The release of the abducted 27 students and 15 others at Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, has been dashed, with the bandits insisting on N500 million ransom before releasing the abductees and other people kidnaped in NSTA bus earlier in the week.
The bandits attacked the school last Wednesday, killing one of the students in the process.
The Secretary to the Government of Niger State (SSG), Ahmed Ibrahim Matane, who is in the team negotiating with the bandits, said the bandits are also demanding for the release of their men being held by security agencies.
Security agents, who have been able to identify where the abductees are being kept, and Governor Abubakar Sani Bello had mounted pressure on the bandits for most of yesterday, but they refused to yield.
Kaduna-based cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi joined the drive to free the abductees on Thursday when he, in company with some government officials, met the bandits in the forest, but could not secure their freedom because of the ransom issue.
Governor Bello insisted that he would not pay ransom to bandits, and that the abductees must be freed unconditionally.
He said his stand was informed by the realisation that ransoms collected were being used to purchase more arms and ammunitions which they in turn use to terrorise the people.
The governor said he was ready to resettle the bandits and help them live normal lives once they laid down their arms.
Governor Bello addressed the press in Minna yesterday afternoon, and confirmed that the abductees had not been released but said, “They could be released in a matter of hours or days.”
His words: “At the moment, there is no additional information apart from the one we have at hand. Our priority is to make sure we bring back the students safe, things are speculated or rumoured, but we cannot work with these at situations like this.”
The governor noted that the state was using kinetic and non-kinetic measures to bring back the children to safety and assured parents and families of the victims to be hopeful as everything possible was being done.
Meanwhile, it has now been confirmed that the kidnapped Kagara students and others, as well as those abducted from the NSTA bus are being held hostage at the Dutsen-Magaji forest in the Rafi Local Government Area of the state.
The forest was the venue of the meeting Sheikh Gumi and some government officials held on Thursday with the heavily armed bandits, led by someone identified as Dogo Gide.
Gumi reminded the bandits that Islam was against taking the lives of innocent people, appealing to them to embrace peace by laying down their arms.
He said that he would continue to discuss with the state government to explore whatever assistance and support the government would give to them with a view to achieving the set objectives.
Some of the commanders, in their separate remarks, applauded the state government for the peace process.