SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 16, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Federal University Gusau

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 16, 2023, a Zamfara militia group abducted five Federal University Gusau students from their apartments in private student hostels.

The group initially demanded a ransom of five-million naira (the equivalent of about $6,500 USD) for the release of each student. After negotiations, the militia group reduced its ransom demands to one-million naira (about $1,300 USD) for each student. On August 14, 2023, two months after their abduction, it was reported that the Nigerian military had rescued the students.

This incident appears to fit a pattern of attacks and kidnappings targeting schools and universities in Nigeria. On April 2, 2023 a militia group abducted two women students and released them 12 days later (see report) and on June 14, 2023 a militia group abducted seven students and released them 4 days later after the ransom was paid (see report). Sources have frequently described groups of “bandits” kidnapping students and staff in pursuit of ransom.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction of higher education students. State authorities should take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of scholars, students, and staff, including by investigating and holding perpetrators of such acts responsible, in line with international human rights standards. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, kidnappings that target members of the higher education community undermine the conditions needed for the meaningful exercise of the right to education and academic freedom.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)