Despite speculations, which went viral about possible negotiations to free the abducted students of Government Science College, Kagara, in Niger State, the 27 schoolboys, 15 members of staff of the school, and their family members are still in captivity five days after the raid.
Besides, some 40 travellers, who were kidnapped eight days ago at Kundu village in Rafi Local Government Area of the state, remain with their captors, though 10 of them were released last week.
This is as the federal government vowed never to pay ransom to the bandits to secure the release of the victims. The government said at no time did it consider the option of paying ransom to the bandits to secure the freedom of the persons abducted from the boarding school on Wednesday.
THISDAY was reliably informed last night that kidnappers of the students, their tutors, and family members had so far not demanded any ransom in the negotiations for their release, contrary to earlier reports.
But the bandits have asked for N500 million before the release of the remaining passengers seized from the Niger State Transport Authority (NSTA) vehicle. The refusal to release the kidnapped persons is being interpreted to mean that the dialogue between the bandits and the state government might have collapsed as a result of the huge ransom being demanded. This assumption was probably given fillip by Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State, when he opposed giving ransom to the bandits because, according to him, they end up spending the money on the purchase of arms and ammunition used to terrorise the people.
But Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who featured on a breakfast television programme yesterday, hinted that the government would not pay any ransom to the bandits. Insisting that the federal government would not tolerate criminality in any form, Mohammed said the authorities were considering kinetic and non-kinetic measures to secure the release of the Kagara victims. Though, he said invitation to engage the bandits was on the cards.
The minister said the government was keeping the overall strategy under wraps, and stressed that it was duty-bound to look at the underlining causes of the criminalities raging in some parts of the country in order to address them.
Mohammed stated, “Bandits all over the world work with the psychology of people. Deliberately, they target women and children, because this is what will attract a lot of global outcry. That is exactly what bandits do all over the world.
“The government has put in place, all along, various strategies to contain banditry, to fight insurgency, to fight kidnapping. Some of these measures are kinetic; some are not kinetic. We didn’t get here overnight and that is why it is difficult to get out one day.”
The minister was detailed to Niger State along with his colleagues from the Ministries of Police Affairs and Interior, the Inspector General of Police, and the National Security Adviser, to get first-hand information on the abduction of the Kagara schoolboys. He assured the public that the government was on top of the matter.
Olawale Ajimotokan, John Shiklam, Laleye Dipo