One of the parents of four freed pupils of the Lagos Junior Model College, Igbonla, Epe, Lagos State, has said the victims were brought back by the kidnappers to a bush behind the school, not far from where they were abducted six days ago.
The parent, who pleaded that his identity be protected, told PUNCH Metro on Wednesday that the kidnappers brought the schoolboys, the teacher and the Vice-Principal to the area that they had passed through to invade the school on Thursday, October 6.
Our correspondents learnt that some people in the school, who sighted the victims around 10.30pm, thereafter put calls across to their relations to announce their release.
The kidnappers had last Friday, at about 8am, stormed the school premises while the junior school was rounding off the morning prayers and shot sporadically into the air.
During the invasion, four pupils – Okonkwo Emmanuel, Isaac Adebisi, Abu and Jeremiah – were abducted while the English Language/Civic Education teacher, Lukman Oyerinde, and the Vice Principal, A.O. Oyesola, were also taken away by force.
Our correspondents had reported the various stages of negotiation of ransoms between the attackers and the victims’ families, which was finally put at N1m ransom for each victim.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the victims were hidden in a creek in the Epe area, which was said to be about four hours’ sailing from the school.
It was gathered that the schoolboys, the teacher, and the VP were dropped off on Tuesday evening.
The parent, who lived in the Ikorodu area, told our correspondent that he had relocated to a friend’s place in the Epe area since his child was kidnapped, adding that he did not pay any ransom.
He said, “I was called on the telephone by someone from the school around 12am on Wednesday that my son and other victims had been released. Since he was kidnapped, my wife and I had relocated from our house in Ikorodu to a friend’s place in Epe.
“When I rushed down to the school, I saw my son alive. We were told by the authorities that the boys walked into the school premises. They were left by the kidnappers around the boys’ hostel. We are grateful to God for sparing their lives.
“I did not pay any ransom. I do not know if other parents did. God knows I do not have any money to pay ransom.”
The parent of the schoolboy, who was reported to have paid N1m for his child who fell ill in the kidnappers’ den, said, “I went through hell to raise the money. The kidnappers, after playing pranks with us for two days, left them not far from the school. I advise the state government to increase security in schools near waterways.”
A relation of one of the pupils, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the kidnappers ordered the parents to wait at different location, while they dropped their victims in the school.
He said, “Two of the parents had been called by the kidnapers on Tuesday to wait for the arrival of the boys at a place in Epe. They waited for several hours. They later received an anonymous call that they should proceed towards the school.
“It was at the school area that we finally met our boys.”
When one of our correspondents got to the school on Wednesday, some policemen barricaded the gate, and prevented journalists from entering.
A police source, however, confirmed to PUNCH Metro, that the gunmen dropped the victims about 11pm.
It was learnt that the six victims were reportedly taken by the school authorities to the Epe General Hospital for checkups.
PUNCH Metro gathered that they were taken to Female Ward 5 for treatment under police protection.
Our correspondents learnt that two of the victims, who were diagnosed with typhoid and malaria respectively, were admitted at an undisclosed hospital in the Epe area.
The Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer, SP Dolapo Badmos, said the police were on the trail of the suspects, adding that the pressure mounted on the kidnappers forced them to abandon their victims and flee.
She said, “The victims were rescued around 11pm and have been reunited with their families. No suspect has been arrested, but the police are on their trail, and there is no hiding place for criminals.
“The victims were not admitted to any hospital. They went to a hospital for checkups and they have been discharged. The police are not aware of the payment of any ransom. If the gunmen collected any money, it will be treated as robbery and they will be charged to court upon their arrest.”
Meanwhile, the state government, which also confirmed the release of the four pupils and their teachers on Wednesday, said it would spare nothing until it rid the state of criminal elements.
A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said the victims had undergone checkups after which they were reunited with their families.
“The Lagos State Government today (Wednesday) welcomed the release of the school pupils, vice-principal and teacher of Igbonla Model College, Epe, who were kidnapped by suspected Ijaw militants on Thursday October 6, 2016.
“The children are doing well; they have been taken through checkups and have been safely reunited with their families,” the statement read in part.
The commissioner, while restating the government’s determination to protect lives and property, urged residents to be more vigilant and report suspected persons and objects seen within their neighbourhood to the appropriate security agency.
He said, “The determination of the government to ensure a 24-hour security of the state is evident in the huge investment in the equipment and welfare of security agencies, especially the police.”
Ayorinde stated that the government had taken steps to stem the tide of kidnapping in the state, noting that in line with the directive of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, plans had been concluded to commence the demolition of illegal structures erected across the state waterfronts and creeks.
“Often times, kidnapping is perpetrated through the waterways and as such, these illegal structures provide a leeway for these criminal elements to plan and execute their nefarious activities. This step, we believe, will go a long way to address this menace.
“The state government has also begun steps to boost community policing with the announcement by the governor that at least 5,000 neighbourhood watchers will soon be recruited to improve surveillance across the state, especially in the rural areas,” Ayorinde said.Punch