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Christian Youth Leaders in Nigeria Call for “immediate release” of Abducted Students

The Logo of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Youth Wing (YOWICAN). Credit: YOWICAN

Christian youth leaders in Nigeria have called on the Federal government to facilitate the “immediate release” of students abducted from the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State earlier this month.

In a statement issued Sunday, July 25 at the end of their Executive Council meeting, members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Youth Wing (YOWICAN) call upon those behind insecurity in the West African nation “to desist from perpetrating evil and put a stop to the ongoing kidnappings and killings.”

“YOWICAN demands the immediate release of all abductees and particularly the students of the Bethel Baptist High School Kaduna State, who have been in captivity,” the Christian youth leaders say.

They add in reference to abductees, “We urge the Federal and Kaduna State Government to expedite action towards their release.”

On July 5, gunmen stormed Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State in Northwestern Nigeria, abducting at least 120 students.

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Various media including France 24, Voice of America, and Aljazeera have reported that 28 students had regained their freedom on Saturday, July 24.

Making reference to one of the senior officials at Bethel Baptist High School, AFP has reported, “28 students had been released and were reunited with their parents.”

“The bandits released them yesterday (Saturday) and we were able to send out church buses to go to where the captors dropped them to pick them up,” Joseph Hayab told AFP.

On Monday, July 26, Premium Times Nigeria reported the release of four more students. 

Meanwhile, in a July 26 report, Reuters cited officials of Kaduna State saying all schooling in the Northern Nigerian State had been suspended “due to insecurity.”

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"We have asked students to stay away for three weeks, after which in the third week we will review the situation and get across to the public and the students," Kaduna state's commissioner of education, Mohammed Makarfi, has been quoted as telling Reuters by phone.

In their July 25 statement, YOWICAN officials decry “the increasing rate of insecurity in Nigeria, yet commends the efforts of government and security agencies in combating the nefarious activities of bandits, killer herdsmen, insurgents etc.”

“YOWICAN in the performance of Christian tenets and faith believes strongly in peaceful coexistence, but this piety should not be construed as cowardice, therefore kidnappers, bandits, killer herdsmen, terrorists and unknown gunmen should not push Christian youths to the extreme, such as to make them consider deploying self-defense strategies as the last option,” they add.

Despite the efforts so far made in combating crime, YOWICAN leadership call for “urgent measures to curb the rising wave of attacks, killings, destruction of lives, properties, farmlands and livelihood of innocent citizens within the Northern states, specifically within Christian communities in Southern Kaduna.”

The youth leaders also advocate for a Christian to be voted President in the next presidential elections saying, “The emergence of a Christian as President come 2023 will be a true expression of equity and justice for Nigeria.”

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They explain, “The next president come 2023 should be a Christian because the present administration, the president is a Muslim, and so the president should rotate amongst the Christians and Muslims so that there will be balance in the leadership of Nigeria.”

“We have competent Christian leaders who can represent and manage the affairs of this country,” YOWICAN members say in their statement, and add, “We urge our leaders to fully participate in politics so that we can produce a good president for Nigeria.”

They pledge to foster a collaborative approach in the search for lasting peace saying, “YOWICAN shall continue to collaborate and work in concert with brothers from the Muslim faith to pursue the desired peace, unity and progress of the nation; and more particularly under the auspices of the Nigeria Inter-religious Council (NIREC).”