President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Israel Akanji
Thirteen days after the abduction of students of the Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna, the bandits contacted the management of the school and demanded food items, because the children were said to be dying of hunger, the Nigerian Baptist Convention revealed on Wednesday.
The body also said the principal of the school, who was earlier hospitalised because of the emotional trauma of the abduction saga, had been discharged.
The President of the NBC, Rev Israel Akanji, NBC stated, “The principal has just even been discharged from hospital. She has been traumatised. Every day, she has been worried; you know what a mother can do, she has been traumatised because of this situation.
“These are not really times for every kind of woman, even men. It’s not all men that have the strength to go through this, let alone women. We have only a few lion-hearted women, who can withstand difficulties like this.”
Akanji, who stated these in an interview with The PUNCH, said although the church was opposed to the payment of ransom for their freedom, “we have been boxed in; we have been given no option but to look for ways to rescue the children.”
According to him, the parents of the abducted children are ready to sell their properties and raise the ransom.
He said, “One of the things I want you to know is that the parents have been very worried and have been running helter-skelter; the parents feel they can sell their houses, cars and any other things if that will bring their children back.
“You know that children are priceless; human life is higher than any money and that is why parents feel they can pay any amount, even if they are to be charged so, so and so.
“The number of children there is 120 and maybe some of the parents are the ones suggesting, ‘Even if we bring N500,000, it will become N60m’; these are just some suggestions going on among people. But none of them is accurate in talking about the amount the abductors are asking for. Those who are talking are not accurate. But they say in every rumour, there are elements of truth.
“It is true that demands are being made and parents are really worried; they are ready to go round to tax themselves and things like that. You can imagine a situation where we have parents in our hands and those parents are not under our control, not even all under our spiritual control, because some of them are members of other churches, who feel a little differently. So, our spiritual control is over the school, but not over the parents, and some of them feel they should do something to bring their children out.”
Akanji added, “We have some people that these bandits are talking to and telling them they need this and they need that; yes, it is true that we have been informed. Nobody spoke to me directly, but I have been informed that they have called the principal of the school and asked for food.”
Asked if it was the kidnapped students asking for food, Akanji said, “No, not the students; some other persons were asking for food, apparently they must be either the ones that kidnapped them or they know about the kidnapping.
“I don’t know the people, but they have the principal’s number; they could call the principal and ask that things should be sent there. So, they are communicating with our people and that is how bad it is.
“Whether directly or indirectly, they are able to communicate and tell us that our children are alive, but they are hungry.”
While responding to a question on if the NBC would agree that ransom should be paid to the bandits to facilitate the release of the children, he said the body had no other choice.
He stated, “In terms of our belief, we actually strongly believe that it is wrong to pay ransom; that is our position. But what we also feel is that the children’s lives should not be wasted, because these are very young children and they have found themselves in a very terrible circumstance.
“It is not our choice; it is not our first choice, or second, third or fourth to ever go and give ransom. But as a last resort, if there is nothing we can do again and not to lose our children’s lives, then we will know that we have been forced; we have been boxed in; we have been given no option but to look for ways to rescue the children. That is the only thing that can lead us to the issue of ransom.”
Akanji said the NBC had contacted the government for intervention to release the children, but nothing positive had come out of the engagement.
He stated, “Governor Nasir El Rufai told me that he was putting everything in place to ensure that the children were released. He said this to me on the second day of their abduction; it is now 13 days and they have yet to be released. I have not been able to speak with him again.
“But the promise he made that they would put in their best has not resulted in the release of the children. So, we have been putting pressure on the government.”