Kidnapped school kids: Police, militants in shootout in Ogun creeks
MANY militants were feared killed on Friday with some policemen reportedly injured when marine policemen attached to the Lagos State police command clashed with suspected militants along the Ode-Omi waterways of Ogun State.
The clash occurred during an attempt by the security operatives to rescue students and their principal who were abducted on Thursday from Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Epe, by suspected militants.
The chairman of Ogun Waterside East Local Council, Alhaji Musa Olabode, informed Saturday Tribune that the marine policemen had on Friday morning arrived at a location between Idaleketa and Agbami-Ode in two speedboats in a bid to rescue the kidnapped students.
He said a resistance by the suspected militants who opened fire on the police team caused the security operatives to respond in kind. Many residents of Ode-Omi town scampered for safety as the gunfire ensued,” he added.
“When the police arrived from Lagos this morning, we saw them moving in-between Idaleketa creek and Agbami-Ode. Suddenly, there was an exchange of gunfire. Many of the militants were believed to have been killed.
“But this evening, we saw the police with two of the suspected militants. We were told that two of the militants’ speedboats were sunk while one escaped.
“One of the policemen was killed while others are injured. The police informed us that many of the militants are dead and their corpses are inside the river.
“The students are yet to be rescued because we suspect they have been camped on an island called Igbeyin. The militants, sensing that the police were coming to their hideout there, confronted them in-between Agbami-Ode and Idaleketa.
“The police have called for reinforcement and fighting is still ongoing. One of the militants’ speedboats fled with holes from gunshots while two were sunk. We expect the fighting to continue into the night,” Alhaji Olabode said.
When Saturday Tribune visited the school where the students were abducted, on Friday afternoon, it was learnt that the anxious parents were yet to be contacted by the abductors, even as the police in the state have deployed a helicopter and boats for the search of the abducted students.
Saturday Tribune gathered that some parents have threatened not to bring their children back to the school after the mid-term break until a solution has been found to the security problem in the school.
Almost all the students had gone home, while an RRS helicopter was seen hovering over the school.
One of the parents, speaking with one of her relatives, said that she overheard some of the other parents saying that they would want the government to fortify the school before returning their children to the school.
A relative of one of the abducted students told Saturday Tribune that “we have not received any information from them (the abductors). We are still expecting their call. We have spoken with other parents and they said that they have not been contacted too. We are still waiting for them.”
Meanwhile, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has assured parents of the abducted students that their children would be rescued soon.
Idris, at the closing ceremony of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) Mentorship Training Course organised for the EOD personnel by the United States Embassy in Ikeja, Lagos, said the police would ensure the rescue of the students as soon as possible.
The police chief, represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operation, Joshak Habila, gave the assurance that the police were on top of the situation.
“We are on top of the situation. Crime is bound to happen and when it happens, what we should concern ourselves with is how to solve the problem and that is what we are doing.
“We are not joking. You know that we are very serious when it comes to the issue of crime fighting, especially kidnapping. It is on record that we have cracked high-profile kidnappings and arrested the kidnappers.
“This one is not a different case. We are working round the clock and synergising with sister agencies on how to rescue the children and arrest those behind the dastardly act,” Idris said.
“As you all know, police can’t be everywhere at the same time. Keeping the police permanently in a secondary school is not even the best as it will affect the psychology of the students.
“The school is surrounded by water and we have fishermen fishing in the water. They will see strange faces coming with speedboats and they will keep quiet. The villagers will see strange people in their land and they will not call the police,” he lamented.
He appealed to the members of the public to embrace community policing and provide adequate information to the police, saying “that is the only way we can fight the kidnappers to a standstill. If you see something, say something.”
The IGP appealed to the school authorities and parents of the abducted kids to remain calm as the police would rescue the children and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The Lagos State deputy governor, Dr Idiat Adebule, also on Friday, assured parents of the kidnapped students that efforts have been initiated by the state government to ensure that their children are returned to them safely.
Adebule, who had gone directly to the school on arrival from an official assignment in Abuja, said the governor had directed all security operatives to step up action on rescuing the students.
“We are on top of the situation and the governor has directed all security operatives to step up action on rescuing the students, details of which l cannot disclose in order not to undermine their operation,” she stated.
Adebule, in an emotion-laden voice, urged parents of the affected children to be calm as the government would stop at nothing to ensure their safe return.
The deputy governor commended the management of the school for being proactive in mobilising security operatives who engaged the gunmen before they escaped and urged residents of the area and environs to support the government in its efforts to beef up security around the school.