Eight others also kidnapped
By CHIOMA IGBOKWE and VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA
As security operatives intensify efforts to rescue the six secondary school students of Lagos state Model College, Igbo Nla, in Epe area, Saturday Sun has learnt that the abducted students are currently camped in Imobi creek between Lagos and Ogun State.
It was learnt that apart from the six students, eight other unidentified persons were picked on the same night. Although the kidnappers are yet to get in touch with families of the victims or the school as at press time, it was gathered that the raid was led by the current militant commander popularly called ‘America’. He assumed leadership in the creeks following the death of his boss, the notorious Ossy Ibori.
He was alleged to have killed Vika, the only commander who was still hanging in the creeks waiting for amnesty. Amongsseveral other successful operations, ’America’ was the one who led the gang which picked eight students and staff at Turkish School in Ogun State last year after which N50million was paid to secure the release of the victims. He was the one who ambushed and killed five policemen and a soldier in Ikorodu recently.
Saturday Sun had recently reported the emergence of America as the new king of the creeks. This paper had also exclusively reported the plot by the militants to attack Lagos and Ogun states, with schools as their targets.
On how the kidnap was perfected , Saturday Sun reliably learnt ‘America’ who is determined to enlarge his financial base unleashed his boys on the neighbouring communities around the creeks.
Earlier last week, they visited banks in the Island and schools, which the dead leader Ossy Ibori had penciled down for attack. He divided his boys into three and unleashed them on Epe community while he waited in the boat.
As soon as the students and several others were brought to the boat, he discovered that the boat was sinking and could not carry the number of persons abducted, due to size and an engine fault.
He ordered his boys to keep them in the bush pending when he would return with another boat. They thereafter left them in that bush at Obalaye junction, near Sagamu till 9pm same Thursday when ‘America’ came with a bigger boat and ferried them to another location.
Parents express anger, plead for help
In the community yesterday, large numbers of vehicles were seen moving in and out of the only road to Igbonla community with signs of apprehension on the faces of the occupants in the vehicles.
Those coming out had students in school uniforms and carrying their bags while those moving in were seen heading for the school to pick their children and wards.
Inside the school compound, parents and guardians were seen on the queue with their children and wards making some documentations and clarification to ensure that the students were left in the hands of appropriate persons.
Those left in the school had the gates of their hostels locked up under the watchful eyes of their instructors and the police.
A parent, Pastor Samuel Akinola lamented that similar incident happened last year and there was need for the state government to provide enhanced security for the students.
“It is embarrassing if you can walk down there to see how they broke into the school through the fence. These are children and I beg the government to ensure tighter security because these are our future, they are our tomorrow. If the security is better, parents will bring back their children’’
Two mothers of some of the students reluctantly spoke in annoyance and expressed dissatisfaction with the situation.
“You don’t need to interview us because this is not the first time something like this is happening and they should have done something about it.
We are not happy with the situation and we don’t know if we can bring them back to this school even if the security is better”, one of the women who declined giving her name stated.
Another parent, Mrs. Bolaji Eniola noted that her children were yet to overcome the trauma they passed through during the previous incident. “It is very very bad and it is giving the children bigger trauma and now another one, what is happening?
We cannot keep our children where it is not safe and I don’t know if I can bring them back to this school”
Mrs. Deola Daudu frowned at the lapses around the school which she said needed to be addressed urgently. “I am not happy with the situation because in such an environment, the children are here and there is no patrol van moving up and down. Right from when you are coming from the road, there is no light and you see some of the poles have broken and they needed to be repaired.
“The fences are even dwarf fences and see the environment our children are living in and I don’t know why we should bring our children here to suffer.
But if the security is tighter I can bring my children back here because of the quality of education. This place has become an attraction for these hoodlums who will just come and kidnap children and be demanding ransom, only God knows how the children would be feeling now because I can feel the way their parents will be feeling.’’
A former vice principal of the school, Mr. Simon Agunbeso who came to pick his ward said the situation was appalling and advised that “the task of securing the school should not be left only in the hands of the police. All my children attended this school and I worked here for 13 years before I was transferred to Lekki area.
It is not encouraging but disappointing. I know the worth of a model school and that is why I will bring my wards back here if the security is improved upon. It seems some group of people wanted to run down this school
‘’The government should beef up security and I will advise that soldiers be permanently drafted here may be like two hundred of them and be fed by the state government’’
One of the parents whose son survived the attack lamented that some the kids who were taken are children of civil servants who are managing to give their children decent education.
We’ll rescue them – IGP
Inspector-General Of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris has vowed that the police would rescue the school children abducted by suspected militants in Lagos State Junior and Senior College Igbo Nla area of Epe.
The IGP, who spoke yesterday during the closing ceremony of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Mentorship Training Course organised for the EOD personnel by the United States Embassy at Ikeja, Lagos, said in no distant time the children would be rescued and those who abducted them fished out and made to face the wrath of the law.
The IGP ,who was represented by the Deputy Inspector General Police in charge of operations, Mr Joshak Habila, said: “we are on top of the situation. Crime is bound to happen and when it happens, what we should concern ourselves with is how to solve the problem and that is what we are doing. We are not joking and you know that we are very serious when it comes to crime fighting, especiallly kidnapping. It is on record that we have cracked high profile kidnappings and arrested the kidnappers. This one is not a different case. We are working round the clock and synergising with sister agencies on how to rescue the children and arrest those behind the dastardly act.
Spokesman of the Lagos police, ASP Olarinde Famous –Cole admitted that the state command is now aware of the person who picked the school children, even as efforts are on ground to ensure their safe return.
“At 5am, Pirates/Kidnappers gained entrance into Igbonla Model School, near Epe and abducted six students. Investigation and rescue operations have commenced with the visit to the affected School by a Police team, led by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Fatai Owoseni.
“From the visit, it was found that the criminal elements used the Imeru/Iji waterway to access the swampy forest bordering the school, bore a hole on a part of the school fence to gain entrance. The dastardly act of these criminal elements is nothing other than sheer wickedness as there is no justification whatsoever to abduct innocent children”, he stated.
Meanwhile a reliable source at the Epe police division said that security operatives can do little or nothing about the incident but to wait and negotiate with the kidnappers.
“ There is nothing anyone can do but to wait till the suspects release the students. Entering the creeks will be suicidal because there is nothing like element of surprise. No one believed they could attack a government school that was why little or no relevance was attacked to the school when we got information that they were likely going to attack. It is not true that a letter was given to the school. If there was such, the police command was not alerted.
“There are other big schools in Epe, we felt that those should be their target, that is one of the reasons the division was caughtunawares.
They also tried to pick one of the traditional rulers in the area but failed because our men who were alerted stopped them,” he said.