- As Ambode keeps mute, over abduction of three Lagos school girls by 15 gunmen
A security breach has allegedly occurred in the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre, Gulf of Guinea (MTISC-GoG), resulting in information being leaked to individuals with the intent and capability to launch hijackings in the area, an insurance agency Standard P&I Club informed.
The agency added that the breach has not yet been formally confirmed and that “vessels should use caution when reporting to MTISC GoG”.
International shipping association BIMCO advised that the company risk assessments and vessel hardening procedures, outlined in the Guidelines for Owners, Operators and Masters for Protection against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region, should continue to be followed.
Standard P&I Club said that BIMCO recommended that “vessels entering the vessel reporting area for West Africa should continue to register with MTISC GoG in order to receive incident reports, but limit the provision of any information which would allow vessels to be identified or tracked.”
The shipping association said that in this way shipping security in the region should be preserved.
Since mid-January there has been a notable uptick in reported incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
According to UK-owned risk management solutions provider Protection Group International (PGI), the pirates have given up on oil cargo theft and turned their attention to kidnapping crew members for ransom.
There were four recorded attacks on vessels in the area involving kidnapping in January, a significant increase compared to one per month from October to December 2015, while there were no reports of major oil cargo thefts since October 2015.
In the meantime, parents of pupils of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary School, a private school in the Ikorodu area of Lagos, have blamed the abduction of three schoolgirls of the college on security lapses in the school.
BMJSS is a co-educational secondary school owned by the Lagos Anglican Diocese.
The parents lamented that the low perimeter fence of the school and inadequate presence of security personnel at the hostel end, where the pupils were abducted, posed little or no barrier to the hoodlums.
Despite that the schoolgirls were kidnapped on Monday night and the information had been widely circulated, neither the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, nor his representatives had visited the school as of 8pm on Tuesday.
The state government had also yet to make a statement on the abduction.
It was learnt that the pupils were studying in the Science and Technology Block for their examinations near the hostel around 8pm on Monday when the gunmen, said to be about 15 in number, stormed the premises, shooting sporadically.
The bandits, one of whom was said to be masked, were reported to have been resisted by some male students.
The students, however, had to beat a retreat when the hoodlums inflicted machete cuts on one of the male students.
The arrival of the school’s security men, who joined the students, forced the invaders to flee.
The bandits reportedly escaped with the three girls, said to be in senior classes, through the fence after failed attempts by the school security guards and some of the pupils to resist the abduction.
Our correspondents, who went round the school on Tuesday, observed that the fence borders a site, which houses several uncompleted buildings, with bush paths criss-crossing most of the areas.
Some panic-stricken parents hurriedly took their children away from the school on Tuesday.
No fewer than five parents picked their children from the school before our correspondents left the school.
They refused to speak with any of our correspondents when approached for their reactions.
Many of the parents blamed the school authorities for not providing adequate security within the boarding area.
An angry parent, who refused to give her name, said she would not allow her daughter to sleep in the school’s hostel on Tuesday.
Another parent said the authorities concentrated security arrangements at the entrance to the school while there was none within the hostel area.
She said, “I am not going to accept any excuses from the school authorities on this abduction. We should do the right thing. They are supposed to have ensured adequate security in the hostel area of the school. The fence is too low and anybody can enter the school freely.”
A woman, who said her child was in JSS2, claimed there was a similar incident in the school a few months ago, but said there were no victims.
“There had been attempts to attack the school before now. The principal called all the pupils and warned them to be vigilant and report suspicious movements,” she said.
Some of the parents in broken voices and teary eyes also gathered to pray for the safe release of the abducted pupils.
“This is sabotage. Everything is under control and we believe that those children would return very soon. We have seen our children and we pray that those abducted would be rescued safely,” a parent, Mrs. Biola Ategbole, said.
The school authorities declined to speak with journalists on the incident and turned down enquiries on the identities of the victims, though one of our correspondents heard an official of the school describing the abducted girls as pastors’ children.
They also warned parents of the abducted children not to speak to the press.
The distraught principal of the school, Ven Olaoluwa Adeyemi, was seen in company with some officials moving towards the entrance to the school.
The school authorities, in a text message to the parents, stated, ‘‘Dearly beloved parents, the unfortunate incident reported is under control and the three parents have been contacted.
“Please continue to pray with us and we assure you that all will be well. Kindly keep calm, your children are safe.’’
The Bishop of Badagry Diocese, one of the owners of the school, Babatunde Adeyemi, said he did not want to speak on the abduction until the children were rescued safely.
“I have no story to tell you. We don’t discuss such issue on the pages of newspapers. When God has settled the case, we will keep you informed,” he said in an interview on the telephone with one of our correspondents on Tuesday.
When The PUNCH called the principal for an update at about 9.20pm on Tuesday, he said he was in a crucial meeting.
Describing the attack, a security guard, who did not give his name, said the guards could not withstand the weapons of the bandits.
He added, “When I heard the first gunshot, I thought it was a banger. Before I knew what was happening, they had entered the classroom.
‘‘We tried our best but they were fully armed. If they were not carrying guns, they would not have escaped because some pupils tried to obstruct them, not minding the guns. The gunmen were about 15.”
A commercial motorcyclist, who identified himself only as Akpan, said Adamo Road, which links the school, was blocked around 6pm on Monday, adding that the area was deserted.
Akpan stated, “The road leading to the school was blocked and deserted yesterday (Monday) around 6pm which was unusual. The operation was well planned. I learnt there was a similar attack on the school about a month ago but it failed. Something has to be done to the security of the school.”
No fewer than 10 armed policemen were on the school premises as of 3pm when our correspondents left the school.
The Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 2, Onikan, Lagos, Bala Hassan, and Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, visited the school and assured the management that efforts were ongoing to rescue the pupils alive.
After a closed-door meeting with the parents and the school management, the AIG said the police had got useful information on the location of the abductors, adding that the police were working with other security agencies to secure the pupils’ release.
Hassan added, “They (pupils) are preparing for exams and went to the classroom to read and revise. It was in the process that the hoodlums came, armed with Ak47, and started shooting sporadically and took three of them.
‘‘The security forces jointly are doing everything possible to ensure that the three children abducted are rescued in good health. We have also given assurance of adequate security on the premises so that learning will continue.
‘‘I have got some lead information from the commissioner of police and everything is on course. The deployment has not changed and Ogun State Command has been contacted to make sure that that place is fully secured.’’
“For now, we want to keep the identities of the children to our chest and see what we can do today or tomorrow. I want to assure you that the security forces are on top of the situation.”
The CP and some naval officers in a helicopter conducted an aerial surveillance of the school vicinity for about 30 minutes.
Asked what was the outcome of the surveillance, Owoseni said, “Investigation is still ongoing. I cannot say more than that for now.”
Meanwhile, many Nigerians and groups have condemned the abduction of the three female pupils, describing the action as outrageous.
The kidnap, they said, portended a dangerous trend as well as the state of insecurity in the country.
The President, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr. Michael Alogba, while condemning the abduction, described it as barbaric.
According to him, the action is enough to warrant increased security awareness and conferences in the nation’s schools immediately.
Alogba stated in a text message to one of our correspondents, “The action is barbaric and condemnable. People should increase their security awareness. Parents and schools should also commence conferences and seminars on security immediately.”
The Lagos NUT Chairman, Mr. Segun Raheem, who likened the action to the kidnap of the over 200 Chibok girls in April, 2014, said such act should not be allowed to continue in the nation’s schools.
Raheem, while urging the government to check the action as well as frequent harassment, assault and attacks on teachers and pupils, noted that the crime would create a culture of fear in schools.
Also, the immediate past Secretary of the All Nigerian Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, Mr. Kelvin Nwankwo, who described the incident as unfortunate, urged the police and other security agencies to be awake to their responsibilities.
He urged Nigerians to pray for the pupils and their parents.
A Psychology lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Adeboye Ayinde, noted that the affected pupils and their parents would not easily forget the trauma.
Ayinde, who called for increased surveillance in schools, advised parents not to take their children to environment that was notorious for nefarious activities.
World Maritime News with additional report from Punch