•Residents recount how the community’s peace was violated
By Job Osazuwa
The sleepy Igbonla town in Epe, Eredo Local Council Development Area, Lagos State, suddenly came alive last week for the wrong reasons. That was shortly after kidnappers on October 6, 2016, stormed the Lagos State Senior/Junior Model College in the community and whisked away the vice principal, a teacher and four students in a commando style.
The abductors, who took the community by surprise, shot sporadically into the air, spreading fear and confusion around the school and its neighbourhood.
According to residents, the gunmen, who came in speedboats, struck at 7.50am when the students were observing their morning assembly. The armed men led their victims through a bush path and then disappeared through Ogbere River.
The kidnappers allegedly visited the school on four occasions, apparently to survey the terrain before they finally struck.
Alhough all the victims regained their freedom six days after the incident, when Daily Sun visited the community, the residents were still in shock, even as security had been beefed up at the school.
The institution, which is said to be a boarding, co-educational school accommodates students of all tribes and religions. It was made secured with a six-feet-high fence.
School in remote village
By all definitions, Igbonla is a village lacking electricity, potable water and modern health care facilities. It simply has one access road, which is paved.
Connecting the model school from Epe town is not a tea party. Though, the roads leading to the school are good, they are somewhat windy. The community is surrounded by other relatively, lively towns namely: Mojoda, Ilara, Ibowon and Odomola.
Before getting to the school, a visitor has to do an average of 10km on a road that passes through dense forests and creeks. The kidnappers escaped through one of the streams. The people’s major occupation is fishing, cassava and plantain farming.
Once a peaceful village
Residents, who spoke to the reporter, affirmed that Igbonla was once a peaceful place. In fact, it was reliably gathered that last week’s incident was the first of its kind in the history of the community.
According to Johnson Egelibu, who hails from Delta State, but has lived at Igbonla with his mother for over 10 years, the development was strange.
“We now live in fear because such a thing is strange here. Before now, we have never experienced anything like armed robbery or any form of criminality and violence.
“I was not around when it happened; but since I returned five days ago, everywhere has been quiet and tense. It is natural for our people to be afraid after the event because it is strange; and one cannot tell if the kidnappers will visit the community again,” he said.
No police station in around
The only police post close to Igbonla is at Mojoda, several kilometers away. So, the residents take care of their security.
An indigene, who chose not to be mentioned, revealed that on several occasions when there were disputes in the area, aggrieved residents who would dash to the security post in the nearby town, were referred to Igbonla vigilance group to resolve the crises. She said the people had, over the years, learned to accept their fate. So, it was not a surprise that the kidnappers stormed the school and effortlessly took their victims away.
“Nobody could challenge them while the operation lasted. It took several hours before some policemen arrived the scene. The young men were not in haste probably because they knew that there was no security agent around the community to confront them,” a lady, who sold items in the village, told the reporter.
Model school no indigene can afford
The college at Igbonla belongs to the Lagos State government. Daily Sun gathered that none of the indigenes could afford to have their kids study there.
Those who spoke to the reporter admitted that the school might not be too expensive for them to bear, but one needed to do a lot of leg work to have their children enrolled there.
“The school fee might be free but no single student from this community is attending the school. If you don’t know anybody in government or any popular king in the state, your child will not be admitted into the college.
“Our children pass the entrance examinations to the school, yet they are never admitted because we can’t compete with the high and mighty who are interested in the few spaces available there. The children you see there come from Lagos Island, Bariga, Yaba, Ikorodu and beyond.
“The reason is that it is a standard school and has maintained a culture of excellence over the years. If the school was not that okay, these rich men would have abandoned it for our children, as they abandoned the primary school for us. Once our children pass out from primary school, they have to travel to nearby towns to continue with their schooling because the Model College has been taken over by outsiders.
“This only road leading to our village was tarred because of the school; that is good. We don’t have power supply and water, but the college has constant power and every other thing. There is no way poor people can afford the items on the list we hear the students are asked to bring every term,” a middle aged man, who has spent 40 years at Igbonla said.
Another community member, who simply identified himself as Mojeed, said he was a family friend to the parents of one of the kidnapped students. He told Daily Sun that indescribable joy erupted in the family when news of the lad’s release filtered in.
“The boy’s parents live in Lagos; they used to call me from time to time, to check on their son during visiting days. I have seen the boy since his release; he is fine,” he said.
The students abducted were, Isaac Adebisi, Okonkwo Emmanuel, Abu, and Jeremiah; the English language/Civic Education teacher was Lukman Oyerinde while the Vice-Principal was A.O. Oyesola.
How the kidnappers struck
Igbonla residents said that they had noticed strange faces within the community on four occasions and began to suspect that something was amiss.
Mr. John Daniel said: “The kidnappers were armed with sophisticated weapons. They met the students during their morning prayers. When the students saw them, they started running in different directions.
“I was in front of my house, preparing to go to farm with my wife when I heard gunshots and saw the students running into the village. Other villagers were also running because initially we didn’t know exactly what was happening. I saw the kidnappers walking to their speed boats without their faces covered. They leisurely walked to the river and later zoomed off.”
Another member of the community, Aminat, recalled: “When I saw some strange faces in the village, I told my children that I was not comfortable with their looks. They (the strangers) said they came to inquire about the process of enrolling students into the school. I told them I didn’t know anything about the school. Something told me that they were up to something but I didn’t think they could be kidnappers.”
Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, described the development as unfortunate and assured everyone that the state was using the Marine Police, the Navy and Directorate of State Services (DSS) to track the hoodlums.
The family of one the schoolboys paid a ransom to get him released after he took ill. But it is uncertain if other victims’ families paid any ransom.
Daily Sun gathered that the vice-principal, teacher and students, were dropped off by the kidnappers, at a spot near the school.
Residents, college turn prayer warriors
At the moment, both Igbonla residents and their children and staff and students of the school are united in prayers. The reporter was informed that for the six days the victims were in captivity, both the Muslims and Christians went into intense prayers for them to be released.
“My church was praying for them every time. Mosques were also praying. The school management started the prayer sessions because my elder sister works there,” Ayoefe said.
Police take over the college
When Daily Sun visited the school, no visitor was allowed into the premises; policemen were stationed in the compound.
Members of the local vigilance group were sighted around the school premises too. They stopped, searched and questioned every visitor to the school.
The school’s security men told the reporter that they were instructed not to grant media men access to the college premises.
“All strangers, including journalists, must be turned back from the entrance gate; that is the instruction we were given,” one of them said and hurriedly shut the gate.
A member of the community said: “Since the incident, policemen have been around. There were no security men at the school before the incident. They are here to protect the children so that such problem doesn’t occur again.”
Academic activities in progress
Although, virtually every member of staff of the school kept mum over the issue, a staff who pleaded anonymity said academic activities were going on and assured that the students would gradually overcome the shock.
She said the school authority was doing everything it could to counsel the students, who were shocked beyond description.
“Everything is going on well in the school. The students are fine and we have assured their parents that there is no cause for more panic,” the staff said.
It was learnt that when the victims were released last Tuesday night, they looked soaked in water, a clear indication that they might have been kept in a bush. A source said they were quickly given medical attention.
Excitement as Nestle equips 10-year-olds for good cooking
By Vera Wisdom-Bassey
It has emerged that the next generation of Nigerians might be better cooks than the present, thanks to the effort of Nestle foods. The company, in conjunction with Lindy’s Gem’s Foundation, recently embarked on training of Nigerian children in private schools and less-privileged homes in Lagos, with the first set of 50 participants as beneficiaries. The company is teaching basic cooking skills to the children with sponsorship from Maggi cube.
Daily Sun learnt that the cooking classes started on the September 26, 2016 and would end with a Junior Chef Challenge on October 22, 2016. The grand finale contest styled after Master Chef, would host over 300 children, professional chefs and institutions.
The reporter gathered that the programme, which started at Culinary Academy, Lagos, was focusing on the fundamentals of cooking simple, healthy nutritious meals. The participants were given practical lessons on how to combine ingredients to produce simple, but healthy and nutritious food; it included basic cooking methods and recipes, essential kitchen tools and ingredient choices.
One of the drivers of the programme, Lindy’s Gems Foundation was birthed to address the social development needs of children in less privileged homes.
It was further learnt that the 2016 theme, The Art of Cooking, was chosen as a tool to get both children from less-privileged and other homes with no bias to status. The effort was part of the programme to mark 50 years of Maggi cube.
Children under the age of 10 years were the participants, who were selected from different schools; a winner would emerge at the end of the day.
The programme, it was also learnt, was to catch the children young, as most parents were of the opinion that their children should not be seen anywhere near the kitchen until they became adolescents.
Some of the schools that participated in this year’s cooking competition were ImmaVero Group of School Mushin and Liberty School also in Mushin.
No fewer than 50 pupils from the schools took part in the training, which would produce a winner who would be handsomely rewarded at the end of the day.
Daily Sun learnt that Nestle taught the children to lead a nutritional lifestyle to enable them remain healthy life, as they grew up.
Some of the activities that the children performed during the training session were peeling of yam and cutting of tomatoes, onion and vegetable, among other chores. They were also taught to make assorted delicacies.
One of the participants, 11-year-old Blessing Henry, a JSS 1, student, said she learnt to cut onion, tomatoes, vegetable and even to boil water, which she didn’t have the privilege of doing while living with her mother.
She said most times, she was not allowed to visit the kitchen because she was not up to the age of cooking, with her mother telling her to wait for until she is mature.
Lindy’s Gem Foundation said in this year’s edition, it decided to use cooking as a medium to train the children on healthy living.
Category Business Manager, Maggi, Mr. Meguini Nordine, said the effort was part of giving back to society. He said the participants were future leaders and the earlier they were formed at a tender age the better for them.
“Teaching them a nutritional, healthy lifestyle is a way of promoting healthy diet and lifestyles. Encouraging consumption of vegetables is part of Nestlé’s commitment to nutrition, health and wellness to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families.”
“Children are more likely to eat what they have cooked themselves. Whilst they are growing up, it is important to provide them with culinary skills or food knowledge. Through Home Economics clubs at schools, these children are getting engaged in cooking experience and the culture of nourishing and healthy cooking is being nurtured in them.”
She disclosed that the cooking classes started on the September 26, 2016 and would end with a Junior Chef Challenge on October 22, 2016. The grand finale contest called styled after Master Chef, would host over 300 children, professional chefs and institutions.
She said the Lindy’s Gems initiative, was the eighth in a series of successful events by the Foundation, empowering children through the art of cooking, a worthy project that Maggi was proud to sponsor with the message of wholesome cooking habits, since most habits were formed while they were young.