Abuja — Almost a month after more than 148 pupils in Nigeria's Niger State were abducted, the criminals have refused to free them despite collecting a ransom of $40,000 (N20 million).
The pupils of of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School in Tegina, between the ages of 10 and 14, were abducted by bandits in the north central state on June, 29.
One person was killed during the raid on the school while another was seriously injured.
Eleven of the children who were too young to take part in a long walk with the gunmen, forcing their release.
The attackers may have been irked by the enactment of a new law in the State, which prescribes the death penalty for kidnappers, bandits and their informants.
The bandits initially demanded $60,000 (N30 million) last week but parents were able to raise $40,000 (N20 million), which they collected but refused to release the children.
"We gave them the [amount] only for them to say we only gave them money for recharge cards. Three days after, they refused to release our children," a parent said on July 17.
Authorities say the bandits' position is aimed at causing the government to rescind its stand against payment of ransom to them as well as the new law.
Governor Sani Bello of Niger State on July 16 signed the Special Provisions of the Law against Kidnapping and Cattle Rustling (2016), which was amended to provide for punishment by hanging for informants and those who aid and abet kidnapping and cattle rustling.
The governor also signed the Vigilante Amendment Law meant to invigorate and strengthen the state vigilante corps for better operational efficiency.
Bello said informants who help kidnappers will now face death by hanging in public.
According to him, the punitive measure is necessary in view of the security challenges that have continued to threaten peace in the state in particular and the country in general.