Parents and government anxiously await the return of the three female students who were kidnapped from Babington Macaulay Junior Secondary School in Ikorodu, Lagos, the abductors may have demanded a N200 million ransom.
The abductors allegedly called the school authorities to demand the ransom. Officials of the state government, during a visit to the school premises, confirmed the ransom development, adding that the Department of State Security (DSS) was already working to track the callers.
But the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has said that his government would spare no effort to ensure the safe return of the three female students who were kidnapped on Monday.
Meanwhile, to effectively check the rising cases of kidnapping and other criminal activities, the police are seeking to partner telecommunications firms operating in the country to be able to intercept the calls of any kidnapper within 48 hours of abduction.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, appealed for the support of the telecoms operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) when he hosted them in Abuja.
According to ALTON’s report on the meeting made available to journalists in Lagos, yesterday, Arase appealed to the telecommunications operators to help the police in the fight against kidnappers by making it possible for the security agents to intercept any kidnapper and other criminals within 48 hours of the crime.
“If the kidnappers know that they would be caught, the crime will reduce. The police authorities are ready to collaborate with ALTON and the industry as a whole,” Arase stated.
On vandalism and incessant and illegal closure of telecommunication sites, Arase instructed all the state police commissioners that on no account should any policeman be deployed or involved in the process of shutting down of telecoms infrastructure without a genuine court order and clearance from the office of the IGP. He said the police would continue to educate their operatives on how important telecoms infrastructures are to the security of the country.
ALTON, which was led by its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, to the meeting with the IGP, disclosed that Arase claimed to have a robust relationship with the telecoms operators since when he was the DIG in charge of intelligence.
While commending the efforts of the operators for services rendered, Arase mentioned that policing had passed the stage of physical points, where policemen were seen everywhere. “In Britain they have over 185,000 street cameras monitoring the activities of people in the country and it is easier to arrest any criminal,” he said.
According to the IG, any operator that has issues of unlawful interference or shutting down of BTS sites without clearance from the Force Headquarters should call directly to the IGP rapid response hot-lines 0805 700 0001/2 “and within 30 minutes the situation will be brought under control.”
Arase said he was passionate in bringing the Nigeria Police out of an analogue to digital platform, stressing that character certificate process had been made easy and every citizen of good behaviour should endeavour to process it online and submit it to the appropriate quarter for processing within 24 hours.
According to him, anywhere citizens go, “once you have it on your phones and show the certificate whenever you are stopped for checking, you will be passed.”
Adebayo, who said members of ALTON cut across the entire operating structure of the industry, including network operations, infrastructure as well as other critical value-added and support services, stressed that telecommunications development in Nigeria was playing an integral role in the march towards a greater country.
According to him, telecommunication services have greatly improved the quality of life as a people, from basic voice call, to Internet services and to numerous value-added offers by his members.
“Despite the above progress made, we are still facing a number of environmentally related problems in particular, on the issues of interference with the smooth operations of telecom services. These include closure of BTS sites without court order; taxes and levies, among others,” he stated.
Adebayo said in the spirit of the recognition of the value of telecoms network elements and systems to the wellbeing of Nigeria, “we kindly request you to please direct your men to protect our infrastructure and not to be involved in tampering or preventing access to telecom sites. We are using this medium to pledge the support of the telecoms industry to you and the entire police.
“We pledge our loyalty and support for the government and people of Nigeria as an industry that is at the fore front of our national security and technological development.”
Governor Ambode, who condemned the abduction, said the police and other security operatives had swung into action to track down the perpetrators of the act and ensure the girls return safely.
The Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, said that the governor was not silent on the development.
“In a delicate security matter of this nature, where young innocent people are involved and management of information demands utmost circumspection, we were convinced that swift and coordinated reaction, guided by intelligence reports on the part of the police, was a better and more sensitive approach to take, rather than a sensational, panic-stricken reaction,” he said.
The governor added that the State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, as well as the Assistant Inspector General of Police for the Lagos/Ogun Command, were fully on ground at the scene and vicinity of the incident leading the entire coordinated effort involving every military apparatus.
“We believe in the capacity of the police to lead this rescue mission. I have had ceaseless briefings with them since the incident happened and God helping us, we shall spare no effort in securing the safe release of the girls and continue to secure the school and indeed every part of Lagos.”
Ambode said that the incident might not be unconnected with his recent visit to some parts of Ikorodu where he read the riot act to vandals and criminal gangs on the resolve of the state government to take the battle to their hideouts in a spirited effort to secure the pipelines.
“We believe this is a case of evil fighting back. But Lagos will neither succumb to threats of lawlessness nor bow to terror. Our resolve is very clear; we will assist the police and other security agencies in dealing decisively with this one unfortunate case and prevent reoccurrence. We will deploy the resources at our disposal to safeguard every life and property within our care,” he said.
As Nigerians continue to condemn the abduction of the girls, the atmosphere at the school yesterday remained moody.
Although the leaders of the Anglican Communion have expressed the hope that the pupils would be rescued unhurt, parents are pain-stricken.
The Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, led a government delegation to the school, where activities have remained low- keyed.
The school authorities confirmed the names of the abducted girls as Timilehin Olisa, Tofunmi Popoolaniyan and Deborah Akinayo.
The girls, The Guardian learnt were abducted when pupils were studying in the Science and Technology Block for their examinations near the hostel. The bandits, one of whom was said to be masked, were reported to have been resisted by some male students. According to a police source, an unnamed male student identified one of the gunmen as a bricklayer working in the school.
The bandits reportedly escaped with the three girls through the broken fence after failed attempts by the school’s security guards and some of the pupils to resist the abduction.