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Paid for Freedom: Inside the Ransom Deal That Saw Boko Haram Release Captive Women

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MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Boko Haram, the extremist group that has terrorized northern Nigeria for more than a decade, released 48 women who had been kidnapped from the villages of Maiwa and Shuwarin in the Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State, according to Zagazola Makama, a counter-insurgency expert and security analyst based in the Lake Chad region.

In a statement released on Twitter on Thursday, August 24, 2023, Makama confirmed that the women were abducted on their farmlands on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, and were taken to an unknown destination.

Boko Haram militants subsequently demanded ransoms from the families of the abducted women.

“Members of the extremist group released the women on Wednesday, August 23, after each of their families paid a ransom of N50,000  to the terrorists,” Makama said.

He also disclosed that eight of the abducted women had been released earlier after each paying a ransom of N20,000.

The kidnappings and subsequent ransoms underscore the ongoing volatility and insecurity in Nigeria’s northeastern region, where Boko Haram continues to operate despite government efforts to eradicate the group.

The incident also highlights the region’s fragile economic and social ecosystem, which has been eroded by years of insurgency.

Families, often subsisting on meager incomes, are forced to cough up ransoms they can ill afford, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and violence.

“These ransoms, while they may seem small on an international scale, are significant sums for families in the affected areas,” said Eunice Okoye, a Lagos-based human rights activist.

“This troubling pattern empowers Boko Haram and depletes the resources of already struggling communities.”

Although military and counter-terrorism efforts have ramped up in recent years, incidents such as this recent kidnapping highlight the significant challenges in eradicating the extremist threat in the region.

As government agencies and international organizations continue to seek long-term solutions, the families affected by this most recent kidnapping are left to pick up the pieces, financially and emotionally, after the traumatic event.

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