Published On: Wed, Jun 7th, 2017

NAVY ADVOCATES DIPLOMACY OR NEGOTIATION TO FREE SIX KIDNAPPED STUDENTS

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The six kidnapped students of the Lagos Model Collage in Igbonla area of Epe, have spent 13 days
in the hands of the kidnappers who have been moving them from one creek to the other in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and the Niger-Delta region.

But the Navy said it was working with the police to ensure the release of the kidnapped students.

The navy’s collaboration is coming at the heels of the relocation of the abducted boys
from the kidnapper’s initial hideout within Lagos creeks to another hideout banking the Ondo creeks.

The relocation was necessary after operatives of the Inspector General of Police Investigation
Response Team (IRT) arrested three members of the gang identified as Egelu Endurance aka Jubby, Stanley YomiIrabomini aka Powei and Bentel Endurance.

An annymous senior police said the collaboration of the navy was much needed because the efforts of the police
were being thwarted by the non-navigable terrain of the creeks.

He said, “After we had made the arrests, the kidnappers moved the students farther into the creeks, where our
boats from the Marine police cannot penetrate or access.

“For that terrain, which is ridden with thick bushes and foliages, what we need are swarm buggies and flat boats.
As it is now, we are frustrated at every turn because although we know the general area where the kidnappers are but we can’t penetrate.

“Also, we have the safety of the students to think about.

Although they have been relocated and we know the area, we don’t have the platform to penetrate that place
because we are handicapped in that regard.”

The Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, first debunked
claims that the military has rested its oars on Operation Awatse Bobai who doubles as the
Officer-in-Tactical Command of Operation Awatse, a joint maritime operation which means ‘scatter’ in Hausa language, said the
operation is very much on.

Awatse was originally created to tackle the then budding menace of militancy and pipeline
vandalism in creeks around Lagos and Ogun States.

After the military had unleashed its machinery which included aerial bombardment by the Nigerian
Air Force, land and water assault by the Nigerian Army and the NN respectively, the militants and
pipeline vandals had beat a retreat.

However, months down the line, they resurged again with vengeance, but this time, their goals
were to kidnap the residents of those areas near the creeks for
ransom.

According to Bobai, who stressed that the security forces are not resting on its oars
reiterated that Operation Awatse is still in force.

On what the navy is doing as regards the abduction, as well as the general menace of militancy
and abduction, he said the collaboration with the police was top
notch.

He said the Lagos Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, has always been in contact with
the commander Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft.

Some of our boats have gone to operate alongside the Marine Police.”

Bobai however advocated for diplomacy first as against using force giving that the
kidnappers still have the abducted boys in their custody.

He said, “Rather than using force, diplomacy or negotiation is a better option.

Rather than using force to rescue them, the option that will yield positive results is better.

“Remember they were engaged in shootouts in the early days of the kidnap, during which some
of them (security operatives) were killed.

“Now our major concern is the safety of the students and to ensure they are rescued,
whichever means is explored.

“But for now, we have been collaborating and operating with the police. The NNS Beecroft, which is the
operational arm of the command has always been supportive each time the Lagos CP calls.”

Meanwhile, the continued hostage of the students was blamed on the terms of negotiation and
ransom demands by the kidnappers.

Last Saturday, one of the parents who took N2million to a designated point at Odogunyan, ended up not seeing anyone as the
caller kept changing  the collection point.

The kidnappers had given parents of the abducted students Tuesday last week as deadline for payment of N20 million  as ransom for the
release of each of the students, threatening to relocate them if their demand was not meant.

However, the kidnappers later asked the parents to ask the Lagos State Government to pay a
ransom of N100million for all six students, a demand which is yet to be met.

Meanwhile, the Lagos state government has directed that security cameras be installed in all
public schools in the state to prevent a recurrence of incidences of kidnappers.

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