SIX suspected kidnappers, including a lady, early Thursday morning, abducted a vice principal, a teacher and four students of Lagos State Junior/Secondary Model School, Igbonla, Epe.
According to a press release signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Habib Aruna, the students were kidnapped by suspected militants.
The abducted persons were identified as A. O. Oyesola, the vice principal; Lateef Oyerinde, a teacher and one of the students, Adebisi Isaac Okonkwo.
The abducted Oyerinde is the elder brother to Olaitan Oyerinde, former private secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, who was murdered.
The abducted teachers and students were as, of Thursday evening, yet to be rescued, as they were taken away from the school vicinity by the kidnappers.
The state-owned security helicopter was deployed to search for the missing teachers and their students.
The abductors were said to have stormed the school in speedboats and took advantage of the porous security arrangement and the bushy nature of the school to strike.
Six of the students were initially abducted alongside the vice principal and the teacher, but two of them were later abandoned by the kidnappers in the bush path.
The abducted students were in Junior Secondary School One and had just resumed for the academic session last Tuesday.
The kidnappers reportedly stormed the assembly hall of the junior students around 8.00 a.m., shot into different directions to scare away the students and their teachers, before carrying out their act.
One of the students (names withheld) told the Nigerian Tribune that “we were praying in the assembly hall when they came. There were six of them, including a lady.”
“They came through the bush near the boys’ hostel. They covered their faces and started shooting. All of us ran in different directions, some hid under the desks, while others ran outside into the bush. The gunmen then abducted the vice principal and the English and Civic Education teacher.”
Another student, a senior secondary school student (names withheld) also said “we had finished our assembly session and had gone into our classes when we heard the gunshots.
“Many of us ran out but the teachers quickly locked the doors on others. We saw the gunmen and a lady taking the junior school’s vice principal, a teacher and some students.”
The deputy governor, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, visited the school, while assuring that government would work assiduously to ensure prompt rescue of the victims.
Adebule, who was accompanied by top government functionaries and head of security agencies, condemned the act, but pleaded with parents and families of the victims to cooperate with government and security agencies in ensuring prompt rescue of the victims.
While addressing hundreds of parents who had come to the school to take away their children, she said such would not help the situation, as panicking would further compound the situation.
“It is true that in the last 29 years that this school was established, we have never experienced such a thing like this, but now that it has happened and it is confronting us, we must come together to find a lasting solution to it. We, as government, parents, the school and security agencies, must remain united to solve this problem.
“I know you are angry, I know you are worried and I know you are agitated, but we must look for solution. But I plead for the understanding of parents in this matter. I know how traumatic it could be, I know how emotional the issue we are discussing could be, but the best we can do is to handle it with care and with utmost wisdom that God can give us.
“It is God who secures, it is God who protects and even in other climes where you have everything, you still have this type of incursion once in a while, but what we should be talking about is how we can collectively solve this problem,” Adebule said.
She assured that the state government would do everything humanly possible to ensure the rescue of the victims, while assuring that a team of security operatives would stay behind in the school to secure the students and teachers.
She also revealed that all security agencies, the police, Air Force, Navy, the Army and others, had been fully mobilised to ensure rescue of the victims, just as she expressed confidence in the success of the ongoing rescue operation.
Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, on his part, assured the parents and families of the victims that the rescue operation already launched would be the shortest in the history of the command.
While soliciting for the support of the parents, Owoseni said security agencies were already in custody of useful leads, adding that there was a strong hope of rescuing the victims.
“All I just want to say for now is that you have to work with us. What we also need from you is your prayers. We will seek your understanding and for now, I will not reveal much because as we speak, there are agents of the kidnappers here and they will reveal whatever we say here to them.
“We have a government in Lagos State that is ready to go all out and I can assure you that this will be the shortest rescue operation that we will carry out. We will do everything we need to do to secure the release of the victims,” the CP said.
I had premonition of this incident –Parent
Parents were, early Thursday, prevented from taking away their children from the school.
Scores of parents had besieged the school, some with the intention to take their children home, before they were prevailed upon by the state government and the school management not to do so.
The parents and the school authority held a meeting where the parents were assured that adequate security measures would be put in place to prevent a recurrence.
One of the parents, whose son was among the abducted children, Adebisi Okufemi: said “I was told that my son, Isaac, was one of them.”
He said he had a premonition that something was going to happen to the boy when he was bringing him to school on Tuesday.
“I had that feelings when we were coming on Tuesday. My car had a small problem and the spirit told me something about kidnappers. I have heard a lot of robbery operation on this road. My son even said this place is a bush,” he said.
Another parent, who pleaded anonymity, decried the security arrangement in the school and urged the state government to intervene.
He added that the gunmen hid under the thick bush around the school to perpetrate the act.
The parent asked: “Look at that place for instance, if we are chasing somebody and he runs into that place, who will follow him?
Reps call for early rescue of victims
The House of Representatives, on Thursday, directed the police to ensure prompt release of students abducted at Igbonla.
This followed a motion under matters of urgent public importance, sponsored by Honourable Olawale Raji, representing Epe federal constituency, Lagos.
Moving the motion, Raji stressed the need to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of the act.
The lawmaker said the college was attacked by suspected gunmen during the morning assembly in early hours of Thursday.
The House condemned the action of the abductors under whatever guise, adding that it was against the tenet of seeking qualitative education, while members urged the police and other security agencies to intensify surveillance in Epe and other schools in the state, to avoid similar occurrence.
Ashafa appeals to parents, others
Senator Gbenga Ashafa representing Lagos East in the Senate appealed to parents, teachers and residents of the area to remain calm, while assuring that the state government would stop at nothing to ensure the safe return of all the victims of the crime and apprehend the perpetrators.
Ashafa, in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos, also expressed sympathy with the affected parents of the students and all the loved ones of the teachers.
“I urge the parents, teachers and residents of Igbonla in Epe to remain calm and be rest assured that the government of Lagos State, ably led by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, will stop at nothing to ensure the safe return of all the victims of this heinous crime. The perpetrators will also be apprehended and brought to book,” he said.
He said representatives from his constituency office would pay an on-the-spot assessment to the school immediately, to see how he could be of help.