[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Nigeria has praised police and government officials after their successful rescue of three teenage schoolgirls who had been kidnapped from their church-run boarding school in Lagos.
The three girls were taken from their dormitory at the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in the village of Agunfoye-Lugbusi in Ikorodu, Lagos. The school is jointly run by three Nigerian dioceses: Lagos, Lagos West and Lagos Mainland.
The Lagos State Police have confirmed that the girls are safe and well and are being cared for in an un-named hospital in Lagos.
“You know that the girls would have gone through a lot of trauma. However, the girls are hale and healthy,” police spokeswoman Dolapo Badmos told the Daily Trust newspaper. “We want to keep them away from public glare for now. We shall make our findings known to the press later.
“We are all excited. The school authority is excited; the victim’s parents are all excited. We are happy that the girls were not harmed.”
It is not known whether any ransom was paid to secure the release of the girls. The Daily Trust reports that the kidnappers had first asked for N100 million Nigerian Naira (approximately £354,000) for each girl; reducing this to N20 million and then N10 million.
The Vanguard newspaper reports that the girls were rescued in Imota, on the outskirts of Ikorodu last Friday – six days after their abduction in “an act that outraged the nation.” The Vanguard says that news of the girls’ release “provoked spontaneous jubilation in their school.”
“Three suspects were arrested, one was actively involved, two others are conspirators, who one way or the other aided the kidnapping,” the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, told journalists. “With respect to the state of the girls, they are very well, they are very stable and immediate medical attention was given to them by police medical team.” He said that the girls had not been molested.
He continued: “Someone had mentioned ransom. It is unfortunate that we keep on mentioning ransom. When you talk of ransom in cases like this, you are glorifying that. We shouldn’t be talking of that again in this country because if you are talking of ransom, you are telling others that kidnapping is viable and they can be going and kidnapping people to collect money.
“I want to also say that what was employed in rescuing the girls is more of application of intelligence policing using the platform of technology, partnering with members of the community, pressures on the kidnappers and with that pressure they found out that there was no way for them again to keep these girls and that was what led to the success in saving the girls.”
The Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, was fulsome in his praise for the security forces. Speaking to journalists after making a “thank you” visit to the police headquarters, he said that the officers had “performed exceptionally well.”
He said that he was “very, very devastated” on hearing the news of the girls’ kidnapping. Concerns that the “young women [were] out in the cold, day and night” prevented him from sleeping. “When we got the news that they have been rescued we bounced back,” he said.
Archbishop Okoh said that security at the school had been tightened with additional physical security measures and the employment of additional security guards; and the church was working “more closely with the police and other security agencies” to further improve security.