A traditional ruler, otherwise known as ‘Baale,’ has been arrested by policemen trying to rescue the six abducted students of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe. This came as one of the parents said he was too poor to raise N400 million demanded by the kidnappers.
The Baale (names withheld) was said to have been arrested while coming out after supplying food to the militants holed up in the creeks. According to a security source, the traditional ruler has been handed over to the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni.
The police chief is quizzing the suspect himself. The Baale’s arrest has infuriated the leader of the militants, identified as ‘America’, who has reeled out threats. Incidentally, it was ‘America’ who led the abduction of eight people from the Nigerian Turkish International College (NTIC) in January.
He is also suspected to be the brain behind the abduction of six students from Model College, Epe. Spitting fire, ‘America’ was said to have alerted the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), in charge of Epe Police Station, to get ready, that he and his men were coming to attack the station soonest.
A police source said: “Whenever any of their members is arrested, they will know. It is because of the Baale that the militants called the DPO, Epe; they said they would be coming to wipe out his station. It is believed that some policemen, soldiers, and naval men are working with these militants. They are the bad eggs that communicate every move and strategy to the militants.
This is part of the reason it is hard to stop or check the militants.”
Meanwhile, intelligence report says that the same ‘America’ is planning to carry out a bank raid this week. “According to intelligence report, ‘America’ and his men are planning to attack a bank. They have already picked the bank.
They are likely to strike this week,” said a source. On Friday, there was a protracted gun battle between the militants and policemen. The kidnappers were alleged to have injured seven policemen, including the SO (Station Officer) in charge of Marine Police.
The Marine policemen, who first engaged the militants in the gun duel, were able to injure many and also sank the militants’ two gunboats. The militants fled, only to return with an overwhelming reinforcement.
They ambushed and attacked the Marine policemen from different angles, leading to seven policemen being wounded. The Marine policemen were later supported by teams of policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and Anti- Kidnapping Unit of Lagos State.
Some policemen, who partook in the gun battle, have described it as a mother of all battles. This was even as they recounted that they ran out of ammunition, while militants were still firing. A source said: “It was a bloody day.
The militants used their gunboats to block Epe River. Nobody was allowed to pass. They stationed three gun boats in three strategic places. Nobody dared to go closer to them. Policemen were looking at the militants and they were looking at the policemen. “The militants were in full camouflage.
They tied red bands on their forehead. They were dancing, jubilating and making mockery of the policemen. They repeatedly beckoned at the policemen to come forward if they could. “In the heat of the attack, Marine police called their Ogun State counterpart; they said they didn’t have ammunition.
I heard Navy was called, but they didn’t come. Soldiers came, but left while gun battle was still on. They said since it was on water, there was nothing they could do. “The SO Marine was seriously injured. All injured policemen are attached to marine. Marine police took the militants unawares on Friday, injuring and probably killing many.
The battle was on top of water. Marine police used two gunboats, while militants brought three gunboats. Marine police sank two of the militants’ gunboats before they returned with reinforcement. The militants were too many and well-armed. They robbed private canoes and passengers.”
A parent of one of the six pupils yesterday cried out to the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to come to their aid. The parent, who pleaded anonymity, said he was a farmer and could not raise N400 million the kidnappers asked him to pay to secure the freedom of his son.
Although it was learnt that the kidnappers had said that they did not have anything to do with the parents. According to sources, the abductors said they wanted the state government to negotiate and pay the ransom said to be about N1.2 billion.
But the parent, who spoke with our correspondent yesterday after a meeting with the school authorities, said there was no way he could raise N400 million. He said: “What baffles me most was that when they called me on the phone that fateful day, what struck my mind was where and how could I get the money they are demanding as a fisherman? Even if I fish for 20 years, I would not be able to raise the money.
“Immediately we the parents received the phone calls from the kidnappers, we decided to have an emergency meeting with the school management today (yesterday) on the school premises to facilitate our children’s release. “We all converge on the school premises to hold the meeting, on the modalities on how to rescue our children from the kidnappers’ den.
The senior vice principal and junior vice principal of the school both participated in the meeting. “Unfortunately, when we table our challenges about the plight of our children and what the kidnappers told us that they don’t want to have anything to do with us the parents, except the state government, the school management said they were also handicapped on the situation of things as they too cannot afford the money demanded by the abductors.” The parents said they were told to wait for an official of the Ministry of Education coming from Epe to the school to reach an agreement.
He added: “But as it is now, we don’t know what our children are going through. We want action from the state government to rescue them. “The parents, who were admitted at the hospital over the abduction of their children, were accompanied to the meeting by some of their family members. Just to tell you the trauma some of us are going through as parents. We want quick action from the state government and the police to bring them back.”
Many parents and teachers in Lagos have expressed regret over what they described as the poor response of the security agencies, particularly the police, to the insecurity challenges facing schools in the state.
They also accused government of treating with kid gloves the threat posed by the incessant abduction of pupils and teachers, describing the response of the security operatives in the state to the menace as lacklustre.