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Fear Grips Nigeria's Abuja Region After Mass Abduction of Villagers, Children

Abuja, Nigeria
Abuja, Nigeria

Nigerian police are investigating the abduction this week of at least 29 people from a village in the territory of the federal capital, Abuja. Officials say gunmen raided Yewuti village, taking victims on foot into the bush, including children.

The attack has raised concerns about Nigeria's worsening insecurity just ahead of next month's swearing-in of Bola Tinubu as the new president.

Abuja police public relations officer Josephine Adeh said officials are looking into the matter and would make their findings public soon.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the abductions.

But a local council head in Kwali where the village is located said the gunmen invaded after midnight Tuesday and shot sporadically before herding residents, including children, into the nearby bush on foot.

The attack has raised concerns of growing insecurity in the Nigerian capital nearly one year after the terror group Islamic State West Africa Province, or ISWAP, claimed responsibility for a jail break that freed hundreds of inmates, including high profile terrorism suspects held at a medium security facility in Abuja.

"You know abduction is a very sensitive issue," Adeh told VOA. "We're on it. … Whatever we're doing we can't put it out there because of the sensitivity of the issue."

Abuja has maintained relative peace for years despite Nigeria struggling to stem a range of insecurity problems, especially in the central, northwestern and northeastern regions.

But since last year, the capital has been reporting incidents more often.

Last month, local media reported gunmen invaded an Abuja estate and kidnapped nine people.

Security expert Senator Iroegbu said the trend is worrying.

"It's an unfortunate incident, the people we're talking about are Nigerians,” Iroegbu said. "No Nigerian deserves to be kidnapped and it still shows that government still has a lot to do; even within the city center there are a lot of crimes."

Despite this, Nigerian authorities say security officials are making substantial progress.

FILE - Bola Ahmed Tinubu reacts after he was declared winner in Nigeria's presidential election at his party's campaign headquarters, in Abuja, March 1, 2023.
FILE - Bola Ahmed Tinubu reacts after he was declared winner in Nigeria's presidential election at his party's campaign headquarters, in Abuja, March 1, 2023.

Insecurity was a major topic at the February polls in which Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared winner. Tinubu will be sworn in on May 29. Iroegbu said Tinubu must take security matters seriously.

"Any incoming administration should know that the challenge is still very prevalent … so they have their work well cut out," Iroegbu said. "It should be a shift from the way the current administration are doing their things, improve where they failed and one of the areas where they really failed is the issue of security."

In 2015, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari promised to address insecurity if elected president.

After years of being widely criticized for security failures, Buhari last week said, "Those that think that I have hurt them so much, please pardon me."