By NBF News

Outrage trailed the abduction of 15 pupils of Abayi International School in Aba, Abia State yesterday, but the kidnappers upped the ante by increasing the ransom demanded on the school children to N40 million from N20 million. Contrary to the speculation on Monday evening that the school kids were abandoned in a bush path near a village in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area few hours after their kidnap on the way to school on Monday, investigations showed that they were still held captive.

When Daily Sun visited the school at about 2.45 p.m yesterday, none of the principal officers was around. They were said to have gone out with some policemen in search of the pupils, aged between three and 10.

A staff member who preferred anonymity confided in Daily Sun that the kids had not been freed and that frantic efforts were being made towards their release.

Some parents of the kidnapped school children were seen trooping into the compound perhaps to discuss with the school officials on the way forward.

When contacted, the spokesman, Abia State Police, ASP Geoffrey Ogbonna, said the command had been unable to establish contact with the school authorities. However, a senior police officer in Aba, on condition of anonymity, claimed they visited the school yesterday morning but could not get any concrete information.

According to him, 'we went to the school this morning (Tuesday) to get information about the children from the authorities, but all they told us was that God was in control. Please, my brother, if you have information concerning the whereabouts of the children, give us so that we can work on it,' he said.

There were, however, moves yesterday indicating the children would be freed as the authorities of the school, with the parents, intensified moves towards this direction but how soon that could be remained unknown.

In a related development, the National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, yesterday, reacted angrily to the kidnap of the 15 pupils by unknown gunmen in Osisioma near Aba in Abia State describing it as callous and unacceptable.

Nwodo, in a statement by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, described the action of the hijackers of the children, most of them in nursery and primary level, as wicked and challenged relevant security agencies to fish them out and save the children, their families and the nation the trauma.

The PDP national chairman said such wicked action by anybody at a time the nation was in the celebration mood and many foreign dignitaries already in the country for the nation's golden jubilee was not only callous but distracting.

He said the issue of kidnapping in the South-east, especially Abia, had become a huge embarrassment to the nation and should be condemned by all reasonable persons.

The last high profile kidnap in the same area involved three Lagos-based journalists returning to Lagos after attending a conference of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State capital.

In addition, the UN Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) has joined the array of those crying out against the kidnap of the 15 school children in Abia on Monday describing it as craven.

'Under no circumstances should children be the target of violence,'' said the Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Dr. Suomi Sakai, in a statement yesterday in Abuja.

'Kidnapping children for financial gain is simply heinous,'' the statement noted.

The children's fund, which advocates everywhere for the inviolability of schools, hoped the law enforcement agencies would be able to find and bring the children to safety quickly.

'In all its work, UNICEF stresses the need for families, communities and civil society to work in partnership to protect the rights and well-being of children,' the statement added.

'Communities in which children are safe and well, are communities in which everyone is safe and well,' the statement added.