Niger pupils’ abduction: Bandits hike ransom to N200m
By Justina Asishana, Minna
Fume over delay in paying initial N110m demanded
Reject N11m raised by community
Two parents die from heart attack
Citing delay in the payment of the N110 million initially demanded as ransom for the 156 pupils kidnapped from Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State, their abductors have now raised the ransom by N90 million.
The bandits have also rejected the N11 million raised by the community as they insist on being paid N200 million before the pupils are released.
Already, two parents of the abductees have reportedly died of heart attack.
Another parent, Malam Ali Mohammed, said the gunmen threatened to kill the children if the ransom demanded was not paid.
Mohammed, who is a tipper driver, has five children among the abductees.
He said the parents are poor people and cannot afford to raise N200 million.
He asked the government to come to their rescue.
“We are poor people; we don’t have such money,” he told reporters on Thursday night.
He pleaded with the government to “come to our aid.”
The head teacher of the school, Abubakar Alhassan, confirmed yesterday that the gunmen had raised the ransom from N110 million to N200 million.
“They say I should not even talk about N110 million again but N200 million,” Alhassan said on Arise TV.
He added: “I was begging them but they didn’t listen. They cut the phone and I haven’t heard from them again.”
His child is also among the abductees.
Alhassan also said two parents of the abducted children have died of heart attack since the Sunday abduction.
He said: “All eyes are on me as the head teacher. I have witnessed the funeral prayer of one of the parents, very close to the school. She died. She had one child in the school.
“She was not around when the incident happened. When she came back, they told her that this was what happened, and within 10 to 30 minutes, she fainted and that was the end of her. That was the day before yesterday (Wednesday).
“One day after the incident happened, another parent, a woman, died, because she had two children and sent one to town. When she heard about the abduction, she died from heart attack.
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“Are we not Nigerians that the government cannot intervene in this issue?
“No sympathy at all. None of the government officials extends sympathy to us. Are we animals? No, we are Nigerians,” he said amidst tears.
A mother, Hadiya Hashim, said she could not imagine the terrible condition the children would be now.
Her words: “The situation these children are in, you can’t imagine.
“You know they don’t have houses in the bush. Initially, the scanty report we received on Monday said they kept the children under a big tree and they starved them for three days without giving them any water.”
One other parent, who spoke anonymously, said relatives, friends and sympathisers contributed N11 million which they wanted to pay the bandits to release the children.
He said the gunmen rejected the money and declared that they no longer wanted the N110 million they demanded initially but N200 million.
Another parent, Tanko Zagi, accused the government of being insensitive to the plight of the children and their parents, saying: “Since that day up till now, we have not seen anything from the state government.
“The local government chairman has been up and doing so that these children can be rescued. But the state government, we don’t know. No official of the government has come to condole with us.”
Government officials have refused to talk on the issue.
None has also visited the community to sympathise with the parents, sources said.
The pupils were abducted just 48 hours after the release of the 13 remaining students and three members of staff of Greefield University, Kaduna.
Their parents and relations had to pay N180 million as ransom to get them released after 39 days in captivity.
They were furious with the federal and Kaduna State governments for the alleged levity with which they handled the abduction case.
The parents spoke of the physical and mental torture they went through to get the abductees released without any help from government.
They told of how they sold their property to raise the N180 million ransom paid to the gunmen who invaded the university campus early on April 20 and took away 18 students and three members of staff of the institution.
One of the students was killed during the raid while five others were shot dead by the kidnappers in their den to drive home the point that they would kill all of them except a ransom of N800 million was paid.
One of the parents (name withheld) said: “We paid N180 million. That is what they collected from us without the help of any government.
“We the parents paid. The government did not send a single policeman to go after our children’s kidnappers.”
A crying mother said they also gave motorcycles to the bandits as part of the ransom.
Earlier in February, gunmen had also invaded Government Science College Kagara, also in Niger State, abducting some students and staff.
They were released 10 days after.