EMOTIONS were rife yesterday at Lagos State Model Junior/ Secondary School, Igbonla, a suburb of Epe area of the state where gunmen kidnapped four pupils, a teacher and the junior secondary school principal in the early hours of Thursday, according to Nation.
The embattled community continued to play host to hordes of visitors, especially parents who stormed the school to ascertain that their children were not among those kidnapped.
Some of the parents started betraying emotions before they even got to the gate of the school. Tension started building when the beleaguered parents were prevented from going in to see their children by the armed vigilante men who said they were acting on orders from above.
They asked the parents to come back today (Saturday), which is the visiting day.
Enraged by the development, the parents engaged the security men in a shouting match, asking why they would be prevented from seeing their wards after the incident that sent shivers down their spine.
“I have two children here and you are telling me that I can’t go in to see them. Do you have children at all? Are you a parent? If you are a parent, you will not say what you are saying,” one of the parents angrily said.
When cornered by our correspondent, he said: “I came all the way from Lagos to see my children after hearing about that shocking incident and they are telling me to come back tomorrow. How possible is that when I have not seen or heard from my children? This is disheartening because I don’t know the condition of my children.”
Also speaking, a parent who simply identified himself as Ben, expressed disappointment about the decision to prevent them from seeing their children.
“How on earth would anybody prevent me from seeing my son after that kind of incident? I was urinating on my body when I heard about the incident and couldn’t even sleep all the night. I hit the road very early to come and see my children and somebody is saying no. I will bite somebody here because my mind can’t be at rest until I have seen my child.”
One of the administrative staff of the school who did not want her name in print described the experience as unforgettable.
She said: “I was in the hostel preparing what the students would eat when we started hearing strange gun shots. When I hear d the gunshots, I knew those shots were not the regular hunter’s gunshots. Immediately, my colleagues and I stepped out to see what was happening. Before we took three steps, we saw a heavily armed man that was hooded. Instantly, we developed goose pimples all over our bodies and started running inside the bush.
“Before we knew it, students joined us in the race. We used our bodies to crush the thick bush. If you see the place, you will think it was cutlass that they used to cut it. It wasn’t cutlass, we used our heads, legs and hands to bring down the bush. We jumped, dived and did everything possible to run out of danger.
“The children, who are mostly in junior schools started crying. I quickly prevailed on them to keep quiet to avoid giving us out. Instead, I said they should be praying in their different languages and religions. After some time, we saw some teachers coming towards us. They said the gunmen had left and asked us to come out. We quickly went and made food for the students and later knew that some people were kidnapped by the gunmen. This is the first time this kind of incident would happen since the school was established in 1988.”
A resident of a building beside the school, who identified herself as Bunmi Pekun, was yet to come to terms with the strange development in the community. She said she was taking her children to school when the incident occurred.
The terror-stricken woman narrated her experience thus: “I was taking my children to school that Thursday morning when we started hearing gunshots with some people shouting war, war. I quickly ran back home with the children thinking that it was Boko Haram members that invaded the community. Before I knew what was happening, students from the school started running into our house crying and totally devastated. It was the students that told us what exactly happened.
“The gunmen, from what we heard, were already lurking around the community before they carried out the attack. It was immediately the junior and senior school principals stepped their feet inside the school that they began their operations. They were asking the students to show them the child of a commissioner in the school. They attacked and cut the head of a female staff member with cutlass and asked her to lead them to the principal. When they got to the junior school, he pleaded that they should release the children and take him away. But the plea fell on their deaf ears as they took him away with the students.
“They also beat up the senior school principal. They asked him to prostrate and beat him very well. I didn’t allow my children to go to school because what they experienced yesterday was scary. No sane parent would allow the children to go to school after the ugly experience.”
Another parent, who lives in the neighbourhood, Segun Sulaimon, said he has been living in fear since the incident happened. He also did not allow his children to go to school as a result of fears.
“There is nobody that will remain the same after that incident. If an adult like me is yet to overcome the shock, imagine what the impact would be on our children and the students of the school. How could I allow my children to go to school with that horrible experience? I prefer to have them stay here with me than to hear any negative story. I would have even left the environment if not for the presence of armed security men in the whole place and the assurance by the deputy governor that all is well.”
Some of the children who spoke with The Nation were visibly troubled as they narrated their ordeal.
One of them, who gave his name as Hamzat Abaniwonda, said: “We were at the bus stop waiting to board a motorcycle to school when we started hearing gunshots. We started telling ourselves that it was the hunters that were shooting at birds and jokingly said that they should remember to keep our share.
“We were still laughing over the matter when a teacher from Lagos Model told us to run inside the bush because there was trouble in the school. Our hearts immediately skipped because what we thought wasn’t what was actually happening. Without waiting for more information, we ran into the bush in different directions and didn’t bother if anything was there that was capable of hurting us.”
Another child, who gave his name simply as Gani said: “I am still afraid. Each time I hear any strange sound, my mind goes back to the Thursday incident. The gunshots were deafening and they made the whole building to vibrate. My mother quickly pushed us inside the house when they were shooting. She pushed us under the bed and locked the door.”
When our correspondent visited the river through which the gunmen invaded the community, armed marine policemen were spotted in two boats on the river.
One of them who craved anonymity said: “We have been here since yesterday. We went to a neighbouring community where the residents told us that the gunmen came and harassed them before coming to attack the school. They said that they came in a boat but when they took us to the spot where the boat was parked, we discovered that it was no longer there. We later took local vigilante men to comb the entire area but we didn’t see the hoodlums.”