The three rescued girls and the school Principal, Venerable Ola Oluwa Adeyemi, leaving the school premises after their rescue

Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that after six days in captivity, the three female students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary were rescued and six of the suspects arrested, making it the perfect Mother’s Day gift

Save for providence and intelligence driven policing, they would have spent the recently held Mother’s Day celebration in gloom and despair as their three children were held captive in the clutches of a 12-man dare-devil kidnap syndicate in the heart of the creeks.

The three girls, Olusa Oluwatimilehin, Popo-Olaniyan Tofunmi and Akinayo Deborah, were abducted by the gang on Monday night, February 29, and were held in captivity for six days.

In fact, when other mother’s were preparing to celebrate Mother’s Day, the trio of Akinayo, Popo-Olaniyan and Olusa were heartbroken. Against hopes their three teenage daughters were still held against their will.

But all that was to change on Sunday, March 6, 2016, by 9.44am, six days after the three female students were abducted from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary (BMJS), Ikorodu, by a 12-man gang, they were finally rescued and returned to the warm embrace of their parents on Sunday morning.

A Joyful Reunion
Expectedly, the three girls and their parents are in high spirits as they were reunited by the Lagos Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni. It was a joyful reunion at the Anglican Church inside the college when the girls and their mothers reunited. One of the mothers, identified as Mrs. Akinayo could not hold back her tears as she gazed at her daughter unbelievingly.

The girls who were all dressed in white gowns, were taken in front of the congregation whilst the entire church went agog, thanking God for showing mercy on the girls. When THISDAY visited the school at about 10.34am, parents and residents were seen in clusters, some dancing, basking in the euphoria of the rescue.

Attempts to access the church inside the school where the girls were during the church service, proved abortive, as one of the prelates stopped THISDAY in front of the administrative office of the school. Stressing that the reporter wasn’t a member of their church, the elderly man insisted that the principal would address the press at the end of the sermon. The school security’s guard later came to escort the reporter outside, allegedly on the instructions of the police and school authorities.

Whilst heading back to the state police command for the parade of the suspects, this reporter was opportuned to see the girls in high spirits. In a convoy of seven cars led by a police patrol team and followed closely by their respective parents in their individual cars, the girls were seated in the middle of a white bus belonging to the Anglican Communion. The girls were seen laughing and discussing amongst themselves as they were sped away quickly to an unknown destination, as THISDAY lost the convoy in a traffic snarl at Ikorodu roundabout.

How They Were Abducted
It would be recalled that the students of BMJS were busy in the classroom that night doing their night prep in preparation for the text scheduled on Tuesday. At about 8pm, some armed men suspected to be dislodged pipeline vandals from the Isawo area of Ikorodu, had stormed the school premises located at Agunfoye-Lugbusi village, gained entry by breaking the perimeter fence and successfully took the girls. Numbering about 12, the heavily armed men stormed the school with automatic rifles and AK47 and accessing the school through the perimeter fence, they stormed the classroom and picked the three students without any resistance.

How They Were Rescued
On how the girls were rescued and released, the state Commissioner of Police, Owoseni, said Arigidi was arrested from Adama Creeks after he had came out to buy food. He said they had earlier infiltrated the gang and mopped up their parents in a bid to force the hand of the kidnappers, adding that one family had two of their sons in the gang.

After Arigidi was arrested, one of the fathers of the two other gang members, who are still at large, was called in to speak with him and he gave them directions to the creeks. When he got to the creeks, the septuagenarian was said to have appealed to their baser nature, while informing them that the police have arrested one of their gang members.

He also told them that if they don’t release the girls, that the police had stationed their helicopters for aerial bombardment. Seeing no other way out, the suspects quickly took the girls to Igbo-Okuta Bridge, Imota, dropped them there and called in anonymously before they fled from their hideout.

Owoseni, who slept at the area that night, quickly stormed the bridge and carted the girls away to safety and reunited them with their parents. He said they were found at Igbo-Okuta, a suburb of Ikorodu area, after the pressure they put on the gang yielded results.

He also said the command was able to arrest two other members of the gang, simply identified as Henry and Seun, whose duty was to register the different SIM cards used to negotiate with the families. Owoseni said despite the fact that the gang has fled, efforts are ongoing to mop them all up and get them face the wrath of the law. This is just as he said the command has decided to release their respective parents and siblings who were held in police custody, to force them release the girls.

A few days later, the police had another breakthrough as the detectives attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Lagos Police Command arrested another three suspects from the armed gang that kidnapped the three female students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu. The arrest of the three suspects brings to six the numbers that have been arrested since the girls were rescued.

A police source said that the three men were arrested from their different hotel rooms where they were hiding.
“We tracked them through the mobile network providers and they have confessed to being the ones cooking for the girls and ensuring that they did not escape when they were in captivity.

“They further told us that they fed the girls with noodles, and that they had attempted to kidnap the students two previous times but they only succeeded in their third attempt,” the source disclosed.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the girls because the gang had first demanded for N100 million each as ransom for the release of the girls. Two days later, they reduced the ransom to N20 million each and as it Thursday, the amount was further reduced to N10 million despite the presentation of N1million from the student’s parents.

Owoseni, who disclosed that the girls were rescued around Imota in Ikorodu, declined to disclose further details in order not to jeopardise ongoing investigation. He said, “With respect to the state of the girls, they are very well and they are stable. I can confirm that immediate medical attention just to test them up has been given to them by the police medical team and I can as well tell you that as we picked them up, one of the questions we asked the girls was whether they were molested in any way and the three of them stated unequivocally that they were not molested in any way.”

When asked if ransom was paid, Owoseni said nothing of such happened as police deployed intelligence-led policing using the platform of technology and partnering with members of the community to put pressures on the kidnappers to secure the release of the girls.

He added, “When you talk about ransom in cases like this, you are glorifying kidnapping. We should not be talking about ransom anymore in this country because if you do, you are telling others that kidnapping is viable and you can be going and kidnapping people to collect money.

“But I want to also say that what was employed in rescuing the girls is more of application of intelligence-led policing using the platform of technology, partnering with members of the community and mounting pressure on the kidnappers because what we have done with other security agencies is that we also went for members of their families including their mothers, their fathers, their children and with that pressure they found out that there was no way again for them to keep on keeping the girls and that was what led to the success we recorded in rescuing the girls.”
He assured residents that Lagos remains safe and secured saying that the state government and security agencies have the capacity to pursue any criminal who dare at all to come and disturb the peace or to commit crime in the state.

The Kingpin’s Confession
But for the arrest of the kingpin, the reunion of the girls would not have happened. The police were able to arrest first three members of the armed gang and later additional three, including the kingpin, 37-year-old Emmanuel Arigidi, who in an exclusive interview with THISDAY divulged their modus operandi, even as he swore that they did not rape, touch or beat the girls.

The native doctor turned kidnapper with a previous stint in armed robbery, also confessed to the role he played in last year’s robbery of First and Zenith Banks in Igokoda area of Ikorodu. Arigidi, who admitted that he was the one that sailed the robbers in their get-away boats, said he made N100,000 from that particular deal. Speaking on his role in the Ikorodu kidnap, the unmarried father of one said they were contacted by one Lami Ami, for the job with the promise that they would rake in money.

He said they had first attacked the school two months ago and were able to abduct one of the female students, but she was able to escape to safety. Going back to the drawing board, he said they restrategised and this time came back with more men, who were detailed on their specific duties.

He identified the entire gang including Felix aka Tradition (the contact man), Lami Ami (the informant), Abokin, Ekpokeme aka Ekpos, Gift aka Bayelsa, Prieye, Owe and Godfrey. Having mapped out their plan, they struck this school this time with seven canoes, using the Adamo Creek as a get-away.

This was contrary to earlier media reports that the gang had stormed the school in seven Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs). He also told THISDAY that they attacked the school after they parked their seven canoes at the edge of Adama Creeks. He said they escaped from the school using the canoes since the water was too shallow for their boats to ply on.

He said, “We entered the school from the back fence and we carried off the girls. We did not wear any masks or charms. Some of us were inside the school while others were outside waiting for further instructions. When those that went inside brought the girls, they passed them to us outside and we bundled them to the canoe and left for the creeks. It was Felix who bought another set of clothes (jeans and tops) for the girls to change into after they got to the creek. We fed them well too.

Asked on why they targeted and abducted the girls he said he could not readily explain, adding that while the girls were in their custody, they were not harmed. The suspect, who was arrested by the Officer-in-Charge of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (SIRT), CSP Abba Kyari and his team, was later taken to the Lagos State Police Command.

Ambode’s Promise Kept
In the days after the abduction, the governor had sworn that the girls would be rescued unhurt and that was exactly what happened. Therefore, it was only fitting that after they were arrested, the suspects were taken to the Lagos State Government House at Alausa, were Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and his entourage were waiting. While addressing the press, Ambode said the state government was extremely pleased to announce that the three students were rescued successfully by security forces.

He said, “The Lagos State Police Command, the Department of State Security and members of the Armed Forces worked tirelessly round the clock in the last six days to secure the release of the children. I thank them for a good job. The three girls have been safely re-united with their families and the Government wishes to assure Lagosians that their security is top priority and it will not relent in ensuring that Lagos remains safe and secure. I am reliably informed that one of the suspected kidnappers – one Emmanuel Arigidi was arrested during the operation to secure the release of the abducted children.

“Let me warn that the State Government will not tolerate kidnapping or any forms of crime in the State. Our position is clear and unambiguous, Lagos State has the capacity and the will to go after every form of crime and criminality in order to safeguard lives and property in the state. As our daughters are re-united with their mothers and other members of their families, I would like to seize this opportunity to wish all mothers in Lagos State and Nigeria at large a happy Mother’s Day.”

Kyari’s Charm
The question keeps resounding; what makes the Officer-in-Charge of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (SIRT), Abba Kyari, an Chief Superintendent of Police, thick? While some would project luck as the answer, those in the know would however want us to know that his nose for crime, sharp radar against criminals and most importantly, commanding the loyalty of his men, who would willingly die for him.

While he held sway at the helm of affairs of the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos State Police Command, criminals knew better than to cross his part. That mystique and subsequent successes have continued to trail him even as the officer in charge of the SIRT.

As usual, Kyari being instrumental in the rescue of so many high profile kidnap cases, including that of the kidnapped three kids of the Orekoya’s. He has also solved cases like the Lekki, Ikorodu, Festac and Agbara bank robberies, thus begging the question on what the police command intends to do with this intelligence driven CSP and his team.

It was therefore not a surprise when Kyari was called in by the IG to fast track the release of the girls.
Thus, the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase had on Thursday deployed the Special Intelligence Response Team (SIRT) to compliment the efforts of the Lagos State Command. Three days after their deployment, they nabbed the kingpin, which led to the rescue of the girls. Thus again confirming Kyari’s mystique as a crimebuster.

BBOG Calls for Prosecution
In the same vein, the Bring Back Our Girls Group, (BBOG) has called for the prosecution of the suspects. Earlier, chief champion of the group, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, said the failure of our institutions led to the abduction of the Chibok and Ikorodu girls.

In a series of tweets Ezekwesili had said, “The fact that we do not have credible Intel on the whereabouts of our Chibok girls suggests deeper problems. Had our institutions been stronger, our Chibok girls and now Ikorodu girls would not have been abducted.”

After the rescue, the group made this demand in a a press statement titled ‘Girls education under attack: The time for decisive action is now’ signed by its leaders, Ezekwesili, Aisha Yesufu, and Hadiza Bala Usman.

Anglican Prelature’s Heart of Gratitude
With a heart full of thanks, the Anglican Prelature led by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, and the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, recently commended the Lagos State Government and the state Police Command for spearheading the safe rescue of the three female students.

Okoh who led Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos Mainland Diocese, Most Rev. Adebayo Akinde and other bishops to commend the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Owoseni, said the rescue of the girls cannot be complete without the laudable efforts of the police command.

He said, “It was a most traumatic moment and sad for us as proprietors. Today, we are thanking God for his intervention that a most unfortunate and traumatic event ended on a joyous note. All three pupils are now safe in the custody of their parents, they have been reunited. You acted and responded. Your response was prompt, your response was positive, your response was practical.

“We feel very happy that our school have not been stigmatised. The police delivered a resounding result in less than one week. We the church of Nigeria feel elated and encouraged by the promptness of the police. We felt that it is not only when we have complaints we should visit. When you do well, we should appreciate. The parents of the school children were encouraged that we have a caring police.”

In his response, Owoseni said, “I must say that we feel highly humbled. The job is not complete yet, we have just started. We require your prayers to surmount challenges. God has helped us to rescue the girls, but we still need to get other suspects at large.

“With this lessons we have learnt, we would commence enlightenment campaign on school security. We have put structures in place in that school and we would continue to maintain presence in all schools in Lagos.”