Nigeria’s first lady has joined the chorus of voices condemning the killing of a student abducted along with her five sisters, calling it a “devastating loss”.
Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, 21, was “super-bright, smart and kind”, her cousin Asiya Adamu told the BBC on Monday.
Nabeeha also loved to write poetry and read books by the American author Jodi Picoult – and she was days away from graduating with a science degree from Ahmadu Bello University.
“On the day the kidnapping happened, I asked Nabeeha if we were going to the [graduation ceremony] together, and she said yes,” recalls Ms Adamu. It was the last time she saw her alive.
That evening, on 2 January, Nabeeha was abducted along with her father and sisters from their home in the outskirts of the capital, Abuja.
Nigerian police have not confirmed what happened next. Witnesses say Nabeeha’s uncle ran to find help but was ambushed and killed, as were three police officers. It is not known why the family was targeted.
The kidnappers demanded to be paid a huge sum of cash by 12 January, and when they did not get it they killed Nabeeha as a warning, according to a member of the family who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.
Nabeeha’s kidnappers handed over her body and, in accordance with Islamic rites, she was swiftly buried by her family on Saturday.
A national reckoning
News of Nabeeha’s plight began to circulate over the weekend, prompting widespread grief and indignation that Nigeria’s kidnapping crisis rages on despite government promises to bring it to an end.
This moment of reckoning has moved the president’s wife to speak out and confirm Nabeeha’s death, even though police had not yet officially done so.
Security agencies must “intensify their efforts” to end Nigeria’s kidnapping and security crisis, said First Lady Remi Tinubu on Monday, demanding a “swift return of the Al-Kadriyar sisters”.
Their father Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, who was freed days ago in order to fetch the ransom money, now faces an agonising wait for their return. His daughters’ captors are demanding a higher sum of 65m naira ($68,000; £53,000), to be paid by Wednesday.
Hundreds of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom in recent years, largely by criminal gangs who see it as an easy way to make money. Close to 20 people were abducted in in the first week of 2024 alone.
No matter how desperate the circumstances, Nigerian law prohibits the payment of ransom money. However, many victims pay up because they do not trust authorities or their track record.
Even a former minister appears to share this scepticism of the Nigerian state’s ability to bring the abducted back.
“I am personally not in support of paying ransom to criminals. However… I spoke with a friend who offered to pay the remaining 50 million naira,” says ex-Digital Economy Minister Isa Ali Pantami, who is now a professor in cybersecurity, and a Muslim cleric.
He was one of the architects of the policy of registering all mobile phone Sim cards, in order to make life harder for kidnappers and extortionists, but says he is “frustrated” that it has not been better implemented despite allegedly enduring “threats to my life”.
Nabeeha’s cousin, Asiya Adamu, has also crowdfunded money from well-wishers online to help pay the ransom. She did not respond to the BBC’s request to disclose the total raised, saying security officers had advised her not to so.
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While she prays for the safe return of the rest of her cousins, Ms Adamu is haunted by the thought that she narrowly avoided the same fate. She tells the BBC she was due to spend time at their house that day but later changed her mind.
“My favourite memories of Nabeeha was mostly when we were in the kitchen together,” Ms Adamu recalls.
“Losing her has left a void one cannot explain with words. She was a source of comfort and understanding and I’ve lost that,” she adds.
“She had plans of going to Morocco for her Masters because she liked the place.
“I guess we make plans and Allah has the last word.”