Abduction, forced conversion and forced marriage of Christian minors goes under-reported in N. Nigeria, where Islam is the main religion. (World Watch Monitor)

A pastor’s 13-year-old daughter, kidnapped in northeast Nigeria last week to be converted to Islam and married off, was released yesterday (5 November) after four days in captivity.

Hauwa Dadi, from the village of Gashua in Yobe State, is the daughter of the former local secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria.

According to the Stefanos Foundation, an advocacy group, Hauwa had gone to help her twin brother push water home on a cart, locally known as a “push push”, when she disappeared last Thursday (1 November).

When her mother, Deborah, went to look for her, she was told that her daughter had been kidnapped by her neighbours and taken to the Imam of Gashua.

She then reported the matter to the police. Hauwa was eventually freed from the Emir of Gashua’s palace, according to Punch, Nigeria.

Reacting to her daughter’s release, Mrs Dadi told media: “They do this to us [Christians] because we are few.”

Abduction, forced conversion and forcible marriage of Christian girls is particularly prevalent in northern Nigeria, where Islam is the main religion. The 12 northern states of Nigeria adopted Sharia (Islamic law) in the 2000s. Though it was, in theory, meant to be applied solely to Muslims, it has reinforced pressure and discrimination faced by Christians in daily life.

Parents seeking the release of abducted daughters are generally informed they have converted, married and are in the custody of local traditional rulers. Appeals to law enforcement agencies almost always prove ineffective as a result of the powerful influence of the emirs and Islamic leaders in the top hierarchy of the local security agencies.

For instance, in the state of Kano between 2011 and 2016, over 40 Christian girls are said to have been abducted and Islamised, with many married to Muslims. But locals say many similar cases go unreported across the north.

The treatment of Christian women and girls in northern Nigeria since 1999 was the subject of a detailed report, ‘Our Bodies, their Battleground’, whose authors explored what they called “the facilitating characteristics of the country in which the [Boko Haram] insurgency has come to operate so effectively”. It showed that the abduction of Christian girls was common practice long before the advent of Boko Haram and its kidnapping of 276 mainly Christian schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.