The leader of a militant group, General America, who led his men to storm the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe, abducting six students, on Thursday night, said he wouldn’t release the kids except his nine men, who are currently in police custody, are released according to a police source.
On Thursday night, police received another intelligence report on America. Indeed, a security source said that America had threatened not to release the schoolchildren unless his men were released. The source said: “You will recall the kidnappers had demanded N400 million ransom on each of the pupil.
You will also recall that a traditional ruler was arrested while coming out after supplying food to the militants holed up in the creeks. This and the earlier arrest of members of the gang infuriated their leader who is now demanding that those arrested should be swapped with the schoolchildren.
“But I can assure you that we won’t give in to their demands.” The militants are also demanding another N100m for the release of the kidnapped children, another security source stated, adding that the families are pleading to pay a lesser ransom.
“They (kidnappers) are insisting on N100m but the families are begging with a much lesser amount. The children are inside the creeks,” a police source said. This is coming as policemen, who had been trailing the kidnappers and attempting to rescue the schoolchildren, foiled an attempt by members of the gang to attack five banks in Lagos.
On Monday, New Telegraph had exclusively reported that police received intelligence reports that the militants, under the leadership of America, planned to attack a bank and Epe Police Station but it was learnt on Thursday that the militants actually targeted five banks.
The Lagos State Police Command, working in synergy with the operatives of the Inspector General of Police Special Intelligence Response Team (IRT), keyed into the intelligence report and arrested five militants that were sent out by America to survey banks that were to be attacked. The attacks were supposed to take place on June 1, simultaneously.
At least five key members of the group, who planned to attack and rob five banks in Lagos, were arrested in Ikorodu and Ajah areas of Lagos. The suspects have been identified as Abiodun Olaroye 38, aka Gbeleju, a native of Ode Kreme Village Ondo State, Ebipatgh Tuwei, 47, aka Segun, a native of Arobo, Ondo State, Benjamin Powei, 42, aka Ben, a native of Arogbo, Ondo State. Ben was part of the gang that participated in the killing of four policemen and an army captain in Ikorodu last month.
Other suspects, arrested in connection with the planned attacks on banks, are Samuel Chinedu, 30, aka Hit Man. He is a native of Ika North in Delta State and Ikechukwu Samuel Innocent, 33, aka IK, a native of Isiagwu village, Abia State. Ikechukwu is alleged to be a security man attached to one of the targeted banks.
Ikechukwu is also alleged to be person that brought the deal on how to attack the bank, where he works. The targeted banks are located in Ikorodu and Ajah areas of the metropolis. The suspects were said to have been arrested after unrelenting follow up by IRT operatives.
Among the suspects are militants who were sent by America to survey the banks and hire two operational buses that would be used to convey gang members to and from the operations. It was also gathered that most of the targeted banks are close to river banks. According to the suspects, all the banks targeted were chosen because of their proximity to the river.
A police source said: “They were planning multiple bank robberies. On May 30, in a follow up to credible technical intelligence, operatives of IRT were deployed in Lagos by IGP Ibrahim Idris. He instructed the policemen to neutralise threats posed to Lagos by the notorious new militant leader, called America.
“This America is responsible for the abduction of the Epe schoolchildren last week Thursday. Five key members of the notorious militant group, led by America, who had perfected plans for massive attacks on five banks in Lagos, were arrested in Ikorodu and Ajah areas of Lagos. Some banks were marked for imminent attacks in the Ajah area of Lagos.
“The suspects in their confessional statements said the banks were chosen because of their closeness to river banks. All suspects arrested confessed to the planned bank robberies and confirmed that they were sent by their boss, America, in the creek to survey the five banks. America fixed June 1, as the date for the attacks on the banks.
But his men were arrested by IRT, foiling the plan. The suspects are cooperating with detectives in the Investigation. Efforts to arrest America and other gang members and rescue the schoolchildren are still in progress.” Before the arrest of these five suspects, police had earlier arrested a traditional ruler working with militant kidnappers and also arrested three other militants in Benin.
On Thursday, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni and the deputy commissioner of police, in charge of operation for the command, were said to have patrolled Epe and discussed with police on ground. It was gathered that Owoseni had been shuttling between Epe axis, where the school kids were abducted and Shogunle, where the chairman of the motorcycle riders, Mr Razaq Bello, was killed, leading to reprisals.
When contacted, the Lagos Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olarinde Famous-Cole, said he was not aware of any swap deal and also denied knowledge of the reduction of the ransom from N400 million to N100 million. He said: “I am not aware of any swap deal and I don’t know where you got that for. Also, I don’t know whether the kidnappers have reduced their ransom to N100 million or not. But what I know is that we don’t negotiate wit criminals.
Meanwhile, an Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) man who does not want his name in print said, they are doing their best to secure the release of the students. He said: “We are working with other security agencies to secure the release of the abducted students. Part of our strategy is to comb the forest everyday with the vigilantes, for possible clue about the students. “On the security, there is limit to what we can do, because we don’t have enough weapons to confront them.
Government should also do the needful to assist us to combat the gunmen in Epe and its environs. “Presently, some of us with the other security agencies always patrol the school surroundings and neighbouring villages to see if we can apprehend any of their spies, because we learnt that some of the villagers are working with them”.
One of the fathers of the abducted students who spoke with our correspondent yesterday said, left to him, he had lost hope in the government. He said: “A week after, my son had not been reunited with me or with other students, but l am praying to God to protect my son and his colleagues who were abducted.
Since that very day, my wife had been crying, someone just came yesterday to pacify her and take her away in order to stop her from weeping. “Our prayer now is that the gunmen don’t harm the students, because of the arrest made by the police. I believe such arrest could annoy them to do otherwise. Government should act fast and secure their release.
Another parent, whose son was among the victims released initially, said with the situation her son would not resume as directed by the school authorities. She said: “We were told to bring our children to school on Sunday to resume, I cannot take my son to such school where there is no security.”
“Though they promise adequate security in the school before the students resume, with what we are hearing about the security in the school, I don’t think my son will go on Sunday. “Even if he’s going to resume, my husband and I have to follow him there.
If we notice any security lapses, we are going to return home with him. God had saved him in the first place; we are not going to push him to his death. “As a parents, I feel the plight of the parents of the abducted students, government should do everything to rescue the children, bring them back home and reunite them with their parents.”