By Evelyn Usman, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Bose Adelaja
LAGOS—Gunmen suspected to be militants, yesterday, stormed Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Eredo Local Council Development Area, Epe, Lagos State, abducting six persons, including the school’s Vice Principal, a teacher and four students.
However, two of the students were later rescued by policemen who immediately arrived the scene. The gunmen, numbering over 10, it was gathered, came through the waterways in three speed boats. They were said to have positioned themselves strategically, around the school building , while about six of them gained entrance into the school premises through a collapsed fence. They made straight for the school hall, where the assembly was being held.
Their presence caused commotion as the students ran in different directions for safety. The school guards were helpless; they also ran for cover into adjoining buildings.
In the process, the Vice Principal of the Junior Secondary School, whose identity was given simply as Oyesola and the teacher, identified as Lukman Oyerinde, as well as four students, all in the Junior Secondary School, JSS, were abducted. .
The names of the two kidnapped students were given as Isaac Adebii and Okonkwo, all in JSS1.
The gunmen were said to have abducted the students first and later went after the vice principal and the teacher, who attempted to free the students from the invaders.
The abducted persons were, thereafter, whisked away into their waiting speed boats, as they headed towards Ogere in Ogun State.
One of the teachers, said to have sustained injury, was rushed to an undisclosed hospital.
Help on the way
While the students and teachers ran helter skelter, a male student was said to have collected a mobile phone from one of his teachers and intimated his father, who is a security agent.
The father, Vanguard learned, contacted the necessary security agencies, who were immediately deployed to the scene.
At about 10am, a combined team of the Rapid Response Squad, RRS, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, Marine Police and local security groups were at the scene, combing the entire area for the students. There was also aerial patrol of the waterways.
Parents storm school
When news of the invasion filtered out, apprehensive parents stormed the school to pick their children, majority of who live in the boarding house.
A parent, Mrs Chukwuma, who spoke with Vanguard, said: “We live in Ikorodu area of Lagos and my child is a boarder. It is a mixed gender school. My daughter is still in shock because she said one of the abducted students that was later freed was her classmate.
“She said the gunmen fired warning shots into the air when the whole place was in disarray. From all indications, it was obvious that they wanted to abduct more than that number but the screams and quick telephone calls to the necessary agencies stalled that.
“My daughter also said that one of the gunmen, suspected to be the leader, instructed them to leave immediately when others were going to get more students. One of the kidnappers took one person each according to her. She said they pointed their weapons at the teachers and threatened to shoot if any of them tried to play smart.”
How I narrowly escaped —student
A Junior Secondary School student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Vanguard on phone how she escaped being abducted.
She said: “I narrowly escaped being a victim. As I was running, when they came, one of them told me to stop. In my confused state, I did because I was afraid he would shoot. About five of us stood at the same position. But as he approached us, I summoned courage and ran as fast as my legs could carry me.
“My action prompted others to run as well. But unfortunately, one of them was among those abducted.”
Another JSS 1 student who cried as he begged his parents to take him back home, said they ran to neighbourhood to alert residents.
He said: “Our teachers tried to safeguard us but they could not do much. Some of us ran to the neighborhood to spread the information.”
A parent, who has three children in the school, was seen wailing, yesterday, that she was yet to see one of her children.
She said: “I have three students in this school but I am still searching for my daughter who alerted me on phone while on my way to work. Unfortunately, I can’t reach her as the phone was switched off before my arrival and I am yet to locate her.”
Olu of Epe speaks
The Olu of Epe Kingdom, Oba Sefiu Olatunji, expressed displeasure at the incident, saying the culprits must not go unpunished.
The Oba, who just returned from his visit to the school, assured that necessary steps would be taken to unravel the situation the traditional way.
Efforts on to rescue them —Police
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, Mr Fatai Owoseni, said efforts were in top gear to rescue the abducted persons.
Speaking with journalists at the command headquarters, Ikeja, yesterday, Owoseni said the command had swung into action, adding that it was being assisted by the Nigerian Navy. “We are monitoring the movement. The Marine Police and our counterpart from the Navy are at work. We hope to rescue them in the shortest possible time,” Owoseni assured.
Owoseni assured parents and families of the victims that the rescue operation already launched would be the shortest in the history of the command and solicited their support.
The police commissioner, who noted that security agencies were already in custody of useful leads, said: “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 release of the victims, as there is a strong hope of rescuing them.”
Lagos govt condemns act
Meanwhile, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, visited the college yesterday, accompanied by top government functionaries and heads of security agencies.
She condemned the act, but pleaded with parents and families of the victims to cooperate with government and security agencies to ensure prompt rescue of the victims.
Adebule admonished parents, who rushed to the school to pick their children, advising that such action would not help the situation. She said panicking would further compound the situation.
Adebule said: “It is true that in the last 29 years that this school was established, we have never experienced such a thing as 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 a government, parents, the school and security agencies, must remain united to solve this problem.
“I know you are angry, worried and agitated, but we must look for solution. I, therefore, 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.”
Also reacting to the incident, yesterday, the House of Representatives called on security agencies in the country to intensify rescue efforts for the kidnapped students and their teachers.
The House’s resolution followed a motion by Wale Raji, a lawmaker from the state, under matters of urgent national importance.
The House heard from Raji, how some suspected kidnappers attacked Government Model, College, Igbonla, Epe, yesterday morning to carry out the abduction.
Raji said he was told about the development shortly after the House resumed plenary yesterday, adding that he was compelled to bring it to the attention of the House and, by extension, the country.