Fact CheckPolitics

Fact-checking Obi’s claims on number of out-of-school children, IDPs, school abductions in Northern Nigeria

Nigeria has grappled with over ten years of insurgency, particularly in the Northeast region. Since 2009, the Boko Haram insurgency has claimed thousands of civilians’ lives, lost property, and displaced millions of people. 

The sect is believed to be fighting to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state. 

Boko Haram is a combination of the Hausa word “boko,” which means “Western education” and the Arabic word “haram” which figuratively means “sin” and literally means “forbidden.”

While military efforts were intensified against the activities of members of this sect, the terrorism ‘demon’ multiplied, having many horns: banditry, abductions, and farmer-herder conflicts, among others. 

On Tuesday, October 18, 2022, the Chief of Defence Staff Lucky Irabor revealed that Nigeria has lost 100,000 lives and spent $9 billion (about N3.24 trillion) on the Boko Haram insurgency in the country.

General Irabor stated this on the last day of the third Ministerial Performance Review Retreat held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. 

Ahead of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria, the campaign season officially opened, as the Independent National Electoral Commission announced.

Several political parties have intensified campaign rallies across the country as significant contenders pay visits to different states of the federation. 

On Monday, October 17, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, was in Kaduna State to participate in the Arewa Joint Committee Interactive Session. 

While speaking at the event, Obi said the North has the world’s highest number of out-of-school children.

He also stated that the region has the highest number of school kidnappings worldwide. The former governor further asserted that the North has Nigeria’s highest number of IDPs.

Screenshot of Obi’s tweet.

Claim 1: The North has the highest number of out-of-school children worldwide.


The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization defines out-of-school children as those in the official primary school age range who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary school.

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

This agenda includes ten targets, one of which is to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes by 2030. 

The latest Global Education Monitoring Report released by UNESCO in September 2022 states that 244 million children and youth between the ages of six and 18 worldwide were out of school in 2021.

This includes 67 million children of primary school age (about six to eleven years), 57 million adolescents of lower secondary school age (about 12 to 14 years) and 121 million youth of upper secondary school age (about 15 to 17 years).

Meanwhile, the study suggests that the out-of-school population is growing in sub-Saharan Africa, with 98 million out-of-school children recorded in the region.  

Table showing global 2021 out-of-school rate.

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) estimated Nigeria’s out-of-school population to be 19.7 million, ranking third out of the top ten countries with out-of-school people.

India ranked first with a total out-of-school population of 56.4 million using 2020 model estimates and 61.0 million with the UIS estimate since 2015.

Pakistan has the second largest out-of-school population, pegged at 20.7 million, while Ethiopia and China (about 10.5 million) have the fourth and fifth largest out-of-school people. 

Image showing out-of-school population in top ten countries. 

However, Nigeria has the largest population of out-of-school children of primary school age: 9.6 million in 2020, up from 6.4 million in 2000 and 7.5 million in 2010.

Image showing the out-of-school rates in six countries from 2000 to 2020.

Primary education, according to UNICEF, is typically designed for children 6 to 11 years of age. While 90 per cent of children attend primary school globally, in poor households, that drops to 74 per cent. The situation is worsened in both West and Central Africa, where less than 30 per cent of the children from the poorest households complete primary education.

Image showing primary education completion rate according to social status, 2021. Source: UNICEF

In all of these, there is no evidence to back the claim that members of this population are prevalent in Northern Nigeria. 

Verdict: False! India, not Northern Nigeria, ranks higher in the number of out-of-school children, according to recent data by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The data showed Nigeria only ranks higher in the number of out-of-school children of primary school age.

Claim 2: Northern Nigeria has the highest number of school kidnappings worldwide.


There is insufficient evidence to back the claim that Northern Nigeria has the highest number of school kidnappings in the world, although the region recorded over 1,000 abductions between 2020 and 2021.

The issue of school kidnapping was first reported in Nigeria in 2014 when Boko Haram insurgents abducted 276 girls from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State.

Ever since, attacks on schools and abductions of students have grown in number and are spread across the northern part of the country.

Peter Hawkins, the United Nations Children and Education Fund UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said in October 2021 that about 1,436 schoolchildren and 17 teachers were abducted from Nigerian schools between December 2020 and October 2021. 

He also noted that school kidnapping incidents were more prevalent in the country’s north-central and North-west geo-political zones.

In February 2018, militants stormed Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State, kidnapping more than 100 girls. 

As of April 2022, 11,536 schools had remained closed since December 2020 due to abductions and insecurity-related issues, according to a statement signed by UNICEF Communication Specialist Samuel Kalu.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Boko Haram militants have abducted, recruited, and exploited thousands of children since inception.  

From 2017 to 2019, the UN verified 5,741 grave violations against children in north-east Nigeria: 1,385 children had been recruited and used by Boko Haram. 

Meanwhile, the ranking of countries on kidnappings per 100,000 by the UNODC in 2017 indicates that Belgium had the highest level of reported/recorded kidnapping incidents, followed by Canada and South Africa. 

Graph showing kidnapping rate per 100,000 population (2017).

Meanwhile, data from Statista showed that in 2021 alone, over 101,000 kidnapping cases were reported across India. However, there were no specifics as to whether it was abduction of school children.

Verdict: Insufficient evidence. While Nigeria’s education system has suffered setbacks due to the increase in the abduction of school children, there is no evidence to support the submission that the country’s northern region has the highest number of school kidnappings in the world. 

Claim 3: The North has the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria.


IDPs have been described as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognised border.”

Data from the internal displacement monitoring centre for Nigeria has shown that there were about 3.2 million internally displaced persons as of the end of 2021 out of the 53.2 million internally displaced persons worldwide. 

Image showing data of internally displaced persons in Nigeria at the end of 2021.

The IDMC further attributed internal displacement in Nigeria to activities of Boko Haram and other non-state armed groups (NSAGs), particularly in the Northeast.

Also, it noted that the cause of displacement is “criminal and inter-communal violence driven by competition for resources that are aggravated by climate change has escalated in recent years in central, north-central, and north-western regions, and continued to do so in 2021.”

While the available data has not stated the number of IDPs in the different regions, both the IDMC and UNHCR established that more Nigerians had been forced out of their homes, especially in Northeast Nigeria and the country’s Middle Belt. 

Also, a report by Dataphyte noted that there are about 143,110 IDP camps in Nigeria, out of which 84% are located in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria. 

Verdict: Out of the over three million IDPs in Nigeria, most of them are from the Northeast.

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One Comment

  1. Well researched. But let me correct an impression here. If the northern region have the highest number of out of school children in the primary schools, is that enough concern? Secondly, statistics shows that the rate of kidnapping from schools in the north is higher compared to the southern region. Thirdly, IDPs are more in the northern region compared to the southern part. Finally, pls, bring your analysis to facts within the Nigerian context and not juxtaposing it with other countries. Thank you. Note that I am not in any political party but let us appreciate people who point out facts. Nigeria must get it right this time.

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