By Ifeanyi Okolie
MORE revelations emerged, yester day, that the kidnappers who abducted six students of the Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Epe, in May 2017, may have wanted to use them as a bait to secure pipeline and waterways security contracts from the Federal Government. The kidnappers were also said to have intended to use the abducted students to pressure Lagos State government to release most of their gang members who were arrested for bank robberies and other high profile kidnappings across the state.
The students, Pelumi Philips, Farouq Yusuf, Isiaq Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi and Peter Jonah, regained freedom last Friday, after spending 65 days in captivity, though N31million was allegedly paid to the kidnappers. But security sources disclosed that the kidnappers were insistent on not releasing the students until all their demands were met by both the Federal and Lagos State governments.
A security source who spoke with Vanguard on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the students would have remained in captivity had the Police not ambushed and killed the leader of the kidnap gang, known as America, on July 18, 2017. America was killed when he led members of his gang on an attack mission to Elemoro Marine Post, close to Epe, Lagos.
It was also learned that subsequent arrest of relatives of key members of the gang in an operation coordinated by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, Edgal Imohimi, at the Lagos State Police Command and their Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team, IRT, counterparts, put pressures on the gang to release the students.
A source explained that the plan to kidnap some students by the gang, which has terrorized Lagos and Ogun states for a long time, coordinating several high profile bank robberies and killings within riverine communities, was hatched in April 2017, a few weeks before the death of its overall leader, known as Ossy Ibori. Ibori was gunned down during an exchange of gunfire with the military at Ajapa area of Ondo State.
Vanguard gathered that the gang’s initial plan was to carry out a second round of kidnappings at the Nigeria Turkish International School, Isheri, Ogun State, which they attacked in January 2017, and abduct eight students and two staff and, thereafter collected a ransom of N50 million. The police in Lagos State were said to have got wind of the plot and mounted heavy security presence around the school premises, prompting the kidnappers to look elsewhere.
The source added that after the six students were kidnapped in their school in Epe and police attempts to rescue the students failed, Lagos State government was compelled to call in the deputy governors of Ondo and Delta states to negotiate with the kidnappers who are mainly Ijaw natives of Ondo State. The kidnappers were said to have reduced their demands from N400 million to N100 million and also asked Lagos State government to grant amnesty to their gang members in prison and police custody in the state.
Deputy governors intervention
The source explained: “At the beginning, the kidnappers were the ones deciding how the negotiations will go and they reduced their demands from N400million to N100 million when Ondo and Delta states’ deputy governors intervened and they wanted us to release people like millions who took part in several high profile kidnappings, killings and bank robberies across the Lagos State.
“They also told the Federal Government that they wanted to be included in the amnesty programme and be awarded pipeline and waterways security contracts. On June 9, 2017, they got N10million as ransom and the ransom was paid to them at Pelepe water side, Ibiade area, in Ogun State. They had promised to release the students before the money was given to them and when they took hold of the money, they demanded for more money and the release of their comrades in custody. On July 2, 2017, another N20 million was also paid to them at Imakun Forest in Ogun State.
“At this time, the students had spent over 32 days in captivity. After that payment, they told the deputy governors that they should be given 10 days to prepare for the lease of the students and that the sum of N1.5million should be sent to them as transport money.