By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna; Tony Akowe and Nicholas Kalu, Abuja
There was anxiety last night on the fate of 16 abducted students of Greenfield University – a private institution in Kaduna.
The kidnappers on Monday gave Tuesday’s deadline for the payment of N100 million ransom or they would kill the students in their custody.
The parents said they had collectively paid N55 million and had no other money to pay.
What further heightened the parents’ fear is the release of one of the 17 students being held on to after killing five of the 22 students they kidnapped on April 20.
It was learnt on Tuesday that before they asked for the N100 million ransom, as announced by their spokesman who identified himself as Sani Jalingo during an interview with Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service, the abductors had requested individual parents to pay N20 million.
Mrs. Lauretta Attahiru, mother of the freed student confirmed the release of her child, but did not give the conditions that led to his release.
Some of the parents told reporters that Mrs Attahiru is the wife of a retired Army officer.
A parent said last night: “We don’t know their health situation; we don’t know whether they are eating or they are not eating. We don’t know the treatment or maltreatment they are going through.”
Another said: “They (bandits) have not changed their stand from what they said on VOA. They are still insisting on N100 million ransom.
“As it is now, we don’t know what to do, because we cannot raise such money as parents. We are calling on the government, particularly the Federal Government; we are begging that they should do whatever it takes to rescue our children from the forest or bush where they have been for so many days now.”
In Abuja yesterday, parents of the 29 abducted College of Forestry Mechanisation students also in Kaduna State protested the non-release of their chairman.
On March 11, gunmen abducted 39 students of the college but later freed 10.
The parents appealed for the intervention of the National Assembly members to facilitate the release of their children.
Dressed mainly in black, the parents arrived at the National Assembly gate accompanied by leaders of the school’s students’ union and civil society groups. They accused the school management of not doing anything to secure the students’ freedom.
They blocked the entrance to the Federal Secretariat axis of the complex when they were not allowed entry through the one-kilometre driveway leading to the main gate of the National Assembly complex.
After waiting for a while, they headed to the Unity Fountain, opposite the Transcorp Hilton Hotel where representatives of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila , listened to their complaints.
It was a sober atmosphere as the parents wept while appealing for help.
Leader of the parents, Abdullahi Usman, said, “We are here to appeal to the National Assembly to help us intervene and ensure the release of our children by the kidnappers. Now, they have spent 55 days in captivity and we are still counting. There is no hope.
One of the parents, Mrs Rabbi Magaji, said in pidgin, “I no fit talk with my boy. Help us abeg just help us,”
They carried placards and chanted songs of solidarity such as “Education is our right! Safety is our right! Freedom is our right, Free Afaka 29”.
President of the National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) Haruna Danjuma begged the abductors.
He said: “Begging them became mandatory because we want all our university students back home alive.
“We were shocked and not happy with that statement on the radio that all our remaining Greenfield students would be killed if N100 million and 10 Honda motorcycles are not given to them on Tuesday (yesterday).
“We are simply begging them not to kill any other students in view of the fact that they are innocent.
“The deadline is really worrisome and we as parents are all concerned and worried over the lives of our students.”