Three of the 156 abducted girls of the Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State are reported to have died, investigation by newsmen has revealed.
Many of the remaining students are also said to be seriously ill resulting from hunger, cold and trauma.
The girls, some of their teachers and passersby were abducted more than six weeks ago, though 17 of the abductees – two of them school girls, their teachers and passersby – escaped from the clutches of the bandits three weeks after their abduction.
It was gathered that the bandits gave the sad information to some of the parents in a telephone conversation though they (bandits) did not disclose the names of the deceased pupils.
The Chief Imam of Tegina was also said to have made similar announcement after one of the regular Muslim prayers in the town.
However, according to findings, the bandits reportedly told the parents contacted that they will send the video of the burial of the late pupils and the present condition of the others to confirm their bad state of health. They (bandits) are yet to send the video.
Newsmen also learnt that the deadline given by the bandits for the payment of the reduced ransom of N30 million lapsed two weeks ago.
It was gathered that when the bandits reduced the ransom, the state government which had hitherto not shown any interest in the payment of the ransom to the bandits allegedly reached out to the parents during which it reportedly asked the parents to source for N10 million, while government will provide the balance.
“We contributed our own N10 million but up till now, we have not seen or heard anything from the government.
“It appears we have been left on our own. No one is showing any interest in getting our children released from the den of the bandits,” one of the parents confided in newsmen.
However, the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Ibrahim Ahmed Matane, debunked the claim, saying: “There was never a time that government promised to pay ransom to bandits or assist the parents to pay any or part of the ransom. We have a policy not to pay ransom; we still stand by that policy.
“You know this issue of payment of ransom is not healthy. Government as a policy, does not do it but I know that because they are engaging with the bandits they can tell them anything.”
The SSG also distanced the government from any official that pledged that government will pay part of the ransom, saying: “I wouldn’t know who that government official is because I coordinate security and I am not aware.”
Asked if government is aware that three of the children have died, he said: “I am not aware that three of the girls have died. You know these people (bandits) can be very deceptive. They raise a lot of emotions and sentiments so that we will accept their bidding.”