Reps raise 10-member panel over Lagos schoolgirls’ abduction

Akinwunmi-Ambode

The House of Representatives on Wednesday asked the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to urgently deploy his men to rescue the three girls, who were abducted from the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos State, on Monday night.

The news of the abduction of the girls broke on Tuesday just as Ese Oruru, the 14-year-old girl kidnapped in Bayelsa State and forced into marriage in Kano State, was released.

The House, at a session presided over by the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, noted that the Lagos incident was an indication of rising security concerns in the country.

The House passed a resolution as it named a 10-man committee to visit Lagos State to find out the circumstances leading to the abduction of the schoolgirls.

A member from Lagos State, Mr. Babajimi Benson, had drawn the attention of the House to the abduction of the girls under “matters of urgent public importance.”

Benson said, “More than 24 hours after the sad incident, the Nigeria Police Force and other concerned agencies of government have not been able to reunite the abducted girls with their parents.

“The House is worried that insecurity in Ikorodu Federal Constituency is becoming worrisome as the security agencies are finding it difficult to protect lives and property.”

Another member, Ekpoattai Ime, said the incident must be traumatic for the parents of the girls.

The lawmaker added, “I urge this House and the IGP to intensify efforts to rescue the girls.

“Girls are now kidnapped every day in Nigeria, even women; this is sad.”

The House passed the resolution just as members of the Bayelsa State caucus at the House demanded the prosecution of the kidnapper of Ese, Mr. Yunusa, aka Yellow.

The members commended all those who fought for the release of the minor, particularly the media and non-governmental organisations.

They claimed to have no knowledge of the kidnapping of Ese “until the past week, especially through the media.”

Speaking on behalf of the caucus, Mr. Duoye Diri, who represents Yenagoa Federal Constituency, called on Arase to ensure that Yunusa was prosecuted.

“We condemn the act and we ask that justice must be done in this case,” he stated.

A female member of the caucus, Sodaguwa Festus-Omoi, said it was high time the Child Rights Act was domesticated by the states in the North.

“They have to go back to the Act, else this type of crime will continue.

“At the level of the parliament, we have female legislators from the North. We will sit and discuss all of this,” she said.

Meanwhile, the management of BMJS on Wednesday began raising the fence at the hostel end of the school, through which gunmen gained access to its premises and abducted the three pupils on Monday night.

BMJS is a co-educational secondary school owned by the Lagos Anglican Diocese.

The fence borders uncompleted buildings and bush.

Our correspondent, who was at the school on Wednesday, noticed three bricklayers, erecting blocks to raise the level of the fence.

Also, there were indications that the school had started negotiations with the kidnappers, who reportedly demanded N300m ransom for the release of the girls said to be in senior classes.

About 15 gunmen had, around 8pm on Monday, stormed the Science and Technology block of the college, where pupils were said to be reading for their upcoming examinations.

Academic activities had yet to recommence in the school while there was still a heavy presence of armed policemen on the premises.

Some panic-stricken parents had temporarily withdrawn their children from the school while others blamed the attack on inadequate security and the low fence through which the invaders gained access to the institution and escaped from the school.

An official of the college, a woman, was heard discussing the ransom on the telephone with somebody in Yoruba.

Standing at a corner, near a confectionery shop in the school, the woman was heard saying, “The pupils are not allowed to leave the school but parents, who do not believe in God, have been coming to pick their children. Only pupils, sitting the ongoing UTME, are allowed to leave the school to take the exam.

“Those bandits have contacted the school and they are demanding N300m. It seems negotiation is ongoing and I learnt they have reduce it down to N100m.”

A police source, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, also said he was aware of the development, adding that the police would rescue the children and ensure that their captors did not get any ransom.

He stated, “They have made contacts with the school and they are demanding N300m. That is their wish but it will never come to pass. We are working closely to get the pupils rescued unhurt.

“The abduction was caused by the school’s ineffective security. The school is supposed to have made arrangements to get policemen to secure the premises. They don’t have adequate security. Their fence should be high and barbed all through.”

A source close to the school confirmed the negotiation, saying, “It is true. They (kidnappers) initially demanded N300m but the school said it was too much and they reduced it to N100m. The negotiation is still ongoing.”

Attempts to confirm the development were abortive as calls made to the line of Bishop Babatunde Adeyemi of the Badagry Diocese, one of the proprietors of the school, rang out.

A teacher and some parents, approached by one of our correspondents, directed him to the principal, Ven. Olaoluwa Adeyemi, who said he did not want to address the press at the moment.

While a student was about to converse with The PUNCH, his teachers, from afar, shouted and ordered him to leave.

“Don’t talk to him. He is a journalist,” they shouted.

A teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tension in the school had stalled academic activities, adding that the mode of the attack was traumatic.

He said, “Lectures have not resumed. We are still praying for the return of the girls and we hope they will come back safely. The attack was terrible. It lasted for about 20 to 25 minutes. The gang came in and escaped through the fence.”

The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, came to the school again on Wednesday and met with the principal behind closed doors.

Owoseni told journalists to leave the school premises and allow security agencies to work with the school.

“Let the school run its business. The students also want to get back to class and the teachers want to work. But when they see cameras around, they are distracted,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, was in the school to represent Governor Akinwumi Ambode.

She said the government was working with security agencies to ensure the children were rescued and reunited with their parents.

Adebule added, “It is quiet an unfortunate incident, very worrisome and the state government is very concerned about it. We received the news of the incident with shock yesterday (Tuesday) and the governor has been on the case since the night the children were kidnapped. All security agencies in the state are putting in all efforts to ensure that the students are rescued very shortly and united.

“As the Commissioner for Education and a mother, I feel very concerned and see it as a duty to be here to hear from the management. We have discussed with the management behind closed doors and we believe the school will do the needful to protect the rest of the children.

“Operation is ongoing and it has to do with security; we don’t come to the open to discuss it. But the governor has done all the needful to ensure that we have the children back.”

The Majority Leader Lagos House of Assembly, S. O. Agunbiade, representing Ikorodu Constituency 1, condemned the abduction.

“This act is condemnable. These are young individuals in quest of knowledge and with a view to being leaders of tomorrow. The state government is on top of the matter. As the representative of the people, I came here to show solidarity with the school. The intricacies behind the matter will be unravelled,” he said.

In a similar development, Ambode said the state would spare no effort to ensure the safe release of the three female students.

Ambode, in a statement on Wednesday by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, condemned the incident, but assured Lagosians that the police and other security agencies had swung into action with a determination to track down the perpetrators of the act and ensure the safe return of the girls.

The governor added, “We have not been silent on this unfortunate development. In a delicate security matter of this nature, where young innocent people are involved and management of information demands utmost circumspect, we are convinced that swift and coordinated reaction, guided by intelligence reports on the part of the police, is a better and more sensitive approach to take.”

Ambode said the police commissioner as well as the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 2 (Lagos/Ogun) Command, Bala Hassan, was leading the coordinated rescue effort.

“We believe in the capacity of the police to lead this rescue mission. I have had ceaseless briefing with them since the incident happened and God helping us, we shall spare no effort in securing the safe release of the girls and continue to secure the school and indeed every part of Lagos,” he added.

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