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KIDNAPPING MADNESS’ ON HIGHWAYS

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KIDNAPPING MADNESS’ ON HIGHWAYS

Mr. President must give the marching order to eliminate all known kidnappers’ camps and hideouts –Akintola

 

There is palpable tension and tales of woes in the South-West as kidnappers suspected to be Fulani herdsmen continues to lay siege to the region. These days, the region’s highways are often deserted when these hoodlums literally take over. They operate unhindered, picking up car owners and passengers alike and collecting millions of naira as ransom from their families. ISIOMA MADIKE, who has been following this trend, reports

 

A recent account of a woman who claimed to have been kidnapped along with her husband and daughter of about 10 years old has brought the criminal activities of some suspected Fulani herdsmen to the fore once again. It was a harrowing experience which many would only want to imagine.

 

To say that the treatment meted to the woman and her family was inhuman would be an understatement; it is devilish to say the very least. Although many quickly dismissed the woman’s account as a fiction, tale tells, rather than reality. But discerning minds would aligned with the horrendous experience mainly because there have been countless of such experiences recounted by victims who survived the ordeals in public domain. Even the police authorities doubted it and called for the woman to come out to authenticate what she said and to show proof that what she narrated was true. However, there is no denying the fact that there have been kidnap cases in recent times and a few of the victims that were lucky to escape have claimed that their abductors were herdsmen speaking Fulfulde and Hausa languages.

 

The South-West highways which used to be   peaceful have today become a den of kidnappers as travellers and motorists are abducted at will with many now dreading going on those roads. From journalists to politicians, the list of victims has continued to increase. In most of the cases, families of the victims had to pay a ransom before they were set free. On May 5, a trailer-load of gunmen suspected to be kidnappers attacked travellers on the Ilesha-Ife Expressway. It was gathered that the trailer conveying the attackers suddenly stopped in the middle of the highway at Ikoyi town in Osun State about 6.45pm, while they disembarked and started shooting at everyone in sight. The Public Relations Officer of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Adegbenro Adebanjo, whose wife and son were caught up in the attack, gave an account of the incident in a Facebook post.

 

According to information gleaned from the post, they managed to escape the brigands, who seemed to be targeting travellers on that highway. Mayhem was said to have ensued as vehicles rammed into one another while occupants exited through windows and other openings in desperate dash for safety in the bush. While many were bruised and battered, some were not that lucky, as they were taken away. Also, a professor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Yinka Adegbehingbe, was kidnapped near Ikire along the Ife-Ibadan Highway about the same period. He was, according to SaharaReporters, travelling with his wife from Lagos to Ife before he met the evil harbingers. Before then, the Director of the Lagos State Fire Service, Rasaki Musibau and seven others were kidnapped along Itoikin-Epe Road in Ikosi-Ejirin Local Council Development Area of Lagos State. His happened in April.

 

It was gathered that the kidnappers stormed Iwoye Bridge about 8.pm and stopped vehicles conveying the victims. They were said to have ordered them to alight from their vehicles before whisking them away to an unknown destination. Sources however, said that the axis had become the new den for kidnappers lately.

 

They had, reports said, abducted the Ikosi-Ejirin council chairman, Ajijedidun Adebisi and vice-chairman of Lekki LCDA, a month before Musibau kidnap. While reacting to the incidents, the Lagos State Police Command assured Lagosians of their safety at all times as, according to it, the command has intensified patrols and surveillance along Itoikin-Epe Road, Ketu, Ereyun and other major highways in the state. However, the command’s assurance was not enough to stop the armed bandits’ incursion into the Yoruba forests, where they were said to have set up temporary camps. From these camps, according to reports, they intermittently stormed the highways and kidnap travellers, who they only released in exchange for ransoms. They terrorise, defile and sometimes kill their victims. The Akure/Owo Highway has not been spared either.

 

Not too long ago, three members of staff of the Federal Medical Centre, and a member of the state-owned Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, both in Owo, Ondo State, were kid-napped in Amurin community, along that highway after their close of work. Within the last few months, no fewer than 12 people were said to have been abducted in about three or four incidents with every victims having ugly tales to tell while in the captives of their kidnappers. Most travellers, especially traders who regularly ply this road now embark on a prayer and fasting session before going on any journey.

 

They have now identified about four or five major spots on the Owo / Ikare Akoko Road as being the most deadly. This, according to reports, is one of the reasons the state government embarked on the reconstruction of the road, even though a federal road, to serve as palliative measure to ensure free vehicular movement on this road.

 

But the highways are not the only places that now portend danger. The farms and bushes are also not safe anymore. The former finance minister, Olu Falae’s kidnapped in his farm provided shocking details of how these kidnappers operate. He was deprived food and made to trek several kilometres to freedom.

 

Falae narrated: “There were six of them with three or four guns and every half an hour or so they will say, ‘Baba we are going to kill you, if you don’t   give us money we are going to kill you. One of them came and said ‘look we are going to leave here. Since we cannot leave you here alone, if we don’t get what we want we are going to kill you. And they said they gave me until 3pm and if at 3pm they don’t get the money they would execute me. I thank God that at 21 minutes to 3pm, one of them came and said, ‘the money don complete’.”

 

Giving details on how he was kidnapped, the old man added: “When the hoodlums came, they slashed me with their cutlasses; they said I was not cooperating. And they dragged me barefooted into the bush. After dragging me around for about two hours, they stopped somewhere for us to rest and there they asked me to phone my wife and tell her that I have been kidnapped and taken out of Ondo State by car which was a lie. “I had no food in my stomach, I had no shoes, and my clothes were torn to shreds. At some point one of them gave me a rubber slipper. We walked until about 2am. At other point they called for an Okada. About 2.30am the Okada man took me way down I had no clue where we were going. Finally they dumped me somewhere, where I was until I was released.”

 

The cases of the others are all similar with family members complying with the directives of the abductors to pay the negotiated ransom rather than having confidence in the police to free the victims. The victims’ families would however not disclose the amount they paid as ransom. The ugly incidents on the highways across the South-West region may have given the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, headaches that he had to outline plans of his government to stem the tide of kidnappings and other security challenges confronting his state. Fayemi had explained that the clearing of bushes on the major highways was part of measures to tackle kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes.

 

He said: “We want you to help us about security; before robbers and kidnappers’ attack they would have carried out surveillance in the day or an insider might give them a hint on how to carry it out. So, we want you to be vigilant; if you know bad people around you, let us know we will not expose your identity. The kidnappers dwell within us in Ekiti, the robbers live with us in Ekiti, if they are within your vicinity, please let us know.” Mike Ejiofor, a former Director of the State Security Service (SSS), who was once a victim, has however, added a new dimension to the kidnapping saga. Recalling his sordid experience, Ejiofor said that some of the people who were involved in his kidnap were actually service personnel.

 

He said: “From their discussions you could see the background. Although they are not illiterates but they discuss something about the barracks, the disgruntlement, and the lack of welfare because I had to engage them and they revealed some of these things that if you hear some of them, you would marvel. Reacting to the menace, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has advocated the use of carrot and stick method as a panacea to the scourge of rampaging kidnappings in several parts of Nigeria. According to the human rights organisation, security agencies should take the battle to the kidnappers while government should introduce welfare packages for the poor.

 

The Director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, said: “It is high time we addressed the issue of kidnapping squarely. Our approach to it in this country is absolutely wrong. We surrender to kidnappers and pay ransom so easily. We don’t want to die because we are too materialistic. We have forgotten that life in this world is ephemeral. “Mr. President must give the marching order to the heads of all security outfits to eliminate all known kidnappers’ camps and hideouts. He must give them a deadline for this assignment. They are to perform or get sacked. We are aware that our security men have not been able to storm the kidnappers’ camps for fear of killing some of the victims, not because they are afraid of the kidnappers. However, there are indications that states in the South-West, are strategising and initiating plans to take advantage of their proximity to work together to arrest the growing spate of the crime in the zone.

 

It was gathered that the governments in the zone were concluding plans to firm up the sharing of intelligence and collaborations among security commands to tackle the criminals, who are alleged to be Fulani herdsmen. Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Ganiyu Adams, has also said the Yorubas are trying to do certain things, the Yoruba way. “We have recently been meeting all the relevant leaders and stakeholders in the region under the platform of Yoruba summit. We have held two meetings and after the second, a communiqué was issued by Mogaji Gboyega. The statement is about the need for the Yorubas to defend themselves because we know that self defence is about the most important law of nature.

 

“It has come to a time when we can no longer fold our hands and allow foreigners overrun our land by killing our people, destroying our farms and raping our girls and women. We just have to defend ourselves and our land. We are planning the third meeting which will hold any moment soon to further deliberate on the way out of this ‘rubbish’.” Meanwhile, two prominent Yoruba groups, Afenifere and the Yoruba Council of Elders, have reportedly expressed concern about the renewed cases of kidnapping in the South-West. They said that state governors and security agencies should rise up to address the menace. Afenifere, particularly, took a swipe at the security agencies and the federal government, which it said were doing nothing to stop the kidnappers, who were mostly herdsmen, according to the Punch newspaper.

 

The Publicity Secretary of the organisation, Yinka Odumakin, the report added, described the development as a laxity on the part of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. “Our investigations have shown that the kidnappings taking place in the South-West are the handiwork of the Fulani herdsmen, and there is nobody to check their activities. “Sadly, the security agencies are not doing anything about it. They are looking the other way and the body language of the people in government is supporting it. I know by the grace of God, all these evil activities in our land will end and those who want continuity of this will be put to shame,” he said. Also, the YCE called on the leading presidential candidates to make categorical statements on how they would tackle the menace. The Secretary-General of the YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, told the Punch that the governors in the six states of the region should also wake up as chief security officers of their states and come up with a workable solution to end the ugly development. Olajide, who recently raised the alarm that herdsmen have built 1,123 cells inside the thick forests across Yorubaland, said: “There have been kidnap cases in recent times and a few of the victims that were lucky to escape told us that their abductors were herdsmen speaking Fulfulde and Hausa languages.

 

That really embarrassed us. So, we are under the siege of the herdsmen, and that is what we are saying. “We have been shouting about these cells but it appears that security agencies do not want to do anything concerning the alarm. I don’t understand the inertia. We expect them to have combed these forests and arrested the criminals with their arms and ammunition. But when you hear the story told by the victims who were lucky to escape, you would know that there is a kind of connivance and collaboration between these criminals and some security agents. You will be amazed that these people have many cells in the thick forests in Yorubaland.”

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