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Editorial… IGBONLA SIX: The delay no longer defensible

Editorial... IGBONLA SIX: The delay no longer defensible

Today marks the 53rd day that Peter Jonah, Isiaq Rahmon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips and Farouq Yusuf, students of Lagos State Model College Igbonla have spent in the captivity of kidnappers, and exactly 51 days since the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Joshak Habila, said the kidnapped students “would be rescued within few days”.

On the morning of May 24, 2017, heavily armed gunmen had stormed the Lagos State-owned Epe college and abducted six boys before making their way via boats through the Imeru/Iji waterway. In October of 2016, gunmen had in a similarly brazen manner, abducted six people including four students, a vice principal and a teacher. Their ordeal lasted about six days, ending only after ransom payment led to their release.

The first Igbonla college kidnapping had come less than six months after Timilehin Olusa, Tofunmi Popo Olaniyan and Deborah Akinayo, three female students of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School in Ikorodu were kidnapped following an invasion of their school by heavily armed gunmen at night. Their abduction lasted about one week before they regained freedom following a successful rescue operation by police; although it still remains unclear whether or not ransom was paid.

Following the kidnap of the Igbonla Six and the outcry that followed, the Lagos State Government authorized helicopter patrols and subsequently moved to construct watchtowers and install surveillance cameras on the premises of the school. Security was also beefed up within and around the school.

These initiatives by the Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration in Lagos State only coming after the repeated abductions can best be described as feeble.

Read also: Gov Ambode suspends Shangisha Baale for plotting own kidnap

While we acknowledge the long-known challenges of policing a state like Lagos, the fact that the college had been the subject of a similar attack only months before clearly marks this sad development as a failure of intelligence. We place the blame of the current travails of the Igbonla school boys right at the door-steps of the Lagos State Government.

We dare say that the administration had by its reactive actions only amplified the depth of its dereliction. For to abandon society’s most vulnerable to the devilish whims of men of broken humanity, in the supposed fortress of knowledge and freedom, is to violate a cardinal principle not only of governance but of life.

We note, with disappointment, that it took the Lagos State Government days to publicly or privately establish communication with the overwhelmed parents of the innocent children despite its direct responsibility over the school. This lapse is simply a case of embarrassing disconnect.

To have waited till the parents, who accorded it enough time to find its reason, strategy and voice, bare their emotions in humiliating fashion in public after weeks of disregard and seeming inaction, was not only indicative of  cold detachment, but pointed to the continued struggle for dignity by the common man in a country where even though nature and the law have conferred sacred rights upon him, still has to beg to be treated with even the most basic standards of humanity from those so absorbed with power that they have become incapable of empathy.

We cannot afford any further delays in freeing our children of Igbonla. All the talk and more talk about strategy and effort can no longer cut it. We cannot in good conscience afford to experiment strategy with children. For the children it is simple – freedom!

Whatever it will take to bring these children out alive and unhurt must be done. It is the primary responsibility of government to guarantee the safety and well-being of lives, especially of society’s most vulnerable – children— more so when they are legally directly under its care like the Igbonla students.

Though there have been some calls from some individuals and groups and some level of advocacy on social media and elsewhere, the apparent lack of sustained ferocious advocacy over the nature of the kidnapping and the way in which the case of these boys has been handled, leaves much to be desired. Civil society, media, opposition parties and others have appeared to not fully appreciate the enormity of the problem.

We must all realize the scale of the issue at hand– how that in peacetime, a group of armed assailants could in daytime launch a repeat brazen attack on a public institution, abduct children, escape without much resistance, and boldly make outrageous demands and further threats while still holding the children for close to two months, in a state supposedly governed by law and order!

Government must learn from the various cases of kidnapping and develop a comprehensive proactive strategy that will ensure a coordinated approach to combating kidnapping and crime in general, featuring effective land, air and marine policing, intelligence gathering and community policing, with all core security outfits and other support groups cooperating towards the common objective of guaranteeing security for all and at all times.

The voices of all must be heard across the different sections of Nigeria. The case of the Igbonla Six is not a Lagos affair; it is part of the Nigerian story. We have already failed these children; the least we can do is seek redemption through sustained struggle for their freedom, and ensure that the perpetrators of this heinous crime do not escape justice!

…A Ripples Nigeria editorial

 

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We are an online newspaper, very passionate about Nigerian politics, business and its leaders. We dig deeper, without borders and without fears.

  • Oise Oikelomen

    Scathing, poignant, true.

  • JOHNSON PETER

    Nigeria government is porous in security wise. If soldiers or police have been mounted in our schools to always safeguard our children, this wouldn’t have happened but you see politicians going about with police as their security. In Biafra, we shall make sure security personnel are mounted in our schools because we value our citizens unlike Nigeria

    • yanju omotodun

      Keep shut
      Who are the kidnappers if not the igbos, where is Evans from? Mumu, Nigeria is even saving so many lives, in your Biafra, thousand people will dying daily for money ritual because that’s what your tribe is known for.

  • Abeni Adebisi

    This kidnap is a clear evidence that public schools are not safe like the private schools in Lagos. The government abandon those kids and protect kids in private schools because of money, forgetting the fact that all the kids have equal right to education irrespective of where they are schooling

    • Animashaun Ayodeji

      God bless you my sister, it breaks my heart each time i see security forces guarding private school kids while public school students have zero security. Kids that are responsibility of the state government are being segregated! The case of Igbonla exposed the nonchalance of the state, no matter how hard the government try now, it will still be difficult to get the students back because there was no proactive measure taken.

      • seyi jelili

        That’s a lie, even private schools are vulnerable to attack so you people have no points at all

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  • Anita Kingsley

    How are we sure the kidnappers are not connected to notorious Evans who’s in police custody? This may be his way of securing his release from the police custody, he may be keeping the kids to use them as barter because these kids are taking too long and Evans case is also yet to be decided.

    • seyi jelili

      What a talk of irrationality, Don’t link Evans to it