Waking up to a gunman shining a light around his house, Nigerian Yusuf Thomas took his chance to escape when his would-be kidnapper told him to lie still and walked away to make a call.

He was lucky. More than 80 residents from his village in northwest Nigeria's Kaduna State were snatched after gunmen marched them out of their homes on Sunday evening in the country's most recent mass abduction for ransom.

The raid on the village in Kajuru district came just weeks after around 280 pupils were abducted from a school by a criminal gang in the same state, prompting a national outcry about Nigeria's insecurity.

Thomas thought he would be shot until he managed to escape.

"I heard a voice telling me not to raise my head or I'd be shot, so I laid down," he told AFP.

"They asked for my phone and money, so I said I don't have a phone, I don't have money. When he turned back and was making a call to his colleagues, I used the opportunity to escape."

Kaduna is one of the northwestern Nigerian states where heavily armed criminal gangs known locally as bandits target villages and communities to raid, loot and carry out mass abductions for ransom.

Dense forests that carpet parts of the region offer cover for gangs to set up camps while they negotiate for ransom payments.

The Kajuru attack was one in a string of recent kidnapping assaults in Africa's most populous nation in a challenge to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has promised to tackle insecurity.

Kajuru Station village was almost deserted after the attack with many residents fleeing in fear of more abductions.

Kaduna State officials have not given any figures for the kidnapping on Sunday evening, but local officials say 87 people were taken, mostly women and children.

Tanko Wada, a village head, said five people had since managed to escape from their captors.

"We are living in fear because we don't know what will happen next," he told AFP.

Officials said gunmen went house to house taking people before leaving the village for nearby forests.

"We are suffering because of the bandits that came into our community and abducted our children, our parents," said resident Martha Luka, 45.

"What are we going to do? What is the solution now? I am begging the government to come to our help."

- Forest raids -

Over the weekend, more than 100 people were taken in two separate attacks, one on Kajuru Station and another on a nearby village in Kaduna State.

Those abductions followed the kidnapping of more than 280 pupils from a school in Kuriga village about 150 kilometres (93 miles) from Kajuru earlier this month, one of the biggest such attacks in years.

Kaduna State governor Uba Sani met Kuriga relatives' representatives on Monday and said he was doing all he could to free the children.

"All the children kidnapped, by the grace of God they will return back safely," he told ChannelsTV this week. "We are determined."

Officials say troops have been searching forests to rescue the Kuriga students, but families say few details have emerged since the abductions.

Kidnap victims in Nigeria are often freed following negotiations with the authorities, though a 2022 law banned handing money to kidnappers and officials deny ransom payments are made.