Nigeria vows not to pay ransom to 250 school students’ kidnappers

Nigeria vows not to pay ransom to 250 school students’ kidnappers
Nigeria vows not to pay ransom to 250 school students’ kidnappers

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Relatives say the kidnappers have demanded a large payment for the return of the students abducted from their school in Kuriga village in northwestern Kaduna State on Thursday. — AFP pic

KADUNA (Nigeria), March 14 — Nigeria’s president has ordered security forces not to pay a ransom for the release of more than 250 school pupils seized by gunmen last week, the country’s information minister said on Wednesday.

Relatives say the kidnappers have demanded a large payment for the return of the students abducted from their school in Kuriga village in northwestern Kaduna State on Thursday.

Criminal gangs often carry out mass kidnappings in northwest Nigeria, targeting schools, villages and highways. In the last three years, hundreds of students have been abducted.

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Almost all were released for ransom payments after weeks or months in captivity at bandit camps hidden in forests.

Kidnap victims in Nigeria are often released following negotiations with the authorities, though officials deny ransom payments are made.

In keeping with the government’s official stance, minister Mohammed Idris said President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had told forces searching for the pupils to make sure “not a dime is paid”.

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“The president has directed that security agencies must as a matter of urgency ensure that these children and all those who have been kidnapped are brought back in safety,” he told journalists following a cabinet meeting in the capital Abuja.

Idris said several countries including the United States had offered to help with the search but the government was “still reviewing” these pledges. The United States has not confirmed this or given details.

Families and entire communities pool their savings to pay ransoms, but a 2022 law banned handing money to kidnappers.

Many families say they have little faith in the authorities and feel they have no choice.

Officials say troops are searching forests to rescue the Kuriga students, but families say little detail has emerged since the abductions.

“We will continue praying for divine help in resolving this tragedy while the government takes up the issue with the kidnappers,” relative Muhammad Kabir told AFP.

On Tuesday, gunmen abducted dozens of people from a village in Kajuru district, about 150 kilometres from Kuriga, local representatives and a UN source said.

The spate of large-scale abductions is challenging Tinubu’s government, which has promised to tackle insecurity.

The mass kidnapping in Kaduna State and another in the northeast came almost 10 years after Boko Haram militants triggered a huge international outcry in 2014 by abducting more than 250 schoolgirls from Chibok in the northeast. — AFP

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