the school and abducted some of the students.”

On Friday morning, relatives of students gathered at the gates of the college, which was surrounded by around 20 army trucks.

RANSOM

The trend of abduction from boarding schools was started by the jihadist group Boko Haram, which seized 270 schoolgirls from a school at Chibok in the northeast in 2014. Around 100 of them have never been found.

Armed criminal gangs seeking ransom have since carried out copycat attacks.

Within the last few weeks, 279 schoolgirls were freed after being abducted from their boarding school at Jangebe in northwest Nigeria’s Zamfara state. In the north-central state of Niger, 27 teenage boys were released after being kidnapped from their school, along with three staff and 12 family members. One student was shot dead in that attack.

Military and police attempts to tackle the gangs have had little success, while many worry that state authorities are making the situation worse by letting kidnappers go unpunished, paying them off or providing incentives.

In Zamfara, state government officials said they had given ‘reformed bandits’ access to land for cattle grazing, while also building schools and medical facilities. They do not specifically identify the recipients as kidnappers.

In late February, the presidency said President Muhammadu Buhari had urged state governments to “review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”

Buhari held talks with security officials and traditional leaders on Thursday to discuss the country’s multiple security challenges. The national security adviser, Babagana Monguno, after the talks said the government would take a tough stance on criminal gangs.

“The new direction of government is to come out with full force. We have decided to apply the full weight of the law. We will come down on them wherever we locate them and take them out,” he told reporters in the capital, Abuja, without providing further details.

The unrest has become a political problem for Buhari, a retired general and former military ruler who has faced mounting criticism over the rise in violent crime, and replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this year.

(Additional reporting by Tife Owolabi in Yenagoa, Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos, Felix Onuah in Abuja, and Maiduguri Newsroom; Writing by Kevin Liffey and Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Gunmen kidnap more than 300 schoolgirls in increasingly lawless northwest Nigeria

By Hamza Ibrahim

KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) – Gunmen seized more than 300 girls in a nighttime raid on a school in northwest Nigeria on Friday and are believed to be holding some of them in a forest, police said.

It was the second such kidnapping in little over a week in a region increasingly targeted by militants and criminal gangs. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Police in Zamfara state said they had begun search-and-rescue operations with the army to find the “armed bandits” who took the 317 girls from the Government Girls Science Secondary School in the town of Jangebe.

“There’s information that they were moved to a neighboring forest, and we are tracing and exercising caution and care,” Zamfara police commissioner Abutu Yaro told a news conference.

He did not say whether those possibly moved to the forest included all of them.

Zamfara’s information commissioner, Sulaiman Tanau Anka, told Reuters the assailants stormed in firing sporadically during the 1 a.m. raid.

“Information available to me said they came with vehicles and moved the students, they also moved some on foot,” he said.

School kidnappings were first carried out by jihadist groups Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province but the tactic has now been adopted by other militants in the northwest whose agenda is unclear.

They have become endemic around the increasingly lawless north, to the anguish of families and frustration of Nigeria’s government and armed forces. Friday’s was the third such incident since December.

The rise in abductions is fueled in part by sizeable government payoffs in exchange for child hostages, catalyzing a broader breakdown of security in the north, officials have said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The government denies making such payouts.

RAGE AND FRUSTRATION

Jangebe town seethed with anger over the abduction, said a government official who was part of the delegation to the community.

Young men hurled rocks at journalists driving through the town, injuring a cameraman, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The situation at Jangebe community is tense as people mobilized to block security operatives, journalists and government officials from getting access to the main town,” he said.

Parents also had no faith in authorities to return their kidnapped girls, said Mohammed Usman Jangebe, the father of one abductee, by phone.

“We are going to rescue our children, since the government isn’t ready to give them protection,” he said.

“All of us that have had our children abducted have agreed to follow them into to the forest. We will not listen to anyone now until we rescue our children,” Jangebe said, before ending the call.

MILITARY SHAKEUP

President Muhammadu Buhari replaced his long-standing military chiefs earlier this month amid the worsening violence.

Last week, unidentified gunmen kidnapped 42 people including 27 students, and killed one pupil, in an overnight attack on a boarding school in the north-central state of Niger.

The hostages are yet to be released.

In December, dozens of gunmen abducted 344 schoolboys from the town of Kankara in northwest Katsina state. They were freed after six days but the government denied a ransom had been paid.

Islamic State’s West Africa branch in 2018 kidnapped more than 100 schoolgirls from the town of Dapchi in northeast Nigeria, all but one of whom – the only Christian – were released.

A ransom was paid, according to the United Nations.

Perhaps the most notorious kidnapping in recent years was when Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno state in April 2014. The incident drew widespread global attention, with then U.S. first lady Michelle Obama among the prominent figures calling for their return.

Many have been found or rescued by the army, or freed years later after negotiations between the government and Boko Haram finally resulted in a hefty ransom, according to sources.

But 100 are still missing, either remaining with Boko Haram or dead, security officials say.

Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at Lagos-based risk consultancy SBM Intelligence, said many northern governors were keen to pay to avoid protracted hostage situations attracting international outrage, which in turn gave an incentive for more abductions.

“When you have these mass abductions now and you see victims are released relatively quickly, unlike Chibok, the one thing that has changed is money,” Effiong said.

(Reporting by Hamza Ibrahim in Kano, Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi, Maiduguri Newsroom and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Additional reporting by Camillus Eboh in Abuja and Libby George in Lagos; Writing by Paul Carsten; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Gunmen kill student, kidnap 27 in attack on Nigerian school

By Garba Muhammad

KADUNA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Unidentified gunmen killed a student in an overnight attack on a boarding school in north-central Nigeria on Wednesday, witnesses said, and the regional government said 27 others including some staff and relatives were kidnapped.

The assailants stormed the Government Science secondary school in the Kagara district of Niger state at around 2 a.m., overwhelming the school’s security detail, according to local residents.

One student was killed in the attack, teacher Aliyu Isa and a pupil at the school told local TV news station Channels. Another teacher, who did not want to be named, also told Reuters that one student was killed.

“It was only one that was killed,” Isa told Channels. He said the abductors were dressed in army uniforms and shooting as they broke into the school. “They were telling the students not to run,” added Isa, who said he and others fled in the confusion while the gunmen rounded up some of the pupils.

Niger state officials did not immediately confirm the death but said that 27 students, some members of staff and relatives had been abducted by the gunmen.

The attack came two months after gunmen stormed a secondary school in northwestern Katsina state and kidnapped nearly 350 boys, who were subsequently rescued by security forces.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the latest abduction. Kidnappings for ransom by armed groups are common across many northern Nigerian states.

Militant Islamist group Boko Haram and a branch of Islamic State also carry out abductions in Nigeria’s turbulent northeast. About 100 of more than 270 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the town of Chibok in 2014 remain missing.

The Niger state governor ordered the immediate closure of boarding schools in the region. President Muhammadu Buhari dispatched security chiefs to coordinate rescue operations, his spokesman Garba Shehu said in a statement.

“President Buhari has (given assurance) of the support of his administration to the armed forces in their brave struggle against terrorism and banditry and urged them to do all that can be done to bring an end to this saga,” said Shehu.

The spate of attacks has raised concern about rising violence by Islamist insurgents and armed gangs and fueled widespread criticism of Buhari’s handling of national security. In January, the president appointed a new military high command.

Violence and insecurity have compounded the economic challenges faced by citizens in Africa’s most populous country, which is struggling to cope with a fall in revenues due to an oil price slump on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Garba Muhammad; Additional reporting by Maiduguri Newsroom, Felix Onuah and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Mark Heinrich)

Nigerians win UK court OK to sue Shell over oil spills

By Julia Payne and Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) – The UK Supreme Court on Friday allowed a group of 42,500 Nigerian farmers and fishermen to sue Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) in English courts after years of oil spills in the Niger Delta contaminated land and groundwater.

Senior judges said there was an arguable case that UK-domiciled Shell, one of the world’s biggest energy companies, is responsible, in the latest test of whether multinationals can be held to account for the acts of overseas subsidiaries.

Represented by law firm Leigh Day, the group of Nigerians have argued that the parent company Shell owed them a duty of care because it either had significant control of, and was responsible for, its subsidiary SPDC. Shell countered that the court had no jurisdiction to try the claims.

“(The ruling) also represents a watershed moment in the accountability of multinational companies. Increasingly impoverished communities are seeking to hold powerful corporate actors to account and this judgment will significantly increase their ability to do so,” Daniel Leader, partner at Leigh Day, said.

“UK common law is also used in countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand so this is a very helpful precedent.”

The decision comes almost two years after a seminal ruling by the Supreme Court in a case involving mining firm Vedanta. The judgment allowed nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers to sue Vedanta in England for alleged pollution in Africa.

That move was seen as a victory for rural communities seeking to hold parent companies accountable for environmental disasters. Vedanta ultimately settled out of court in January.

Nigeria’s Ogale and Bille communities allege their lives and health have suffered because repeated oil spills have contaminated the land, swamps, groundwater and waterways and that there has been no adequate cleaning or remediation.

SPDC is the operator of oil pipelines in a joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation which holds a 55% stake, Shell which holds 30%, France’s Total with 10%, Italy’s Eni with 5%.

A Shell spokesman said the decision was disappointing.

“Regardless of the cause of a spill, SPDC cleans up and remediates. It also works hard to prevent these sabotage spills, by using technology, increasing surveillance and by promoting alternative livelihoods for those who might damage pipes and equipment,” Shell said.

Shell has blamed sabotage for oil spills. It said in its annual report published last March that SPDC, which produces around 1 million barrels of oil per day, saw crude oil spills caused by theft or pipeline sabotage surge by 41% in 2019.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said last week that the firm would take “another hard look at its onshore oil operations” in the west African country.

The ruling is the second judgement against Shell this year regarding claims against its Nigerian operations. In a landmark Dutch ruling two weeks ago, an appeals court held Shell responsible for multiple oil pipeline leaks in the Niger Delta and ordered it to pay unspecified damages to farmers, in a victory for environmentalists.

Leigh Day said that the amount of compensation sought would be quantified as the case enters the trial stage. Shell could however try to settle the matter out of court.

In 2015, Shell agreed to pay out 55 million pounds ($83.4 million) to the Bodo community in Nigeria in compensation for two oil spills, which was the largest ever out-of-court settlement relating to Nigerian oil spills.

(Reporting by Julia Payne and Kirstin Ridley; editing by John Stonestreet, William Maclean)

Nigeria’s Boko Haram behind more than 300 schoolboys’ abduction

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Reuters) – A man identifying himself as the leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram said on Tuesday the Islamist group was behind the abduction of more than 300 schoolboys, as anxious parents begged the government to secure their release.

Pupils who escaped kidnap on Friday, by jumping over the fence of the Government Science secondary school in Katsina state in northwestern Nigeria and fleeing through a forest, said the attackers were armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rounded up their victims before marching them off.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the local Hausa language, has waged an insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria since 2009 but has not previously claimed attacks in the northwest.

The claims in the audio tape, if true, could mark a widening influence of jihadist groups operating in northeastern Nigeria, political analysts said.

They could also signal that jihadists have formed alliances with militant groups operating in the Sahel, which could further destabilize the impoverished north of Africa’s most populous nation which plays a pivotal role in regional stability.

Katsina state authorities said about 320 boys were missing and Nigeria’s government said it had spoken to the kidnappers, who have sought a ransom from at least one parent.

“We’re begging the government to please try their best to get their release,” Hajiya Ummi, whose 15-year-old son Mujtaba is among those missing, said by telephone from her home in Bakori town in Katsina.

“His friends told me he was sick in bed when the bandits struck. He could hardly move but they dragged him out with the rest of the abducted students,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.

Katsina officials had ordered all state schools to close because they did not know the attackers’ motives. Neighboring Zamfara state on Monday also ordered its government boarding schools to close, according to a circular seen by Reuters.

AUDIO CLIP

In an audio message which reached Reuters via a WhatsApp message, a man purporting to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said: “We are behind what happened in Katsina.”

“What happened in Katsina was done to promote Islam and discourage un-Islamic practices as Western education is not the type of education permitted by Allah and his holy prophet,” he said.

No video footage was released of the missing boys.

The man offered no proof for his statement. Reuters was unable to verify the audio and Nigerian authorities did not immediately comment.

A security source told Reuters Boko Haram was not itself involved in the abduction, but that the kidnappers could have sold the boys to the Islamist group.

Spokesmen for the presidency, police and army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cheta Nwanze, lead partner at Lagos-based risk consultancy SBM intelligence, said huge swathes of northwest Nigeria were ungoverned spaces where arms and people moved freely across porous borders.

Nearby Burkina Faso has descended into chaos as Islamist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State exploit ethnic grievances and government neglect of the arid north.

On Monday, an attack blamed on Boko Haram killed 28 people and burned 800 homes in the southern Diffa region of Niger, which borders Nigeria to the north.

“There is a danger that jihadists operating in the Sahel could potentially build alliances with groups that have previously remained in northeast Nigeria. That would further destabilize the region,” Nwanze said.

Boko Haram carried out the 2014 kidnap of more than 200 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok. About half the girls have been found or freed, dozens have been paraded in propaganda videos, and some are believed to be dead.

More than 30,000 people have been killed since Boko Haram began its insurgency, aimed at creating an Islamic state.

(Reporting by Maiduguri newsroom; Additional reporting by Ardo Hazzad in Bauchi, Alexis Akwagyiram and Libby George in Lagos, Camillus Eboh and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Timothy Heritage and Tom Brown)

Gunmen abducted over 300 boys at Nigeria school

By Ismail Abba and Afolabi Sotunde

KANKARA, Nigeria (Reuters) – Usama Aminu was one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape when gunman abducted more than 300 pupils from his school in northwestern Nigeria.

“When I decided to run they brought a knife to slaughter me but I ran away quickly,” he said, sitting on a mat and speaking softly as he described how he had been in bed at the all-boys school in Kankara when he heard gunshots on Friday night.

At first, he said, the boys thought the commotion was from soldiers trying to protect them, but the attackers, armed with AK-47s, were already inside the building, threatening groups who tried to leave their dormitories at the Government Science secondary school in an attack that has outraged Nigerians.

“They said they would kill whoever is trying to escape then I began to run, climbing one rock to another through a forest,” Aminu said.

Many details of the raid and its aftermath remain unknown.

Police said on Friday they exchanged fire with the attackers, allowing some students to run for safety. According to Katsina Governor Aminu Bello Masri, 333 students remained missing, and officials do not yet know the motive of the attack.

State spokesman Abdul Labaran said on Sunday that the military and intelligence chiefs were in Kankara leading the rescue mission.

Muhammad Abubakar, 15, was another pupil who got away, trekking through farmland and a forest in the dark. He said he was among 72 boys who had reached safety in the village of Kaikaibise where he ended up.

“The bandits called us back. They told us not to run. We started to walk back to them, but as we did, we saw more people coming towards the dormitory,” he told Reuters.

“So I and others ran again. We jumped over the fence and ran through a forest to the nearest village.”

Abubakar, one of eight children, said he saw a number of boys being rounded up before they were marched out of the school, which has around 800 students. Seven of his friends are missing.

As he was reunited with his mother, who sells firewood for a living, he said: “I never thought I would see my parents again.”

ANGER

Friday’s raid evoked memories of the 2014 kidnap of more than 200 girls from a school in the northeastern town of Chibok by Islamist group Boko Haram.

Since then, about half of those girls have been found or freed, dozens have been paraded in propaganda videos and an unknown number are believed to have died.

Despite the measures taken to find the boys and track down the assailants, there was growing anger at the precarious security situation in the country. On Monday, #BringBackOurBoys was trending on Twitter.

Late last month, Islamist militants killed scores of farmers in northeastern Borno, beheading some of them.

And in October the country was gripped by some of the worst civil unrest since its return to civilian rule in 1999, following weeks of largely peaceful protests against police brutality in which several demonstrators were shot dead.

Oby Ezekwesili, a former government minister and campaigner who organized the Bring Back Our Girls Movement after the Chibok abductions, said the insecurity that led to the latest abduction was the product of poor governance.

“Nothing of our government system was available to protect those children,” she told Reuters. “What else can define poor governance.”

Anger was also seen on the streets of Lagos, the commercial capital in the south of the country. Electronic trader Agboola Abimbola said it was “depressing and embarrassing” that so many children could be taken in this way.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is from Katsina and in the state for a week-long visit, has said the military had located the kidnappers in a forest where they exchanged gun fire.

But he is yet to visit the school, which has drawn criticism in Nigeria’s newspapers.

The presidency declined to comment when asked for a response to the criticism.

(Reporting by Ismail Abba and Afolabi Sotunde in Kankara; Additional reporting by Nneka Chile, Seun Sanni and Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos; Editing by Alison Williams)