Kidnappers of five pupils of Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure Ekiti, and four staff members have demanded N100m ransom for the release of the nine victims who were taken away on Monday.
The principal of the secondary section of the school, Boje Olanireti, confirmed the ransom demand, in a chat with newsmen on Tuesday.
The abduction epidemic has continued to defy the efforts of the security agencies as cases of kidnappings were being recorded in various parts of the country daily.
On Monday, gunmen killed two Ekiti monarchs-the Onimojo of Imojo, Oba Olatunde Olusola, and the Elesun of Esun Ekiti, Oba Babatunde Ogunsakin, while the Alara of Ara Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba, narrowly escaped.
The traditional rulers were returning from a function in Kogi State when their vehicles ran into the suspected kidnappers who were operating on the highway between Ipao and Oke Ako in the Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State.
The abduction of the schoolchildren and four staff members occurred when the school bus conveying 25 pupils home after school hours was waylaid by the gunmen in the Emure community in Ekiti State.
Shedding light on how the incident occurred, Olanireti explained that the abduction occurred about a five-minute drive from the school.
She said, “Immediately the school closed at 3pm, and by the time we gathered all the children, it was already 3:30pm. It was that time that they moved. So, the incident happened between 3:30pm and 4pm. The school is in a suburb of Emure village, so they were going back home in Eporo. The incident occurred just about a five-minute drive from the school to Eporo.
“When the gunmen attacked, the people around heard the gunshots and they came to Emure with motorcycles to inform the people in the school about what happened. We immediately reported to the police station at Emure.
“The students were over 25 on the bus when the incident happened. When the gunmen attacked them, they shot the tyre of the vehicle and asked the children to come out of the bus. They asked all of them to lie down. They picked five students and four staff members. They, after that, asked others to go.”
Olanireti added, “The five students comprise two from the secondary (school) and three from primary school while the four staff comprise two teachers, one driver and one bus assistant.
“When the parents heard about the incident, they came from Eporo and they have been making frantic efforts by reaching out to some security outfits, including the police and Amotekun.’’
“The security operatives have also been talking to the proprietor of the primary school and he has been giving them information. By the time they opened communication, they first called the husband of one of the teachers and demanded N10m for each kidnapped victim. But when they later called the headmaster, they demanded N100m for all of them.” the principal said.
A family source at Eporo Ekiti, who preferred anonymity, confirmed on Tuesday that the kidnappers had contacted the family of one of the children demanding N100m on the victims.
The source said, “They called the family of one of the school children and they are requesting N10m per victim. What we gathered is that there are nine persons kidnapped – five schoolchildren, two teachers, one bus assistant, and a driver.
“The parents are at Eporo. The bus was taking them home after closing. It was in the process that the kidnappers struck. None of the families of the abductees can afford the ransom.’’
Meanwhile, the Aremo of Emure Kingdom, Chief Clement Akinola, has appealed to the state government to assist in the release of their children.
Akinola, who in the company of the Emure Local Government Chairman and state government officials visited the families of the kidnapped persons at Eporo Ekiti, said, “One can imagine the condition the children will be in, one can imagine the state of mind of the parents, the entire Emure community and the Eporo people. There is tension, very high tension.’’
The chief called for the establishment of military posts on the many borders between the Emure community and Ondo State to tame kidnappings and the activities of gunmen in the area.
He said, “Emure is a border town, we have a boundary with Ondo State at Owo through Eporo, we have a boundary with Ondo State through Supare Akoko, and we have some farm roads pliable by motorbikes to Ondo State at Uso.
“My appeal is that there should be military checkpoints between Emure and Owo and Eporo and as well around Supare. These will reduce the violent crimes in the areas.
The Chairman of the Joint Security Committee of Ise, Emure and Ikere, Tunji Falana, who corroborated Akinola, said, “The boundaries are too porous. We have been appealing to the government to establish police posts and army checkpoints at the borders.
“This is not the first time kidnappers would kidnap there. The place is porous. But in this kidnap case, the Kabiyesi, the Elemure of Emure Ekiti, Oba Emmanuel Adebayo, a former commissioner of police, is working round the clock to ensure the release of the abductees.
Falana advised that in the meantime, “Bush combing should be at regular intervals, not more than two weeks interval. When the kidnappers realize the forests are free, they return especially during dry seasons like this when there is North-South migration.
“They destroy our farms at Ise Ekiti and Emure Ekiti here and nobody can control them. We commend the police because they are making arrests and taking them for prosecution.”
Meanwhile, the police in Ekiti State said on Tuesday that they had arrested five suspected kidnappers just as the command launched a manhunt for the kidnappers in collaboration with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Amotekun, Odua Peoples Congress, and hunters.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, disclosed in a statement that the suspects were arrested during a joint operation with other security agencies.
He said, “The suspects were arrested by a combined team of policemen, civil defence corps, Amotekun Corps Odua Peoples Congress, and local hunters on Tuesday during a bush combing operation through Oke-Osun, Ikere/Igbo-Okah to the thick forest around Iju/Ikere boundary.
“During the operation, five suspected kidnappers namely- Usman Jelili, Mohammed Bande, Abubakar Aliu, Isah Abdulahi, and Suleman Abdulahi were arrested.’’
“During interrogation, the suspects claimed to be herdsmen, but it was later discovered that none of them had cattle and no cattle was found with them in the forest where they were arrested.
“The following items were found with them in the forest – two motorcycles, one cutlass, one jack knife/dagger, and four phones,” the PPRO stated.
In response to the killing of two monarchs by suspected kidnappers on Monday, Ekiti State communities wore sober looks on Tuesday when the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, paid condolence visits to the palaces of the two communities and the people of the two towns.
The indigenes of the two communities, who spoke on the deaths of their monarchs, described the incident as a great loss to the two communities.
At the palace of Elesun, they cut the trees to signify the passage of the monarch while red flags were flown on masts as people sat in groups singing dirges over the Elesun’s transition.
Oyebanji, who said Ekiti State had been very peaceful, lamented the attack and unexpected killings, which he described as “unfortunate and an affront to the peaceful nature of the state”.
The governor, who spoke at the Palace of the Elesun and a small hall at Imojo where the building of the palace was ongoing, said that the incident was a sacrilege to the traditional institution in the state.
He said it was a good development that President Bola Tinubu, who was on the phone with him for about an hour on Monday to commiserate with the Ekiti people had given directives to security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the dastardly act and bring them to book.
Oyebanji said, “I have absolute confidence in the security agencies to fish out the people involved in this crime against the traditional institution in Ekiti. The government will continue to step up efforts at the security of the people because that is why we are here in government.
“My message to all the criminals is that Ekiti State is going to be too hot for them, we are going to get hot at them, and for those that are involved in this act, this sacrilege, they will be fished out.”
He described security as a joint task of both residents and the government, urging residents to continue assisting the security operatives by giving timely information to the security men within their environment.
The Second-in-Command to the Onimojo, the Elejira of Imojo, Chief Ayodele Dada, described the killing of the monarch as painful, saying the late traditional ruler initiated several developmental projects in the community.
Dada, who lamented frequent kidnapping activities in the area in the last few months, called on the government to double its efforts in providing security for the people of the state.
The traditional chief said, “We will sorely miss the late Kabiyesi. But in his memory, we appeal to the state government to complete the Imojo palace project which he began so that we can name it after him to immortalize him.”
The governor promised to assist the bereaved family and assist the Imojo community with the construction of the ongoing palace in the community.
Oyebanji also said efforts were in top gear to rescue the abductees describing the kidnap of the schoolchildren as callous and unacceptable.
A statement by the Special Adviser to Ekiti State Governor on Media, Yinka Oyebode, confirmed that 10 persons were abducted.
He said, “Security agencies are already on the trail of the abductors with a mandate to bring the pupils back safely. Security is being stepped up across the state to flush out criminal elements from their hideouts”.
Also, President Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, condemned the killing of the two obas even as he assured that the perpetrators would not go unpunished.
“President Tinubu condemns this mindless and brutal bloodletting, and pledges that the perpetrators will not escape justice,” a statement signed by Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, read.
The statement was titled, ‘President Tinubu condemns killing of traditional rulers in Ekiti, directs immediate rescue of kidnapped pupils.’
Tinubu, who grieved over the demise of the two monarchs, also directed the immediate rescue of pupils and teachers kidnapped around the Eporo-Ekiti area of the State.
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