Igbonla students released after 64 days in Ondo

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (3rd left); Ondo State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (right); his Deputy, Mr. Alfred Agboola (2nd right) with the released Igbonla Model College students and their parents during a media briefing at the Round House, the Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja on Friday, July 28, 2017.

• Lagos Assures Residents Of Safety Of Lives, Property

Respite came for the six students of Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Epe area of Lagos State and their parents, 65 days after unknown men camouflaged in Police uniform kidnapped them, but they were found in Ondo State, yesterday.

The students, Judah Agbaosi, Ramon Isiaka, Adebanjo George, Yusuf Farouk, Peter Jonas and Pelumi Philips, were abducted from their hostels, Green and Yellow houses on May 25.

The Guardian learnt that Ondo State Government intervened in the release of the students following the refusal of the abductors, who vowed not to release the children to any other state government in the geo-political zone.

According to a source within the government, Lagos and Delta state governments had made frantic efforts to secure the release of the students but to no avail.

He disclosed that the students were released to the state government between Ajapa in Ese-Odo Council and Ugbonla in Ilaje Council of the state around 1:00 am after 10 days of negotiation.

The state Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Donald Ojogo, who hail from the riverine area, went to the creek to secure the release of the abducted children.

He revealed further that the students noted that they had been living comfortably with their abductors for the past nine weeks, saying they were being fed with bread and sardines.

They were taken to Lagos State by the state officials to rejoin their families and are soon expected to take a flight to Abuja, where they would meet Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

In a statement, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, expressed great joy at the safety and release of the students, who are all boys and teenagers.

Ajiboye attributed it to “the determined and conscientious efforts of the Acting President, the governments of Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Delta states and the security agencies, including the Police, SSS and the military.”

He confirmed that “in the last few days, the deputy governors of Ondo and Delta states have worked tirelessly to ensure that the students are released,” adding that they would be handed over to the deputy governor of Lagos State for further actions.

“We thank Nigerians for their prayers, and charge security agencies to remain committed to their responsibility of ensuring the safety of the citizens,” the statement partly read.

Despite the initial payment of N10million as ransom and an additional N20million to the gang, making it a total of N30million, the whereabouts of the boys remained unknown even with continuous promises by the government and the police that they were safe.

The kidnappers, however, demanded for extra N1.5million as transportation fare before they would release the boys. Efforts finally paid off yesterday, as the boys were released by the kidnappers in Ondo State.

Confirming the incident, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, confirmed that the boys have been released. He, however, declined to give additional information on the circumstances that led to their release.

It was gathered that their release was a combined effort of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Lagos State Police Command led by Owoseni.

It was also gathered that their final release was a culmination of underground work by the police operatives who were deployed to help in the rescue of the boys.

Meanwhile, Lagos State Government has not only expressed excitement over their release, but has also assured residents of their safety and that of their property.

In a press statement, the State’s Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, congratulated the parents of the students and all concerned stakeholders over the development, just as he said the students would undergo series of medical tests and trauma therapy before they are reunited with their families.

“This is a welcome development and the State Government has always believed that the students would be released unhurt. The news of their release is, therefore, a confirmation of that belief and we are glad that they would be reuniting with their families,” Ayorinde said.

He said the State Government remains resolute in its commitment to ensure the safety of lives and property of residents in the State and has already beefed up security in schools to prevent a re-occurrence.

“It is on record that the Governor Akinwumi Ambode-led administration has invested massively on equipment and welfare of security personnel so as to ensure that the State remains safe for residents and investors.

“This Government has already taken giant steps to secure all our schools especially those in the suburbs and riverine areas and we are confident that the steps taken so far will go a long way in nipping a repeat of such in the bud,” Ayorinde said.

The Commissioner also quoted Governor Ambode as commending the efforts of security agencies who worked tirelessly to ensure the safe release and return of the students.

It would be recalled that after the students were abducted on May 25, 2017 from their school, the kidnappers established contact with their parents, a ransom of N400m was demanded, but it was later reduced to N100m owing to the inability of the parents to meet up with the demand.

The kidnappers were said to have advised the parents to reach out to others and deliberate on how to raise the N100m as well as mounting pressure on the state government to raise the money for them.

It was alleged that the parents later raised N10million each, which the kidnappers rejected. At a time, the affected and concerned family members and relations protested at Government House Alausa, where they accused the state government of abandoning them to their fate.

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