Seventeen undergraduates in Nigeria who were kidnapped about a fortnight ago may be killed tomorrow unless the government acts to save them.
The kidnappers have already demonstrated their willingness to kill their victims having killed five of them some days ago.
The students were kidnapped from a private university, Greenfield University, in Kaduna, North-west Nigeria, on April 20.
The Kaduna governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has a policy of not negotiating with kidnappers and has insisted he would not go back on the policy to save the Greenfield students. Mr El-Rufai says such negotiations and payment of ransom only encourages the criminals. His stance has, however, not reduced cases of kidnap in Kaduna, one of the states most affected by the insecurity ravaging Nigeria.
Speaking in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) Hausa service on Monday, the leader of the kidnappers, Sani Jalingo, also known as Baleri, said unless the government pays a ransom of N100 million and 10 brand new Honda motorcycles, the government should come with a truck to evacuate the bodies of the students on Tuesday.
Mr Jalingo asked Governor El-Rufai to take the warning seriously as his group is determined to carry out its threat.
During the audio interview, Mr Baleri said the families of the students have paid N55 million as ransom but his group used the N55 million to feed the students.
“We used it to feed them,” he said.
“We also heard from the Kaduna State Governor El-Rufai boasting that he will not pay ransom to bandits to purchase additional arms. Let me tell him what we are doing here is to show the world that Nigerian government has failed it people and are not in control. We are not scared, it is either they pay the ransom or we eliminate the 17 students.”
Mr Jalingo said the victims in their custody include 17 boys and two girls one of which is the grandson of the late Emir of Zazzau, Shehu Idris. Of the 19, 17 of them are believed to be students of the university while the identity of the remaining two could not be ascertained as at press time.
Two of the abducted students spoke to the VOA during the interview. They appealed to the government and their parents to take the threats seriously.
“They mean what they say because they have already killed some of us,” Idris, one of the students, said.
Another student, Abigail Usman, made the same appeal to the government and Nigerians to come to their rescue.
“They took our colleagues and killed them; five of them. If they don’t get the money, they will kill us all,” she said.
Armed bandits attacked the university situated along Kaduna-Abuja road on April 20, kidnapping 22 students.
A few days after, they dumped the bodies of three of the students in a location in the state. Another two bodies were found days later.
The Kaduna State police spokesperson, Mohammed Jalige, did not answer calls put to him on what the police are doing to ensure the students are not killed and are freed. Also, calls to the state’s Commissioner of Internal Security, Samuel Aruwan, did not go through as of the time of this report.
Apart from the kidnapped Greenfield students, 30 students of the college of forestry are still being held by a separate set of bandits in Kaduna. They were kidnapped in March.