…One abducted Greenfield varsity student freed after parents paid N20m ransom
…Parents of Afaka 29 students protest plight of their children at NASS
…Accuse FG, Kaduna govt of negligence
…Parents look hopeless, depend on National Assembly — Reps
…FG, KDSG working together to secure Kaduna varsity students’ freedom – Lai Mohammed
…Allow more time for negotiation, don’t kill them, NAPTAN pleads
…If you’ve better solution than ransom, put it to work — Shehu Sani
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor, Adesina Wahab, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Luminous Jannamike & Ibrahim Hassan
One of the abducted students of Greenfield University in Kaduna State has been released by the abductors.
The kidnappers had threatened yesterday to eliminate the remaining 17 of the students in their custody should their parents fail to pay them N100 million ransom, in addition to 10 motorcycles.
Although the police and government authorities are yet to confirm the development, mother of the student, Lauritta Attahiru confirmed the release of her son yesterday but failed to disclose whether ransom was paid before his release.
A source close to the family, however, said N20 million was paid for the student to be released.
These developments came on a day parents of the remaining 29 students abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation and those of Greenfield Varsity students stormed the National Assembly complex to protest the plight of their children in kidnappers’ den.
But the House of Representatives said parents of the abducted students depended on the National Assembly to rescue their wards from captivity.
This is even as the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji lai Mohammed, said yesterday that both the federal and Kaduna State governments were working assiduously to ensure the release of the remaining students of Greenfield University, who had been in the captivity of their abductors since last month.
Also, Shehu Sani, former Kaduna senator, said yesterday that it is dangerous for the state government to do nothing about rescuing the abducted students of Greenfield University.
Anguish, as abductors release 1 Greenfield student, hold on to 16
However, some of the parents of the abducted varsity students also confirmed that the student was released on Saturday after his mother, wife of a retired Army officer from Plateau State negotiated and paid ransom to the bandits privately before they released her son.
The parents had earlier said the bandits had been negotiating with them individually, asking each of them to pay as high as N20 million, before they eventually demanded a bulk of N100 million and ten motorcycles on Monday, May 3.
They appealed to the government and Nigerians to come to their aid, so their children could be rescued alive from the hands of their abductors.
With the release of the student, the fate of the remaining 16 students hangs in the balance, even as the bandits threatened to kill them if their parents and government fail to pay the N100 million ransom and also provide ten new motorcycles.
At press time yesterday, it couldn’t be ascertained if the bandits will carry out their threat.
Parents of 29 abducted Afaka students, Greenfield varsity protest at NASS
Similarly, parents of the remaining 29 students abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation and the 17 undergraduates forcibly taken away from the Greenfield University, both in Kaduna State, yesterday stormed the National Assembly complex to protest the continued stay of their childen in the bandits’ den.
They were joined in the protest by Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and rights’ activist, Deji Adeyanju.
Members of the Students Union Governments, SUGs, of the schools also took part in the protest.
Dressed in black, the demonstrators gathered at the Unity Fountain at about 9:15 am before marching through Shehu Shagari way to the National Assembly complex over what they described as the negligence of the Kaduna State and the Federal Government in securing the release of their children.
The main entrance of the National Assembly was, however, manned by security agents who denied the protesters entrance.
READ ALSO: Boko Haram responsible for Greenfield students kidnap, not bandits — Sheikh Gumi
Chanting solidarity songs and displaying placards to express their disappointment with the manner government had handled the abduction of the students, the protesters also demanded for compensation from the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria for all the 10 Afaka students released so far by the bandits to take care of their needs and health challenges.
Their placards bore inscription such as: ‘Safe education is our right’; ‘#BringBackOurStudents’, ‘Free Afaka 29, Free Greenfield 17!’, among others.
‘Govt hasn’t done enough’
Speaking to journalists during the protest, one of the parents, Mr. Odibe, said: “We are here today because we feel abandoned and worried that after 55 days of the abduction of our children, the government has not done enough to rescue them.
“As of today, there is no inkling of hope from any government quarters, suggesting any time for the release of our children. My son is the only one I have. I don’t have a husband, I’m a widow.”
The frustrated parents also sought the intervention of the federal lawmakers to query the Minister of Environment, whose ministry oversees the affairs of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, which in turn oversees the affairs of Afaka College where their children were abducted.
In his speech, Adeyanju lamented the silence of the government over the ultimatum given by the bandits holding 17 students of the Greenfield varsity as captives.
“The government has not said anything about the ultimatum given by the abductors of the Greenfield University students. Those students may be killed today (yesterday), if nothing is done to rescue them. They have killed five of them already.
“Today (yesterday) is the deadline given by the kidnappers of the students. The government knows exactly where the kidnapped students are held. If they don’t know, they should ask Sheikh Gumi. What is stopping them from rescuing them?” the rights’ activist queried. On his part, Sowore expressed disappointment with the overall handling of security by the government.
FG, Kaduna govt working on it — Lai Mohammed
But the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, assured that both the federal and Kaduna State governments were working together to ensure the release of the remaining students of the Greenfield University, who had been in the captivity of their abductors since last month.
The minister gave the assurance, while addressing a press conference at the National Press Centre in Abuja.
‘Parents depend on NASS for rescue’
On its part, the House of Representatives said parents of the abducted students depend on the National Assembly to rescue their wards from captivity.
The House made the declaration on a day the parents and the institution’s Students Union Government, SUG, stormed the assembly complex in protest against the continued disappearance of their children.
Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had upon the news of their arrival to the gate, directed all the chairmen of security related committees, including Defence, Army, Navy and Air Force, to meet with the parents.
On return to the chamber one hour later, the chairman, House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, on behalf of his colleagues, told his colleagues that the parents pleaded with the House to intervene in the matter.
Benson said the protesters had left the main gate of the National Assembly back to the unity fountain when they got there, leaving them to follow suit, adding that the parents looked oppressed, suppressed and dejected.
“They feel they’ve been abandoned and have not eaten since two days. They don’t have any hope. The only hope they have is on the parliament. They sent us back to you to plead with you that their plight on their missing kids be addressed. They also requested that we speak on behalf of the kids that were kidnapped at Greenfield University,” he said.
Ruling on the matter, Gbajabiamila, who expressed sadness over the development, referred the matter to the newly-set up ad hoc committee on security to proffer solutions.
‘Don’t kill our children, NAPTAN pleads with abductors’
Pleading on behalf of parents of the abducted students yesterday, the National Parents & Teachers Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, appealed to the bandits to allow more time for negotiation that will lead to the peaceful resolution of the issue.
National President of NAPTAN, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, who spoke in an interview with Vanguard, also pleaded with the bandits not to allow the face-off between them and Kaduna State Government push them into taking irrational action.
Danjuma also called on the bandits to fear God and not kill the innocent students.
He spoke in reaction to the threat by the bandits that unless a ransom of N100 million was paid by today (yesterday) the remaining 17 students in their custody would be killed.
He said: “For me, I think the government should have a rethink about their decision not to dialogue or negotiate with the bandits. My position is based on the fact that entering into dialogue with them may not necessarily mean that government must have to pay them money. It could be an avenue to know their grouse and why they have such grouse with whosoever or whatsoever they have such.
“Assuming that the bandits even want to be paid some money, if government is not interested in paying any money, let the government allow the parents to raise the money and pay. I heard that the parents had raised and paid the bandits over N50 million, though I was not privy to that.
“The government cannot just stay aloof and not do anything. Are the children of government officials among the innocent students being traumatised? The answer may be probably no. I plead with the bandits on behalf of all Nigerian parents to spare the lives of these children. They should not allow their faceoff with the government push them to do evil. None of the children of the governor is among the victims.
“The bandits should also fear God and spare these children. The shedding of innocent blood should stop. We cannot continue this way. We are not only killing education in the country, we are hurting and putting the future of Nigeria in jeopardy.”
It’s dangerous for KDSG to do nothing — Shehu Sani
Reacting yesterday, former Kaduna State senator, Shehu Sani, said it was dangerous for the state government to do nothing about rescuing the abducted students of Greenfield University.
Since the kidnap of the students, Kaduna State Government had maintained that it would neither negotiate with nor pay ransom to bandits.
But reacting in a statement, Sani said the threats of the bandits must not be taken lightly, asking the state government why it had not rescued the students if it was not going to consider the alternative option of paying the ransom.
He said: “If the payment of ransom is not the solution, why are our security forces still unable to detect the whereabouts of the students and free them for this long. Doing nothing is dangerous.
“When you have a helpless people and a helpless government, then the nation is hopeless. Our tears will be needless for a tragedy we could have avoided.
“We must not wait for bandits to throw the corpses of our 17 children on our doorsteps. We cannot claim to be fasting in a Holy month and helplessly watch the slaughter of our children.
“If the government has a better solution to freeing the kidnapped students other than the one embarked upon by the parents of the students, let it be put to work immediately.
“Kidnappers are holding the balls of the government and the groins of our country, getting out of it, by all means, is what matters.
“The clock ticks for the lives of the students and for the honor of the government. If we fail to provide for the new generation, we must not fail to protect them.”