Bandits in Nigeria who kidnapped more than 148 students last month in the north-central state of Niger have continued to detain the children despite the payment of thousands of dollars in ransom.
One person was killed and another one was critically injured during the kidnapping of the students, aged between 10 and 14, at Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School in Tegina on June 29.
11 children were subsequently released because they were too young to take part in a long walk with the attackers.
The bandits had reportedly demanded $60,000 (about 30 million naira) but the children’s parents managed to raise $40,000 (about 20 million naira) and paid the bandits but the children were not released.
“We gave them the (amount) only for them to say we only gave them money for recharge cards. Three days after, they refused to release our children,” one unnamed parent was quoted as saying.
It is suspected the reason for holding on to the children is an attempt to force state authorities to repeal a new law which prescribes the death penalty for kidnappers, bandits and their informants.
On Friday, Governor Sani Bello signed the Special Provisions of the Law against Kidnapping and Cattle Rustling (2016), which was amended to provide for punishment by hanging for informants and those who aid and abet kidnapping and cattle rustling.
The governor also signed the Vigilante Amendment Law meant to revitalize and strengthen the state vigilante corps for better operational efficiency.
According to Bello, such measures are meant to address the security crisis facing the country, especially its northern regions.
Authorities also claim the bandits’ position is aimed at pressuring the government to rescind its stand against payment of ransom to them.
Armed groups referred to as “bandits” have frequently carried out kidnappings in Nigeria for ransom payments. Since December, hundreds of people, including schoolchildren, have been abducted highlighting the country’s deteriorating security situation.
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who rose to power in 2015 making a pledge to tackle insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation, has maintained that Nigeria will overcome this challenge.
(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)