Following months of banditry and kidnappings that pervaded most parts of Ondo State, ADEWALE MOMOH writes on how the menace was frontally tackled in the state
For a while, most highways in Ondo State had turned to havens of criminal activities due to the rampant cases of banditry and kidnappings. With the situation, the highways became nightmares to the residents of the state as well as those on transit through the state which had always served as the choice route for those travelling to and from the northern part of the country.
The effrontery of the criminals which started gradually in the border communities of Akoko axis of Ondo North Senatorial District subsequently moved into many parts of the communities in the senatorial district before it found its way to the Central Senatorial District.
Among residents of the state, the Owo- Akure highway, Ose-Owo highway as well as highways across Akoko axis had become dreaded routes with trips within the trouble highways usually embarked upon with the mindset of any eventualities.
During the period when the state was practically under the siege of activities of gunmen and bandits, most of whom who were suspected to be herdsmen, hardly will a week pass without reported cases of two to four cases of killings and kidnappings on the highways.
Prominent among the killings and kidnapped cases were that of the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adeusi and the late Mrs Funke Olakunri, the daughter of the leader of the Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti.
While late Oba Adeusi fell to the bullets of his assailants after he was attacked at Elegbeka in Ose Local Government Local Government Area of the state along Benin- Owo-Akure highway while returning to his domain in Ifon from Akure, the state capital where he had gone to attend the monthly meeting of the Traditional Council of Obas, late Mrs. Olakunri was killed in an attempt to kidnap her at Ore axis along the Benin- Ore-Lagos highway while on her way to Lagos from Akure.
With the increase in the killings and series of kidnappings, the state Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu swung into action by ensuring that the criminals who had infiltrated the state to perpetrate their nefarious activities are flushed out.
The first move by the governor, who is also the Chairman of the South West Governors’ Forum, was his resolve to champion the establishment of the South Western Security Network Agency, otherwise known as Amotekun. Determined to ensure that residents of the state are safe from the incessant attacks, Akeredolu ensure that Ondo State recorded the feat as the first state to launch the indigenous security outfit following its commencement of official operations in August, 2020. During the passing-out of the corps first set of cadets, the governor had said that it was so horrible that marauders laid siege to the highways as well as in the farmlands, adding that “with the launch of the Amotekun, we resolved that it shall be no retreat, no surrender. We are not going to be intimidated or blackmailed.
“It is incontrovertible that the existing security framework is being overstretched and we had to device a means of confronting the challenge of insecurity head-on. “That was when the concept of Amotekun came up.
As Yorubas, we are not known to surrender to our adversaries and if our fore bears did not, we should not. “It is not a parallel security structure to any of the security agencies.
Rather, it is to complement what is on ground so that together they can achieve the goal of a safer environment, conducive enough to encourage foreign investors and rid our State of all forms of crime and criminally-minded elements.” With the Amotekun achieving part of its mandate of ridding the state of criminals and unearthing crimes before they are committed,
Akeredolu who was still worried by the security breach that was still experienced in the state, ordered the restriction on the movement of private and commercial motorcycles, commonly known as ‘okada’ across the State, as well as a ban on vehicles with unauthorized tinted glasses across the state.
According to the governor, who stated this through his Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, motorcyclists will no longer operate beyond 6 pm across the state.
Akeredolu, who urged security agencies in the state to be alive to their responsibilities by taming the ugly trend, appealed to residents to be security conscious and as well provide necessary information that will aid in curbing crimes in their localities to security operatives.
To further ensure that the spate of insecurity in the state is frontally tackled, the governor, few weeks ago issued a seven-day ultimatum to herdsmen to vacate forest reserves across the state.
According to Akeredolu who fumed at the audacious and nefarious activities of criminals within the state, his administration will not fold its arms and allow a few individuals turn the state into a haven of dare-devil criminals.
During an interactive meeting with the leadership of the Hausa/Fulani and Ebira Communities in the state, over the development, the governor said, security reports and debriefings from victims of kidnap cases pointed in one direction traceable to some bad elements masquerading as herdsmen.
Akeredolu added that forest reserves in the state and across the Southwest had been turned into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities. While ordering that all Forest Reserves in the state should be vacated, the governor had stated that, “As the Chief Law and Security Officer of the state, it is my constitutional obligation to do everything lawful to protect the lives and property of all residents of the state. Recent security trends attest that these times require all hands to be on the deck as the difficulties we face are dire.
The challenges are quite enormous but we are determined to confront them head-on. “We decided that all the criminal elements who hide under various guises to aid the destruction of farmlands as well as perpetrate other violent crimes such as kidnapping, drug peddling and other nefarious activities, must be stamped out of our dear state.
“I wish to reassure the residents that the state’s Security Council, under my leadership, shall not relent in tackling these challenges as pragmatically possible. We shall remove all threats in no distant future. “We have cases of several attacks on our people by these mindless elements.
You will recall the gruesome murder of one of the members of the Ondo State Traditional Council who was caught in the web of the devious plans of these workers of evil on his way back to his domain.”
The governor further placed a ban on nightgrazing and movement of cattle within cities and highway in the state, while also outlawing under-aged grazing of cattle as part of efforts to tackle crimes in the state.
Following the resolve of the governor to lead from the front line, communities have also decided to take charge of security situation in their domains.
The determination was witnessed about three weeks ago in the agrarian community of Akunu-Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of the state where some travel lers who were kidnapped were freed by the villagers.
The kidnappers who were armed to the teeth had abducted the travellers in the community and whisked them into the bush after sporadic gunshots to scare residents.
However, the gunshots could not frighten hunters, vigilante groups and youths in the community as they launched a manhunt on the kidnappers and as well to rescue the travellers who were seven in number.
With their knowledge of the terrains of the community, the hunters and the vigilante caught up with the kidnappers who fired at the hunters. Following exchange of gunfire between the kidnappers and the hunters, one of the kidnappers was killed which forced the other gang members to abandon their victims and take to their heels. The travellers who were on transit through the community to the northern part of the country were said to have been rescued unhurt. According to the regent of the town, Princess Tolani Orogun, when the news of the abduction of the travellers filtered into the town, the vigilante group in the community, hunters and youths swung into action and started combing the forest towards rescuing the travellers. “The efforts of the brave and courageous group and youths yielded fruits as the kidnappers exchanged shooting with them. “The gun duel led to the death of one kidnaper while others fled. And the seven travellers were rescued unhurt.” While confirming the development, the Police Area Commander for Ikare-Akoko, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Razak Rauf said the remains of the dead kidnapper was deposited in mortuary of a public facility in the local government. For over a month, the peaceful atmosphere which Ondo State is known for gradually returning as the cases of kidnappings and killings on the highway are now disappearing from the state. Most of the trouble spots had been fortified with additional security personnel, who now make travelling on the highway hitch free.
According to a commercial driver that plies Lagos to Ikare-Akoko, Kazeem Ogedengbe, for the past three weeks, there he had not heard any case of security breach from Ogbese axis down to Akoko, which he said was not the case in the past.
While emphasizing that anytime he is driving, Kazeem disclosed that the moments he get to the flash point areas, he was always ready for any eventualities from bandits or kidnappers, but the situation has changed following what he described as the right intervention from Akeredolu.