Many Nigerians are expressing relief after more than 270 schoolgirls kidnapped in northwestern Zamfara state were freed by their captors Tuesday. But in the midst of the celebration, some prominent human rights activists are calling for accountable leadership to prevent a recurrence.
The 279 girls were released around 3 a.m. local time and taken to Government House in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State.
State Governor Bello Matawalle addressed the girls and said their release is a big relief to the state and their families.
But the leader of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement, Florence Ozor, said the battle is not won if school children can still be attacked or kidnapped.
"There is no rejoicing where it is clear that the dangers of kidnapping, abductions and killings by bandits are still lurking around," Ozor said. "It is no longer a question of if school children or adults will be abducted but a question of when.”
Authorities said no ransom was paid to secure the release of the girls, who were kidnapped last Friday during an overnight raid at their school in the village of Jangebe.
Their abduction, resembling Boko Haram’s 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State, triggered global condemnation with many leaders and groups calling for their release.
State authorities said the girls will be treated for physical or psychological injuries before they're reunited with their families.
Josephine Odumakin, a Nigerian women's rights activist and president of Women Arise for Change Initiative, said authorities should declare a state of emergency over the spate of abductions.
"We must see the continuous attacks in our schools as a very dangerous trend that requires the country declaring a national emergency on security," Odumakin said.
Nigeria is seeing a wave of kidnappings of school children by criminal gangs seeking huge ransoms.
The kidnapping of the girls is the fourth such incident since December.
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration will not succumb to mounting pressure from criminal groups.