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: September 22, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Federal University Gusau

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 22, 2023, unknown gunmen abducted 35 students and workers from Federal University, Gusau (FUGUS) in the middle of the night. The motive is unknown.

The gunmen entered three private student hostels affiliated with FUGUS by breaking doors and shattering windows. The assailants fired live ammunition and forcefully took 24 students from their rooms. The gunmen also abducted 10 construction workers who were sleeping on campus and a security guard. According to reports, the assistants collected phones and marched the group through the back of FUGUS’ campus. At around 6:00 a.m., three hours after the abduction began, the group halted in a village, and an additional group of men arrived on motorcycles to transport them.

On September 24, Nigerian president Bola Tinubu directed security agencies to secure the release of the abducted students and individuals.

On September 25, it was reported that 13 students and three construction workers were released after soldiers ambushed the assailants. Two additional students were able to escape independently. FUGUS published a statement on X celebrating the release and calling on authorities to rescue the remaining students and workers.

As of writing this report, the remaining abductees have not been rescued and it is unclear where they are being held.

This incident appears to fit a pattern of attacks and kidnappings targeting schools and universities in Nigeria. FUGUS in located in Zamfara State, which is considered a hotspot for such kidnappings. The incident marks the third kidnapping of FUGUS students in 2023 (see report and see report).

UPDATE: On March 14, 2024, nine additional students were released following negotiations between the kidnappers and the government.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction of higher education students and workers. 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 victims, 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.