The frequent kidnapping of scores of Nigerians, many of them schoolgirls, has been described as “a plague visited upon the north” of the country, by Jamaican Pan-Africanist and an advocate for women and girls, Latoya West Blackwood.
But she's also urging her fellow Jamaicans not to ignore these painful events simply because they seem so far away.
Police in Nigeria have launched a search and rescue operation for 317 girls kidnapped from a school in the state of Zamfara last week.
That operation follows the release a week earlier of 42 people kidnapped from a boarding school in a similar incident in Niger state.
The kidnappings are often carried out for ransom and are common in the north.
West Blackwood, speaking Sunday on Radio Jamaica’s That’s a Rap, pointed to the high number of school-age children out of school in Nigeria, many of them in the north of the country, which is where the terrorist group, Boko Haram, has mostly been operating, and which has been blamed for some of the kidnappings.
Most notable among those was the capture of 276 girls from a boarding school in the village of Chibok in 2014 by the militants.
That horrific incident gained international attention, which led to an international campaign demanding their release with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.
To date some of those girls are still missing.
“This region is being targeted by the Boko Haram group repeatedly; people are saying that, where President (Muhammadu) Buhari ‘s response to this is concerned , it has been woefully insufficient, and there have even been questions around whether the groups are repeatedly doing these kidnappings because they are being paid ransoms, as opposed to being targeted and eliminated,” she said.
She pointed out as well that the kidnap victims are not confined to girls, with boys being among the most recent set of abductees to have been released.
“It is something that is affecting children in general… it’s a serious situation for children, many of whom are being recruited into Boko Haram as child soldiers,” she noted.
West Blackwood asserted as well that the kidnappings in Nigeria should be of concern to Jamaicans as well, adding that the trauma visited on kidnap victims and their families is not alien to this country either, though not in mass numbers as has been happening in the African country.
She contends that the outlook of Jamaicans “has to be global, because some of the things we see as divorced from our own physical environment; we have to remember that the world no longer is limited to geographical borders.”