• DSS at centre of rescue operation
By Christopher Oji, Lagos and Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
The female students and officials of the Nigeria-Turkish International College, Isheri, Ogun State kidnapped 13 days ago have regained their freedom. They were brought back to the back of the school at about 8.30pm last night.
Daily Sun gathered that following negotiations between parents of the victims and the kidnappers, following which a whopping N50 million ransom was paid, the gang gave an assurance that the schoolgirls would be brought back.
Before the students were freed, there was anxiety among their parents, as the kidnappers had switched off their phones since Monday night, after collecting the N50 million ransom.
Confused as to what was the fate of the children, tension overwhelmed the victims’ parents, who could not communicate with the kidnappers after delivering the ransom. This continued till yesterday when one of them received a phone call that the students had been dropped at the back of the school.
Competent sources revealed that operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) were instrumental to the release of the students, as they worked with the parents throughout.
Meanwhile, there was a power-play last night, as the police wanted to take glory for the release of the kidnapped victims. It was gathered that without working with parents of the victims, the police stormed the school premises last night, on hearing that the kidnapped victims had been released and took custody of them.
The police had herded the released students into a bus, without allowing their parents come near them, and took off to Abeokuta, in a long motor cade.
Daily Sun gathered that parents of the kidnapped schoolgirls are angry that the police want to give the impression that they facilitated the release of the victims when, actually they did not show much concern.
Sources revealed that it was only last Saturday that the police, for the first time, contacted parents of the kidnapped victims, who had worked as one in the effort to secure the students’ freedom. However, the police were said to be intercepting the phone conversations of the kidnappers and the victims’ parents and using the information gathered to present a picture that they were on top of the matter.
Before the release of the students last night, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, had taken over the investigation of the abduction of students and school official.
Not satisfied that almost two weeks after the victims were abducted, the victims were yet to be rescued, the IGP decided to personally take over the investigation.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, had revealed this at a press briefing yesterday. He confirmed that the Department of State Services (DSS) and military had joined in the rescue effort.
Speaking after a joint-security meeting with other sister agencies, he said: “Operatives from the anti-kidnapping unit of the police, officials of the Department of State Security Service (DSS) and the military personnel have been deployed to the creeks in Lagos and Ogun states for the rescue mission of the kidnap victims.
“The operation has been taken over by IGP. Those involved in the rescue mission are under IGP. They are under his direct command. I am not assigned to speak on the issue because, the abduction did not happen in my command, but IGP has directed that Lagos State Police command, which is under me, should be involved in the rescue mission.
“The issue as you know is now a national one. The IGP is in charge of the rescue operation, but security operatives from our sister agencies and local vigilance group are involved in the combing of the bushes. In a little while the victims will be rescued and the kidnappers will be arrested.”
Owoseni confirmed that three persons were also abducted last week in a farm at Epe area of the state
A 10-man gang of kidnappers kitted in military camouflage stormed a farmland at the Epe axis of Lagos and abducted a lady, Ifeoluwa Olabiyi, and two other men.
He stated: “I had gone on patrol along with operatives of the anti-kidnapping unit of the command on Friday and Saturday. It was during the patrol that we were told that some gunmen stormed a farm in the area last Tuesday and abducted three persons.
“We have deployed a team of policemen as well as some soldiers into the creeks on a rescue mission. I tell you, with all sense of responsibility, that all hands are on-deck regarding the operation. We will do all within our professional mandates to ensure that the victims are reunited with their family very soon and those behind the crime are brought to book.”
Earlier yesterday, Assistant Inspector General if Police, Zone 2, Kayode Aderanti, had stated that the kidnapped students and officials would soon re-united with their families.
Aderanti, who spoke in Abeokuta, shortly after he visited the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, disclosed that the police were closing on the kidnappers.
The AIG, however, denied rumours that families of the victims have paid ransom.
Said he: “We are working assiduously towards getting the children back and just give us some time. We are working seriously on them.
“In case of kidnapping, abduction or whatever all over the world, there are always rumour circulating, because when you are negotiating with hostage takers, a lot of things are involved. But what I can tell you is that we have not heard of any ransom being demanded or given as far as we are concerned. And we are monitoring everything; we are on top of everything and nothing of such has come to my attention.”
The police had rounded up some alleged relatives and informants to the kidnappers to compel them to release their captives.
Also arrested was one of the most wanted kidnapper, General Cacadu, who confirmed that five of his boys were contracted to join the kidnap operation. The kidnappers initially demanded ransom of N1.2billion.
Meanwhile, the school authorities confirmed the release of the victims.
A statement signed by spokesperson of the school, Cemal Yigit, said: “The student and teacher are doing fine, and have reunited with their families.
“Our special appreciation goes to President Muhammadu Buhari, police, DSS, the Army and staff of the school and others.”