How we negotiated students’ release without paying ransome – Ondo govt

Details of how the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr Agboola Ajayi, risked his life to secure the release of the six students of Model Secondary School, Igbonla Epe, Lagos State emerged yesterday.
A top security source said the militants contemplated between releasing the six students and abducting the Deputy Governor for higher ransom, until they negotiated amnesty with the state government.
One of the militants had suggested that the government could pay N2billion as ransom if the school children were released and the Deputy Governor kidnapped.
The source who was privy to the operation that lasted for more than eight hours, said the militants have told the Deputy Governor not to come with any security man when coming to the creeks for the release of the students.
According to him, one of the militants cocked his gun and was becoming uncontrollable until the leader of the militants asked others to disarm him.
The source said that Ajayi and his Chief Protocol Officer, Mr. Donald Ojogo, and an ex-militant who was the link between the militants and the government, went to the creek on the order of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, in order to talk with the abductors and secure the release of the six pupils.
Both Ajayi and Ojogo are from Ese-Odo Local Government area of the state. While Ajayi is from Apoi axis of the council area, Ojogo is of the Ijaw extraction.
Giving details of how Ajayi risked his life despite security advice, the source said the Commander of the Forward Operational base of the Navy insisted on escorting the team to the creek with gunboat.
But the militants had warned that they would kill the children if they see any security personnel in company of the negotiation team. The Navy Commander said it would be suicidal for him to allow the number two citizen of the state to travel to the creek without security details.
The source said it was the assurance given by the Deputy Governor that made the Navy Commander to allow him travel without any security escort. The Navy and the security details of the Deputy Governor had to stay at Igbokoda, in Ilaje Local Government for the three-man team.
The source said the team traveled for over five hours on the creek before the militants appeared to them. He confirmed that it would have been suicidal if they had gone with security men as they encircled them when they got to the creek between Ajakpa in Eseodo and Ugbonla in Ilaje
He, however, said the militants negotiated with Ajayi that they should include them in the amnesty progamme of the Federal Government, before the school children were released to the government delegation.
His word, “I want to tell you between man and God, no ransom was paid as far we are concerned here. I don’t know where the issue of fresh N5million ransom came in.
“The governor ordered the deputy governor to go and meet with the boys (abductors) to talk to them. You know the deputy governor is from Eseodo Local Government, so he knows the terrain (the creeks).
“The deputy governor went into the creek with one of his aide known as Donald Ojogo, without any security aide because the militants warned them not to come to them with security man. They said if they came with security, they would kill the pupils.
“They also warned the government to evacuate all gunboats of the navy and the police from the waterways in Lagos, Ogun and Ondo states. They spoke with the Deputy governor in pidgin English and they told him they were indigenes of Ondo State and they wanted to be included in the amnesty programmes of the Federal Government.
“They said if the government includes them in the amnesty programme, they will drop their arms and leave the creeks. The government did not pay any dime as ransom; anybody that is saying they paid is not being truthful. It was after their release that the security agencies were informed.”
The source said the pupils had gotten used to their abductors during their stay at the creeks. He said one of the students had become a general and was referred to as General Saka as he was the leader of the students while in captivity.

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