Evans arrest delays studentsâ€™ release
Gboyega Akinsanmi and Chiemelie Ezeobi
The Nigeria Police on MondayÂ assured the parents of the kidnapped students of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla-Epe that all hands â€œare on deck to ensure the safe return of their wards.â€
The Assistant Inspector-General (AIG) in charge of Lagos and Ogun States, Mr. Adamu Ibrahim, gave the assurance after a meeting with the state Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, at the State House, Alausa.
At a session with the State House correspondents, Ibrahim said all hands â€œare on deck to ensure the safe return of their wards. Security agencies were working tirelessly to ensure the return of the students and reunite them with their families.
â€œIn fact very soon, you will hear good news on the issue. We are working seriously on it. At this stage, I will not want to disclose too much because these are security issues but all I want to say is that people should give us a chance because very soon, they will hear good news.â€
He warned that the police in Lagos and Ogun States Commands â€œare battle ready and have been alerted to make the zone too hot for criminal elements to carry out their nefarious activities.
He added that the police would build on the success of the arrest of the notorious kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike otherwise known as Evans, and hunt down other criminal elements.
He said security measures â€œare not discussed publicly. What I will tell you is that we are taking all necessary measures to ensure that Lagos is free of crime and criminals. We will rid all these criminals out of this zone.
â€œSo, I will like to send a word to criminals to leave Zone 2 otherwise we will not relent until the zone is completely rid of all these criminals.
â€œYou are aware Evans has already been arrested. He is the most wanted criminal who is into kidnapping. Others too, if they do not leave this zone, they will also be arrested,â€ Ibrahim vowed.
The police chief, therefore, commended the state government especially Ambode for efforts at improving the security architecture in the state, noting that the state â€œis doing perfectly well in assisting security agencies to do their work in the state and we must commend their efforts.â€
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that the recent arrest and parade of the three kidnap suspects has been blamed for the continued hostage of the six students who were abducted from the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe, by heavily armed men 26 days ago.
For the parents and management of the school, as each day goes by, so does their hope of the release of the boys wane, given the recent preference given to the arrest of notorious kidnapper, Chukwudumeje Onwumadike, alias Evans.
Except for the case of the abducted schoolgirls of Chibok Secondary School, Borno State, this is the longest duration abducted school children will remain in captivity in Nigeria.
When the school boys were abducted on May 25, 2017, from their school premises, there were every indication that they would soon be rescued.
Given the joint collaboration between the Lagos State Police Command, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and the military, every move initially signalled the end of the continued hostage of the boys.
Although the kidnappers had initially demanded for N400million ransom, they later reduced it to N50million for the six students, of which the parents rallied round and raised N10million.
As at that point, the parents who were anxiously awaiting the return of their sons, got the shock of their lives when the abductors sent a text message to one of the parents, threatening to kill the children if the balance was not paid.
The parents were still negotiating with the kidnappers to reduce the ransom when the police headquarters deployed the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT) led by ACP Abba Kyari, to assist in the rescue.
The deployment of IRT however brought the move for the rescue of the boys to a screeching halt as the arrest of three suspects in Edo State and the subsequent disclosure of their arrest by IRT sent others deeper into the creeks.
While investigating the case, the Kyari-led IRT had got intelligence on the whereabouts of the suspects behind the abduction of the boys and they quickly moved in.
The suspects identified as 25-year-old Egelu Endurance alias Jubby, 25-year-old Stanley Yomi Irabomini (Powei) and 24-year-old Bentel Endurance, all from Ovia South Local Government Area of Edo State, were arrested in Benin City.
The suspects had left the creeks and were heading to Edo State to visit a gang member, who was injured during a gun battle with security forces, when they were nabbed.
After interrogating the three suspects, the IRT had gotten concrete proof of the whereabouts of the boys and were supposed to have swung into action to storm the site.
However, on May 31, statement of the arrest of the gang detailing their connection to the other gangs who abducted the students, was made available to the media.
With that information in public domain, the gang knowing that their arrested gang members had spilled the bean, made moves to relocate their camp to another site.
So when the police team stormed the site, it was gathered that the gang had already relocated the students through a new route in the creeks between the border of Lagos and Ogun States.
Although the policemen comprising those from the state police command, Police Marine Unit and the IRT stormed the camp and engaged some of the kidnappers at the camp in a gun duel, others had already moved the students to another location.
Through intelligence and technological efforts, it was later gathered that the abductors had moved the students to Efire creek at Lagos/Ogun boundary.
Attempts to however pinpoint the exact location proved abortive as the kidnappers had already switched off their phone numbers, thus remaining incommunicado.
As at last week, the gang who got antsy, were said to have moved again to another location at Ondo creeks, thus making it the second time they were being relocated.
Meanwhile, the attention of the IRT has seemingly moved from the rescue of the boys to unravelling the notorious kidnapper, Evans, whom they are currently gathering evidence to prosecute.
One of the aggrieved parents who spoke on anonymity said although the arrest of the three suspects in Edo were laudable, the move to disclose the arrest to the media was a mistake that should never have happened.
According to the parent, since then, the kidnappers have remained incommunicado, leaving all the affected parents in a hopeless state, as the phone number used to initially contact them has been switched off.
He said, â€œWe were making headway even though we had not raised the bulk of the money they asked as ransom. But at least, we had a channel of communication open between us.
â€œIt is shocking that the same police who should be at the forefront of the rescue of our children, will be the same ones to jeopardise our case.
â€œHow can they in the middle of an investigation reveal that they arrested some members of the gang. What were they hoping to achieve? Were they expecting the gang to remain in their hideout given the arrest of some of their members?
â€œWe were still writhing with agony on the fatal blow the police dealt us when they arrested Evans. Since then, itâ€™s been one news on Evans to another. No one talks about our sons again.â€
Meanwhile, it was gathered that one of the students was terribly sick and was taken out of the camp for treatment, but as at yesterday, they had brought him back.
However, a police source who spoke on anonymity said the police was not resting on its oars in the rescue of the boys, despite the seeming deviation of interest to Evans.
He said the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris, has already directed the state command to intensify efforts to rescue the students, adding that a bounty has been placed on the head of the gangâ€™s kingpin simply identified as â€˜Americanaâ€™.
In addition, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG) in charge of Zone 2, Adamu Ibrahim, yesterday assured the public especially parents that all hands are on deck to ensure the safe return of their wards.
After a meeting with Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, the AIG said security agencies are working tirelessly to ensure the return of the students and reunite them with their families.