Parents and authorities of Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure Ekiti, explain to and the abducted schoolchildren and teachers’ journey to freedom from kidnappers’ den
Parents of five abducted pupils of the Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure Ekiti on Sunday said they went through a tedious journey before securing the release of their children.
The abducted five pupils of the school were released on Sunday after the kidnappers collected a N15m ransom.
Apart from the ransom, the kidnappers insisted on collecting fried rice, energy drinks and cigarettes.
The school proprietor, Gabriel Adesanya, told The PUNCH that the driver was killed. According to him, the corpse of the driver, who was kidnapped alongside the pupils and staff members of the school, has yet to be found.
He said, “The corpse of the driver has not been found yet. The freed kidnapped victims said he was killed between yesterday and this morning. We cannot trace the body at the moment since we don’t know the location where they were kept. We have discussed with the police whether we can recover it.”
When contacted, one of the parents of the kidnapped victims, Adebisi Jegede, confirmed that a ransom was paid to the kidnappers.
He said, “A ransom was paid to the kidnappers and the money raised was around the N15m they demanded. I was not the one that counted the money but it was around that amount.”
Relatives of the victims said the kidnappers, who initially demanded N100m, reduced it to N15m after negotiations.
The victims were on their way home from school last Monday when five of the pupils, three teachers, and the bus driver were abducted.
The schoolchildren were abducted on the same day gunmen killed two Ekiti monarchs-the Onimojo of Imojo, Oba Olatunde Olusola, and the Elesun of Esun Ekiti, Oba Babatunde Ogunsakin, but the Alara of Ara Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba, escaped.
The parents and families of the kidnapped persons, who were happy to reunite with their beloved ones who spent six days in the den of kidnappers, said that the journey to their release was torturous.
A man, whose wife and son were among the kidnapped persons, said that N15m ransom and some other items were handed over to the kidnappers in an expansive forest before the abductees were released to them.
The man who spoke anonymously for fear of being abducted, said, “Nine persons were kidnapped. But eight persons were released, we didn’t see the ninth person. The kidnapped persons told us after their release that the gunmen shot the driver dead”.
The man said, “It gave us a lot of problems to see the kidnappers. When we first entered the forest, we spent about two hours without seeing them. We had to go forth and back before we saw the kidnappers.
“When we eventually saw them, they took us into the bush far away from where we parked the motorcycle that we took there. We gave them what they demanded and they released the kidnapped persons to us.
“We gave them N15m and the food items they asked us to buy for them – eight packs of fried rice with chicken and drinks – can malt drink, fearless energy drink, bullet energy drink and cigarettes.
As they collected the money and the items, they said we should run off.”
The source, who said he could not say specifically the location in the forest, said, “The place is between Ondo and Ekiti States. We entered around Ago Panu along Owo–Ikare Road in Ondo State and went deep in the expansive forest.
“When they released them to us, I embraced my family members, I thank God for the reunion, for surviving the torture, and hunger.”
Shedding more light, a woman, whose three grandchildren were among the kidnapped persons, said that her joy knew no bounds on reuniting with them after they were released in the early hours of Sunday.
She said, “My joy knows no bounds as I speak with you. When I saw my children, we held one another in long embrace and we all wept especially when I saw the condition they were in. They spent about a week in the forest.
“God was with us in our journey yesterday (Saturday), I could see my children again. I went to the bush with the search party for the rescue. It was located off Owo-Ikare Road in Ondo State. Initially, I didn’t want to go because of my leg, but on second thought that my three grandchildren were involved, I chose to go.
“The kidnappers were calling persistently that we should hurry up. They said we should meet them at Ikare Junction. I wondered how come Ikare junction when they took the children from Eporo. When we got to Ikare Junction, they said we should buy food, so we went to buy rice, meat, and other things.
“At a point, they called that we should turn back and described another road. We decided that all of us should not go there so that they would not think that we came with policemen who could make them injure the abductees.
“Later, the kidnappers said that only two persons should come. They threatened to waste the kidnapped persons if more than two persons should come. So, only two persons continued while the rest of us sat on the road there.
“The driver of the vehicle had to return at a point and two persons then used a motorbike to trace the kidnappers to drop the money and food.
“On collecting the money and food, they released the kidnapped persons, and our people used the motorbike to take them to the road, it was then they called us to bring the vehicle to convey them.
“The kidnappers collected N15m. We (parents and families) contributed N4m, people came to our aid by contributing. Even they called for contributions in the markets and the people supported, they contributed so that the kidnapped persons would be rescued.
A political leader at Eporo, who pleaded anonymity, said, “The children told us that when the kidnappers were asking for the telephone numbers of relatives, the driver told them he didn’t know that of his wife and school proprietor off-hand, this made them angry and they hit him with their gun.
“For five days, he was said to be having issues after the injury he sustained and he was shot dead on Saturday morning. It was a bitter experience for the victims, especially looking at how the driver was killed.
One of the parents appealed to the governor to employ the freed teachers in any of the public schools in Eporo.
“If the governor can show mercy to them by giving them jobs or teaching appointments, there are public schools in Eporo where they can teach without having to travel to and fro daily. Then, they will have job security as well.
“I plead with the governor, to please, have mercy on the teachers and as well the children. May God give them the grace to forget their experience in the kidnappers’ den. If the governor can do this, it will be yet another positive thing we will be saying about him,” the parent said.
The Proprietor of the school, Adesanya, on his part confirmed that a ransom was paid, adding that a group of persons in the community organised the payment.
“Ransom was paid to secure their release but I was not a party to the people that went to pay the money. One thing I am sure of is that ransom was paid. I am aware that the last time they called, they were hell-bent on collecting N15m and the parent was not even able to raise enough money. And as of the time they claimed to have raised N7m, I did not know if the money was up to that.”
He said, “When I spoke to the people that were coordinating the payment, they said the important thing was to get the victims released and that whatever money they were demanding, they would work it out. So by the time they concluded, I was not informed. I was not even told when they went to pay the money. I was only invited when the victims were brought to the palace. In fact, I was thinking the police would be able to rescue having deployed their resources including a helicopter, but today I was called that they were already brought to the palace.”
Following Governor Biodun Oyebanji’s directive, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Health, Dr Oyebanji Filani, has moved the abductees to the State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, for medical attention.
Speaking during a visit to EKSUTH, Governor Oyebanji, who had a brief interaction with the students and their teachers at the Accident and Emergency Ward, assured that the perpetrators of the crime would be fished out and punished accordingly.
Oyebanji, who congratulated the students and their teachers for regaining freedom from the abductors, urged the medical team at the hospital not to be in a hurry to discharge the students, stressing the need for them to be properly managed, given the trauma they went through.
He praised the resilience of the children, saying, “We thank God for their safe return. I am excited and I give glory to God. I also thank President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his swift response and for giving specific directives. His intervention made a difference and I am thankful to him on behalf of the Ekiti people.
“I am also thankful to the security chiefs for their support. They all put resources together and mobilized men and materials to ensure we rescued the children. All I can say is that we shall go after the criminals and we shall get them,” he said.
Oyebanji expressed condolence over the death of the bus driver, Mr Taiwo Olugbaye, assuring that the government would apprehend the criminals as well as the killers of the two traditional rulers.
He said, “It is very sad, my condolences to the family. I have directed the deputy governor to pay a visit to the family and to the Elemure of Emure Ekiti to commiserate with them. But what I can assure Ekiti people is that we will go after the criminals.”
Meanwhile, EKSUTH Chief Medical Director, Prof Kayode Olabanji, who said that the patients were receiving medical attention, said, “I can say with confidence that they are clinically stable and we don’t foresee any untoward eventuality.”
Olabanji said, “Very early today, they were brought in and they were in various conditions. Some of them were so dehydrated, we don’t know when last they had taken water or even food.
“Many of the pupils were in a panic state, you could see that they were very terrified. However, immediately we brought them in, they had been attended to by the doctors, nurses, and the various specialties.’’
“We brought in those clinical psychologists who could work on them to allay their fears. They were given the initial resuscitations including rehydration; they were given fluids, and some who needed oxygen were given oxygen.
“After they had stabilized a bit, they were even given food too, now, they are much better. We will still carry out a few investigations to fully appraise their situation,” the CMD said.
However, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State Command, Sunday Abutu, said the police were not aware of any ransom payment just as he vowed that the command would continue with the operation and investigation until the perpetrators are arrested and made to face the full wrath of the law.
Abutu sympathized with the family members of the deceased driver, stating that ‘’the rescue of the school children and their teachers, no doubt, was made possible through the combined efforts of the police and other security agencies including the Amotekun Corps, local vigilantes, and hunters as well as the family members and the support from the federal and state governments.
Meanwhile, the police in Ekiti State have arrested one suspect linked to the killing of two traditional rulers in Ekiti State last Monday.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police, Dare Ogundare, said that the suspect, Babusa Lede, had confessed to involvement in the killing of the two monarchs, adding that efforts were on to apprehend others involved.
The traditional rulers, the Elesun of Esun Ekiti, Oba David Babatunde Ogunsakin and the Olumojo of Imojo-Ekiti, Oba Samuel Olatunde Olusola, were killed by the gunmen while the Alara of Ara (Ikole), Oba Sunday Adebayo Fatoba, escaped being killed during the attack along Oke Ako-Irele Road.
Ogundare, who was Commissioner of Police in the state command until his promotion last week, said, “It took the combined efforts of security agencies in the state to apprehend the suspect”.