Kidnappers of six pupils of Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe have demanded a N400 million ransom for their release.
They are understood to have got in touch with the parents of the kidnapped children to make the demand.
But Governor Akinwunmi Ambode told pupils at a parade to mark this year’s Children’s Day at the Agege Stadium, Lagos that government would do all within its power to get the children out of the kidnappers’ den unhurt.
He said yesterday celebration would be incomplete without rescuing those innocent pupils and returning them to school to continue their education
The six students were abducted on Thursday morning when gunmen stormed the school and ferried them away through the waterways.
It was gathered yesterday that the kidnappers established contacts with the parents at about 4:30pm on Friday.
The parents said the kidnappers did not allow them speak with the children.
They only told the parents what they wanted and how to go about raising the money: ask the school authorities and government to provide the money.
Parents who spoke to newsmen in separate interviews yesterday appealed to the kidnappers to release the pupils on compassionate grounds.
One of the parents said: “They called me around 4pm. They called the name of my son and asked if I knew him. I said yes and then, they gave him the phone to speak with me.
“As we were talking, they took the phone and told me to go to the government and the school authorities to provide N400 million before they would release the children. The call did not last long.
“I called other parents whose children were also taken and they also confirmed they were contacted by the kidnappers. We are appealing to them to release the children on compassionate grounds. If they have issues with the school management or the government, they can look for another way to address it.
“They should pity us, the parents and release our children. I have not been able to sleep since Thursday. My wife has not stopped crying either. They should please have mercy on us.”
It was gathered that the onslaught against the militants continued yesterday with several others said to have been killed.
It was learnt that about eight policemen were seriously wounded.
A source claimed that three of the wounded cops were receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital.
Some were taken to a specialist hospital.
However, Governor Ambode yesterday reassured Lagosians that the State Government would do everything possible to ensure that the six pupils are rescued unhurt and reunited with their parents.
The Governor speaking at the Agege Stadium during the Children’s Day celebration said the celebration would not be complete without rescuing those innocent pupils.
He said action was in progress to get them out and pledged that government would stop at nothing to ensure that kidnapping and other criminal activities are stopped.
Represented by his deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule, Ambode said that government was committed to protecting children in the state from any form of abuse, child labour or molestation by religiously implementing the Child Rights Law and the Executive Order on Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy, adding that “it was important to protect our children today, so that they can protect us tomorrow.”
The Governor, who said that this year’s Children’s Day celebration was a unique one as the state is equally celebrating the 50thyear anniversary of its creation, asked the children to remain focused, believe in themselves and set target that would make them attain greatness in life, promising that his government will continue to create opportunities and implement policies that would help them to become the best of what they can without any barriers.
“As we celebrate this year’s Children’s Day and the 50th anniversary of our state, I want you to believe that you too can achieve greatness. You must believe in yourself and in your dreams.
Very soon, it will be your responsibility to take Lagos state to the level that we all desired in the next 50 years. You are agents of change and I urge you, do not just go through life, make a difference, impact life and affect your community , What we are doing today is to lay a solid foundation for you to build on,” he said.
The Governor while reaffirming his administration’s commitment to repositioning public schools to meet world class standard, said that his administration in the last two years had invested heavily in infrastructural and manpower development in public schools, the effort which according to him, is yielding positive results as it has restored confidence in public schools.
“As a government, we recognize our responsibility to create opportunities for you to become the best you can be without any barrier, this is why in the last two years, we have invested massively in the infrastructural and manpower development in our public schools. Our plan which is being realized is to restore public confidence in our public schools,’’ he said.
Earlier in his address of welcome, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Adeshina Odeyemi, said the number of secondary schools in the state has increased from 55 at the creation of the state in 1967 with a total students’ population of 19,538 to 679 public secondary schools at present with over 564,758 students’ population.
Odeyemi noted that in spite of the current global melt down and general economic recession in the country, Lagos State government has continued to run free education policy from primary to secondary schools level and pay for the WAEC fees of its graduating students till date.