Findings yesterday revealed that the Ondo State Government negotiated the release of six male students of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla-Epe, who were kidnapped on May 25 at the height of Lagos@50 anniversary.
The new facts disproved the claims of Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, that 20 of the kidnappers died in gun battle with security operatives; eight policemen and four civilian volunteers sustained injuries.
Different government officials involved in the negotiation process provided insight into how the kidnapped students were eventually released on Friday evening to the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Agboola Ajayi.
The students were kidnapped in their school premises precisely on May 25 after spending 65 days in the captivity and after their parents collectively paid their abductors N30 million to security their release, though all to no avail.
The kidnapped students – Peter Jonah, Isiaka Ramon, Adebayo George, Judah Agbausi, Pelumi Philips and Farouq Yusuf – were finally released at about 3.30pm at Aboto Creek at Ilaje Local Government Area, Ondo State.
Consequent upon their release, Owoseni, Lagos police commissioner, claimed that 20 of their abductors were killed in gun shootout; eight security operatives and four civilian volunteers among other sustained injury in the gun battle.
But one of the officials who was involved in the negotiation process, faulted Owoseni’s claims on the death record, noting that the option of hot pursuit was not considered to secure the release of the students safely and unhurt.
After it was discovered that the kidnappers were hiding in Ondo and Delta creeks, the official disclosed that Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, worked with his Ondo counterpart, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, to secure the release of the kidnapped students.
Consequently, the official noted that Akeredolu directed his deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi “to negotiate the release of six kidnapped students.
He gave the directive at a time when their parents and security agencies could no longer establish contacts with the abductors of the students.
“The deputy governor is from Kiribo town in Ese Odo Local Government Area, a riverine area in the state. So the governor deliberately gave his deputy the responsibility to negotiate with the abductors of the kids because he was a youth leader in the area before he assumed office.
“Agboola did not work alone. He worked with the Deputy Governor of Delta State, Mr. Kingsley Otuaro, to secure the release of the students. It is on record that the duo worked tirelessly for days in the creeks before they established with the kidnappers and subsequently the students,” he said.
Another official said it was untrue that 20 persons died in gun battle while security operatives were fighting to “release the kidnapped students. No person died contrary to what Lagos State Commissioner, Mr. Fatai Owoseni said.”
He explained that Owoseni did not say the truth about how the abducted students were negotiated and eventually handed over to the deputy governor of Ondo State, noting that the release of the abducted students was purely a product of negotiation and not gun battle or shootout.
He said: “There was no gun duel as Lagos police commissioner told the whole world. There was no record of death while the negotiation was on-going. There was no case of casualty when the abducted kids were handed over.
“If it was gun duel as Owoseni claimed, the kids would not have come out without injury. It might even claim any of them. Their release was negotiated without ransom to the best of my knowledge. And no person died in the process,” the governor’s official noted.
“Of importance was the contribution of the Ondo Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Donald Ojojo. He is also from Ese Odo LGA. However, four states, Ondo, Lagos, Ogun and Delta were also involved, especially in the area of intelligence gathering and sharing. The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, too was involved. The police, DSS and the military were not left out.
“The students were handed over to the Ondo deputy governor, his deputy chief of staff and other members of his team. The team drove directly to Akure. But few kilometres from Akure, Akeredolu directed them to come to Lagos because he was already in Lagos waiting to receive and hand them over to the Governor of Lagos State,” the official explained.