The Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE), a child’s right and development Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has reacted to the recent release of six school boys of the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla, Epe.
In a statement issued in Lagos, CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director, Betty Abah, said it was a great relief that the boys (who were abducted from their school hostels) had been brought back after 65 tortuous days in kidnappers’ den. ‘We can only imagine the joy of family members whose loved ones had been held captive for over two months. We congratulate the authorities and agencies who worked assiduously for the release of these boys, most notably, the Federal Government, Ondo State Government and the Nigerian Police Force,’ said Abah.
The statement further asked the Lagos State Government to do more to ensure maximum protection for its school children as against the current state of affairs which it said has left children as easy preys and at the mercy of criminals. It asserted that the Igbonla case was quite avoidable given that a clear three-day notice was issued to the school by the militants yet the abduction happened with apparent no resistance by any security operatives, not to mention that abduction also took place in the same school in October 2016. It called for the school authorities and security operatives in the area to be questioned as to what really transpired.
‘Children in Lagos State are currently endangered and the attitude of the state government hasn’t helped matters. It took 10 traumatic days for the government to address the parents of the boys and that was even after a protest to the government house in Alausa. And the Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who by law is the Chief Security Officer of the state, would not talk to them. Even though the victims are vulnerable young persons, the state government gave the parents a cold shoulder saying it would not negotiate with criminals, and maintained a lukewarm attitude to their boys’ plights until the Federal Government’s intervention. They were also left to negotiate with the kidnappers, selling property and borrowing huge sums in the process. All these send a gravely wrong message to the rest of poor Lagosians in a progressively insecure atmosphere’, it added.
The statement also cited instances of ongoing rape, brutalization and multiple killings in the Ikorodu area of the state by the rabid Badoo cult, with most of the victims being women and girls; the recent rape to death of Obiamaka Ngozichukwu Orakwe, a 14 year old girl in Abule-Ado area of the state. It asked for stringent punishment for criminals to serve as deterrence.
‘The present government of Lagos State must run government with a more humane face, scale up its security apparatus and give the beleaguered population a sense of belonging and security. Again, on Igbonla, besides ensuring comprehensive medical and psychosocial treatment for the recently released boys, the state government must compensate the parents to show that government can have a human face and is not all about infrastructures,’ said Abah.
The statement further added that kidnappers, ritualists and criminal arrested must not only be given ‘media trials’ but be openly tried, sentenced and shamed as a way of rescuing the state from the current grip of insecurity.