More than 40 days after six students of the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe area of Lagos were kidnapped by unknown gun men, they are yet to be rescued. A Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, the Centre for Children’s Health Education, Orientation and Protection (CEE-HOPE) has urged the Lagos State Government to effect the release of the students as further delay would put the school boys’ lives at risk.
‘We are pained that more than 40 whole days after their kidnap, to the continued anguish of their parents and relatives and to the outrage of the world, the Lagos State Government has not succeeded in bringing the boys home,’ said CEE-HOPE’s Executive Director, Betty Abah.
The students were kidnapped from their school premises on May 25. Upon the announcement by the Lagos State Government that it wouldn’t negotiate with the kidnappers, the parents, mostly fishermen, traders and pensioners, raised N2Million and then N6Million to effect the children’s release , but they (kidnappers) had remained adamant, demanding the sum of N100 Million. The latest incident happened despite a similar occurrence last year, and also following a letter to the school authorities notifying them of an impending attack. The kidnapped boys are Yusuf Farouk, Ramon Isiaka, Pelumi Philips, Peter Jonas, Adebanjo George and Judah Agbaosi.
About two weeks after the kidnap incident, parents and relatives of the kidnap victims marched on a protest to the Lagos State Government office in Alausa, protesting the blanket of silence from both the government and police on the abduction, saying there was no communication from either government or police as to the state of their children. Though some persons with alleged links to the kidnap were said to have been arrested shortly after, the boys are yet to be back.
‘This blanket of silence has, sadly, remained for the most part on this and other related issues of public interest. We are aggrieved because this is an abdication of the fundamental principle of our constitutional democracy which vests the ‘security and welfare of the people’ in the hands of the government. The slight and outright detachment with which issues concerning waterfront communities, street traders and other categories of the urban poor in Lagos are treated are the same attitude with which the Igbonla school boys’ case is being treated, and it is scandalous,’ added the statement. ‘Would it be too much if the state government and police come out with occasional updates on the matter, to re-assure the boys’ traumatised relatives and the anxious public at large?’ it further asks.
The statement also called on the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who is a former Attorney-General of Lagos State, to wade into the matter so as to dispel the general notion that the Nigerian government does not take issues of child’s right, welfare and protection as priorities especially when those concern children of the haves-not. It also warned that the mistakes committed by the last administration on the Chibok schoolgirls abduction saga must not be repeated in that of the Igbonla schoolboys.
‘The Lagos State Government must do all it can to ensure the safe return of these boys. Each of the six boys, like every other child in Nigeria or in the world has a right to study in safety and pursue their dreams no matter the social-economic status of their parents. The Lagos State Government must accord them that right. This delay is dangerous. Lagos State must explore all channels to ensure their safe release. What is paramount and at stake now is the survival of these boys. Government shouldn’t show concern and timely commitment only when the rich and influential and their offspring are concerned. Lagos must secure all schools, end the air of insecurity in Ikorodu (currently under the siege of the Badoo cult) and other parts of the state. The government should explore intelligence gathering in their crime fighting, strengthen the laws on criminal acts such as kidnapping to rid the state of criminals and their menace.’
‘It is good to build a mega city, but first, Lagos must build a safe and mega populace, and ensure that children, either of the poor or rich, realise their mega dreams. This is not the case right now in Lagos,’ the statement concludes.