By Lucy Osuizigbo
Parents of the six kidnapped students of the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe, were hugely relieved reuniting with them, after more than two months of anxiety.
The reunion came exactly 65 days after the students were captured from their school by armed abductors, 20 of whom were killed in a gun duel with the police on Friday, in the creeks of Ondo State.
The freed boys are Peter Jonah, Isiaka Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips and Farouq Yusuf.
Mr Moruf Ramon, whose 19-year-old son, Isiaka, was among the rescued students commended the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Police for their efforts.
“’I am so happy with what is happening today and I want to appreciate the Lagos State Government and the Commissioner of Police for all they have done to secure the release of our children.
“’I have been the one talking with the kidnappers all the time and the police were always with us to get information that could help to facilitate the rescue operations.
“We pray that this kind of incident will not occur again in Lagos State or even Nigeria as a whole,’’ he said.
Mrs Beatrice Jonah, said it had been a traumatic experience for her family.
According to her, the experience is very difficult to describe as it is better imagined than experienced.
“When I spoke to my son after the abduction, I was weeping because I was afraid for his life.
“To me it has been 65 days of trauma but we thank God he is back safely,’’ she said.
The Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, who received the students on behalf of Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode, commended the efforts of the security agencies and the intervention of the Federal Government.
“We commend the efforts of the Nigerian Police, particularly, the Lagos Command and other security agencies for their efforts in ensuring the safe return of these children.
“We commend the Ondo State Governor and his deputy for their support and collaboration toward the rescue operation.
“We appreciate the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for his invaluable intervention in ensuring that we have these children brought back to us,’’ she said.
Adebule said that debriefing and comprehensive medical checks would be carried out on the students to help them get over the experience.
“’Now that the children are back, the government will commence a comprehensive checkup on these children — physically, mentally and psychologically. This is very necessary.
“And in debriefing them, we will be involving other stakeholders, including their parents to ensure that it is effective.
“’We appreciate that 64 days was a long time to get these children back but it was in the interest of their safety,’’ she said.
“’As a government, we will continue to work diligently to ensure the security of lives and property in the state. It is a must for us to deliver on the issue of security.
“As for security in our schools, we are working and putting all necessary measures in place before the resumption of schools for the next session,’’ she said.
Adebule also commended the parents and families of the students for their confidence in the state government.
Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, who accompanied the students to Lagos with his Deputy, Mr Alfred Agboola, said the Igbonla Kidnap was a major issue at the National Executive Council meeting in Abuja in June.
Akeredolu said it was also an issue at the South-West Governors’ meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun, where Ambode said there was the need for an increased joint security patrol of the riverine areas.
“’We must appreciate the role of the Acting President in this matter because he was the first person that contacted us in Ondo last month. Gov. Ambode was also in touch all the time.
“We promised them that we will make efforts, but then we did not believe that these children could be in the creeks of Ondo.
“’My Deputy, however, waded into the matter because he is from the creeks.
“In collaboration with the Delta Government, the Navy, Army and Marine Police, we did all that was humanly possible to secure the release of the students,’’ he said.
Akeredolu pledged to ensure increased security in his state in collaboration with others that shared borders with Ondo.
“Ondo State has Zero tolerance for crime. You cannot use our creeks as safe haven for crimes anymore,’’ he warned.
The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, commended the South-West government for their joint efforts and support in ensuring the rescue of the students.
“’This is one operation that will send fear to criminals as they will know that our governments in the South-West are committed to security and there will be no place for criminals in the region.
“’During the course of the operation, 20 of the kidnappers, including the leader of that kidnap, Bright Adeniyi, were killed when they ambushed the operatives of the marine police and civilian volunteers.
“We lost a civilian volunteer, while four were wounded. Eight policemen were also injured and all these people are receiving medical treatment under the care of the state government.
“So far, we have arrested one suspect who has been swindling the parents of the children.
He was arrested in Abeokuta when he asked the parents to drop some money. I’m sure others will be arrested soon and they will face the full wrath of the law,’’ he said.
Owoseni promised that the police would not relent in its efforts to secure and protect the lives of citizens.
The rescued pupils of Lagos-State Model College, Igbonla, Epe with their parents at the news conference on their freedom in Lagos on Friday… July 28