- Three in coma
- Â Kidnappers demand N400m ransom
- Ambode vows to rescue victims
Abimbola Akosile and Chiemelie Ezeobio
No fewer than eight policemen were saturday shot, with three in coma and five others in critical condition, after a gun duel with the kidnappers of the six students of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe.
This is just as the gang has demanded for N400 million for the release of the students who were identified as Peter Jonah, Isiaq Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips and Farouq Yusuf.
The policemen who were injured were among those who had engaged the militants in a gun duel yesterday. THISDAY learnt that the policemen, who were on routine patrol, were said to have stumbled into the kidnappers and a gun duel ensued, at the end of which nine policemen were shot and 14 militants reportedly died.
It was gathered that the eight policemen who were seriously wounded have since been taken to a hospital (name with-held) for treatment after the gun duel at Ode Omi waterway in Ogun state.
A police source, who spoke on anonymity said, â€œPolicemen from the marine wing and other arms of the force were on the trail of the kidnappers, when the gun battle ensued. Our men were on a rescue mission when the militants sighted them; opened fire on them, and a serious gun duel ensued.
â€œThe militants, who were over 50, engaged the policemen in a serious duel which lasted four to six hours on the waterways. At the end, over 14 militants were killed but eight policemen were injured and three of them are still in coma now and they are being treated at a police facility.
â€œAlready, police will liaise with the navy on mop up exercise. We canâ€™t just begin to pick dead bodies in the creek, there will be a mop up, but we must be accompanied by the navyâ€, the source added.
Meanwhile, the gunmen, who stormed the school on Thursday morning and whisked the pupils away, established contacts with their families around 4:30pm yesterday.
According to some of the parents of the kidnapped pupils, they were allowed to speak with their children, adding that the kidnappers told them to tell the school authority and government to provide the money. The parents who spoke separately, appealed to the kidnappers to release the pupils on compassionate grounds.
One of the parents who spoke on condition of anonymity said: â€œThey called me around 4pm. They called the name of my son and asked if I knew him. I said yes and they gave him the phone to speak with me.
â€œAs we were talking, they took the phone and told me to go to the government and school authorities and tell them to provide N400 million before they would release the children. The call did not last long.
â€œI called other parents whose children were taken and they also confirmed they were contacted by the kidnappers. We are appealing to them to release the children on compassionate grounds. If they have issues with the school management or the government, they can look for another way to address it. They should pity us, the parents and release our children.
â€œI have not been able to sleep since Thursday. My wife has not stopped crying either. They should please have mercy on us,â€ the parent said.
However, the Lagos state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has vowed to rescue the kidnapped pupils unhurt and restore them back to their educational process and their families.
The governor, yesterday, reassured Lagosians that the State government would do everything possible to ensure that six pupils who were kidnapped at Igbonla are rescued unhurt and reunited with their parents.
Ambode, who gave the assurance at this yearâ€™s Children Day celebration held at the Agege Stadium, said the celebration would not be complete without rescuing those innocent pupils safely and bringing them back to school to continue their education.
He said top security arrangement was on course to guarantee their safety, pledging that his government would stop at nothing to ensure that kidnapping and other criminal activities are put to an end in schools.
Represented by his deputy, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, Ambode said his administration was committed to protecting children in the state from any form of abuse, child labour or molestation by religiously implementing the Child Right Law and the Executive Order on Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy, adding that â€œit was important to protect our children today, so that they can protect us tomorrow.â€
The governor, who said this yearâ€™s Childrenâ€™s Day celebration was a unique one as the state is equally celebrating the 50th year anniversary of its creation, called on the children to remain focused, believe in themselves and set target that would make them attain greatness in life, promising that his government will continue to create opportunities and implement policies that would help them to become the best of what they can without any barriers.
â€œAs we celebrate this yearâ€™s childrenâ€™s Day and the 50th anniversary of our state, I want you to believe that you too can achieve greatness. You must believe in yourself and in your dreams. Very soon, it will be your responsibility to take Lagos state to the level that we all desired in the next 50 years. You are agents of change and I urge you, do not just go through life, make a difference, impact life and affect your community , What we are doing today is to lay a solid foundation for you to build on,â€ he said.
The governor while reaffirming his administrationâ€™s commitment to reposition public schools to meet world class standard, said his administration in the last two years had invested heavily in infrastructural and manpower development in public schools, an effort which, according to him, is yielding positive results as it has restored confidence in public schools.
â€œAs a government, we recognise our responsibility to create opportunities for you to become the best you can be without any barrier, this is why in the last two years, we have invested massively in the infrastructural and manpower development in our public schools. Our plan which is being realised is to restore public confidence in our public schools,â€™â€™ he said.
Earlier in his welcome address, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Adeshina Odeyemi, noted that the education sector has undergone tremendous transformations since the creation of the state, adding that the number of secondary schools had increased from 55 at the creation of the state in 1967 with a total students population of 19,538 to 679 public secondary schools at present with over 564,758 students population.
Odeyemi noted that in spite of the current global melt down and general economic recession in the country, Lagos State government has continued to run free education policy from primary to secondary schools level and pay for the WAEC fees of its graduating students till date
The Permanent Secretary who noted that the allocation of a huge sum of N205.8 billion to the education sector in the year 2016 and 2017 budget was a confirmation of governmentâ€˜s genuine commitment to the development of education in the state.
The highlight of the occasion was the cutting of the Childrenâ€™s day cake by the Deputy Governor with other members of the State Executive Council.