*Jonathan orders IG to arrest hoodlums
By Kingsley Omonobi, Victor Ahiuma-Young, Chioma Obinna & Daniel Idonor
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, joined other Nigerians in condemning the kidnap of 15 school children in Aba, Abia State, by hoodlums who are demanding the sum of N20million as ransom.
The President who described it as “utterly callous and cruel,”directed the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, and heads of other security agencies to arrest the perpetrators.
Vanguard learnt that the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, in reaction to the directive, has ordered a massive deployment of policemen in Abia and other high risk states in the South East to check incidence of kidnapping as well as locate whereabouts of the children and rescue them.
A statement by Presidential spokesman, Mr Ima Niboro, said: “President Jonathan has ordered the Inspector-General of Police and heads of other security agencies to take all necessary steps to rescue the abducted children and return them safely to their parents.
“The President urges the parents and relatives of the children to remain calm and assures them that government will do everything possible to apprehend the kidnappers and bring closure to these ugly incidents as soon as possible.”
National Chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, in a statement by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, described the kidnap as callous and unacceptable.
Nwodo said the action of the hijackers of the nursery and primary school children was wicked, adding that “relevant security agencies to fish them out and save the children, their families and the nation the trauma.”
He said the issue of kidnapping in the South East, especially Abia, has become a huge embarrassment to the nation and should be condemned by all reasonablepersons.
The Inspector General of Police, Ringim, however, told Vanguard in Abuja, yesterday: “We have seen the report that a bus containing school children was hijacked and the children were kidnapped on Monday. But if you go to Aba, you will see a recent development. The massive deployment of Policemen which we have done, the Anti_terrorist squad, inclusive.
“In fact, the anti_terrorist squad was never deployed for operational duties as such but because of the circumstances, we have deployed them there. This issue of kidnapping has been on for a long time. There is nothing anybody can do to turn the situation around within one or two or three days.
“We are doing the best we can. With the training and leadership capabilities that we have, we will make sure that this situation is remedied. The assurance I can give you and the nation is that we have enough capable and competent manpower to do the job and we are deploying them in the shortest possible time and very soon, the situation will be turned around.”
The United Nations Education Fund, UNICEF, also condemned the kidnap of the school children describing it as craven
A statement by the UNICEF and signed by its Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Suomi Sakai noted that under no circumstances should children be the target of violence in any country.
Sakai said: “Under no circumstances should children be the target of violence and kidnapping children for financial gain is simply heinous. The Children’s Fund, which advocates everywhere for the inviolability of schools, hopes the law enforcement agencies will be able to find and bring the children to safety quickly.
“In all its work, UNICEF stresses the need for families, communities and civil society to work in partnership to protect the rights and well being of children.
Communities in which children are safe and well, are communities in which everyone is safe”.
It could be recalled that the 15 children were said to be kidnaped Monday by gunmen while they were being conveyed to school. According to reports, the pupils were all pupils of Abayi International School in Aba.
South East Senators
In their reaction senators from the South-East, led by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu lamented that kidnapping, instead of abating has taken a new dimension in the East.
Senator Ekweremadu called on government to intensify its efforts in tackling the menace of kidnapping stressing that the society is heading towards lawlessness if no pragmatic step is taken to tackle kidnapping.
Network on Police Reform
Meanwhile, Network on Police Reform in Nigeria, NOPRIN, has called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency on Abia State, saying Monday’s kidnap of about 15 school was a confirmation of the total breakdown of law and order in the state.
NOPRIN in a statement by its Programme Coordinator, Mr. Okechukwu Nwanguma,said: “NOPRIN is alarmed at the dimension that kidnapping and other violent crimes have taken in Abia State. Clearly, the police and other security forces have, not just lost control, but have themselves become targets of unrelenting attacks by the hoodlums they are expected to checkmate.
“This is illustrated by daily reports about police officers being gunned down by hoodlums in Aba. For example, on or about September 18, 2010 two policemen were reported to have been shot dead by unknown gunmen at Umuafor Ukwu in Obingwa local government area, the same area where four journalists and their driver were kidnapped on July 11, 2010.