•Security loopholes that led to abduction of students and staff of Nigeria-Turkish International College, Ogun State
By Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Apart from proven academic excellence necessitated by availability of world-class facilities, serene ambience and high quality teaching staff, the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) school ranks among the most expensive private secondary schools in Nigeria. Hence, it is patronised by the well-to-do individuals in the country.
Until early hours of penultimate Saturday when news filtered out that gunmen, suspected to be kidnappers, stormed the NTIC located on Prince Kayode Odedina Crescent in Isheri, Ifo local government area of Ogun State, and abducted eight members of the school, five students and three staff, the school was used to operating and doing its business in quietness. Not much was known about it by many Nigerians, except, perhaps for the rich few who have their wards schooling there.
But the international school is one of 17 such colleges established in Nigeria. Apart from Ogun State, it is also located in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Ogun and Yobe states. Three staff including a female hostel matron, a Mathematics tutor and a supervisor, were abducted alongside five students of the college.
Security loopholes that led to the abduction
Since the incident, the school, which nestles peacefully in a quite neighbourhood of Ogun State has suddenly shot into national limelight and become a beehive of activities as parents, guardians, relatives, security operatives, journalists and members of the public troop daily to the place to get an update on the situation.
Many people have been asking the question of how and why it happened, on why it was possible for the gun-totting but masked kidnappers to make their way into the elite school, under the watch of Close-Circuit TVs (CCTV), without security help coming to their rescue much earlier than it did.
Our correspondent who visited the school recently observed that it is located in a swampy environment, foreshadowed by a thick bush that could provide perfect covering for criminals. It was also observed that the fence, which should have served as a barricade between the school and the bushy expanse of land behind it, was not high enough although the kidnappers were said to have successfully dug a hole through it, without anybody detecting their activity, in order to gain access into the school.
Our correspondent also observed that the school is sited very close to the creeks, from where kidnappers and militants unleashed terror on the residents of neighbouring areas like Arepo, Ibafo, Mowe and Warewa, before they were dislodged, not too long ago, from some of the creek points through the combined security efforts of the police and the military, especially the Air Force.
In fact, the closest building to the school is the Hogan Guard complex, while a cosmetic factory separates the school from the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Otherwise, the school was there alone, located in what Nigerians like to call ‘no-man’s-land,’ which explains why help could not come to it immediately during the kidnapping saga. During the visit, stern-looking security operatives were seen patrolling both the inside and outside environment while parents were sighted, in twos and threes, discussing and lamenting the abduction.
Calming frayed nerves of distraught parents
Earlier while calming the frayed nerves of distraught parents, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, the Deputy Governor of Ogun State, said that government was on top of the situation to ensure the safe return of the kidnapped students adding that government had immediately put security measures in place, not only to rescue the victims but also to ensure that such thing does not happen again. She appealed for calm urging the parents not to take panicky action by taking their children away from the school.
“No doubt, it does happen once in a while but it’s unfortunate,” she said. “It’s not the time to start taking children out of the school, the security operatives are all on ground to ensure safety of their lives and property. We will do all that is possible to make sure the school is safe and the school authority is also doing what is possible to ensure that the place is safe.”
But her assurance did little or nothing to dissuade parents who had thronged the school, following the incident from clamouring for its closure for “at least two weeks” to enable proper security measures be put in place in order to forestall future occurrence.
Apart from that, some parents argue that other students who had been traumatised by the incident need some time off to get over it before academic activities can resume in the school.
Shedding light on the ugly incident
Shedding more light on the ugly incident, the school principal, Yunus Emre Dogan and security adviser, Stephen Adewunmi, told the visiting Ogun State Deputy Governor, Mrs. Onanuga, who had, in company of security chiefs, including the Assistant Inspector of General of Police, AIG in charge of Zone II Onikan, Lagos, Kayode Aderanti, Ogun State Commissioner of Police, Ahmed Ilyasu; the State Director of State Security, Kabiru Sanni, driven to the school for on-the-spot assessment, that the gunmen, whose numbers are yet to be ascertained, came into the school through broken part of the school fence in the swampy part of the premises and started shooting sporadically.
The suspected kidnappers, according to them, later made away with three regular students, two others who were preparing for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and three members of staff. The abductors immediately headed to the female hostel where three students were kidnapped alongside the hostel matron and a Turkish Mathematics teacher.
Officials of the school further informed the visiting dignitaries that the abductors also dug a big hole on the fence of the school through which they escaped with their victims to the bushy, swampy area.
But a quick scan of the environment showed that Closed Circuit TV (CCTV), is operational 24 hours, while activities within the school, could be viewed from the gate. Unconfirmed reports said the school management, had been warned about the attack about three weeks ago but it failed to beef up security in the school. Instead it chose to rely on the CCTV as well as surveillance. But a source close to the school dismisses the rumour as untrue.
Commenting on the incident, a security expert, Captain Segun Wemimo (rtd) blamed the school for its failure to put tight security measure in place, especially at such a secluded location. According to him, the school which is located close to waterway, requires extra security measures especially when the same incident had happened in Epe and Ikorodu, where kidnappers had invaded schools close to waterway and taken pupils away.
An Ogun State-based psychologist, Dr. Abanire Ojo, explained that the pupils in the custody of gunmen and kept in an unusual environment would have suffered psychological stress and trauma. He suggested that the victims, when eventually rescued or released, should be given enough time to recover from the shock before they can resume academic exercise.
Affected parent recounts emotional ordeal
A parent, Mr. Ahmad Ajani, whose daughter was among the victims, said he got the news of the abduction, midnight. Speaking in an emotion-laden voice, he described the incident as sad and unfortunate while revealing that his child, Hanatullah Aderinto Ajani, 22, was in the school to study for the JAMB exams before she was abducted.
“Somebody called me in the midnight that something happened here and that my daughter was involved,” he recalled. “I had to come down this morning and the Police Commissioner addressed us assuring us that they would work on it and that everything would be alright very soon. I am very sad but prayerful that they are rescued on time. As I am standing, I am traumatised, you can imagine a girl of 22 preparing for university and somebody took her away.”
“We parents have jointly resolved to take away our children for at least one week, until we are convinced about perfect security arrangement have been put in place,” a parent, Funmi Tijani, said. “The road is not tarred; no security light, there are bushes all around. Last year, the school was closed down for two weeks because of flood. What we are saying is that let there be adequate security.”
She recalled that her daughter who witnessed the whole scenario is traumatised. “Psychologically, the remaining students are not mentally balanced, you don’t expect me to leave her behind!” Thereafter, the parents were seen packing the bags of their wards in readiness to take them home.
Last Monday, the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in a meeting with parents of the students, declared that the state was not and would never be a comfort zone for criminals adding the perpetrators would not go unpunished.
When our correspondent visited the school, he saw the main gate being manned by policemen. He was however, denied entry into the premises to assess the situation. The private security guard at the school said the order from the above was not to allow journalists into the school. Cemal Yigit, the school’s spokesperson was not available for comments.