The activities of kidnappers and killer herdsmen in the past few months in Edo State have thrown the residents into panic despite assurances by the government and the state police command that lives and property are safe.
It is bad enough that night life is non-existent again in the state due to the fear caused by insecurity, but more worrisome is the fact that kidnappers have found a way to beat the system despite several arrests made by the police in recent times.
While cult-related killings seem to have been curtailed, kidnapping by suspected Fulani herdsmen, who are aided by locals, is on the rise.
Three high profile abductions (one leading to the death of a victim), among many others, sent shock waves round the state with many demanding that drastic steps should be taken to halt the ugly trend.
The most gory kidnap tale was that of Prince Dennis Abuda, a United States of America-based Nigerian, who was kidnapped in Ahor, Benin, along with three others on his way back to his base and was killed, because he could not keep up with the pace of his abductors.
The story of the Edo Immigration Public Relations Officer, Bridget Esene, was also pathetic. She was kidnapped by locals on her way to church and according to her, she was sold to the Fulani in the forest before she regained her freedom.
The Edo State Head of Service, Anthony Okungbowa, was lucky to leave the kidnappers’ den alive, but his driver and police orderly were killed during his abduction.
Julius Abuda was devastated by the death of his elder brother and the fact that he paid over N7m ransom after Dennis had been killed. He told The PUNCH that he paid the ransom close to two police stations in Ahor and saw the faces of the kidnappers, who were not wearing any mask to conceal their identities.
He stated, “But I saw the abductors; they are Fulani. When you see a Fulani, you will know by his face; the nose is distinct. They are all over the forests right now. As a civilian, I was able to comb the forest with the help of other people within two hours. We were able to recover my brother’s body and arrest five of the kidnappers.
“It means that if Nigerians are serious, they can drive them away from the forests. The police know what is happening in that place, because there are two police stations close to where I dropped the ransom.”
A recent report that most of the displaced herders from the western part of the country might find a safe haven in the forests of Edo is causing more panic among the residents, who have called on the government and security agencies to prevent this from happening and also check the activities of kidnappers in the state.
Last week, while the citizens were still worried by the report, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen reportedly killed seven persons, including farmers in Ugbok, Oshodin, Okokodo, Ariyan and Yoruba Camp in the Ovia North-East Local Government Area of the state.
However, the police said only three people were killed in the attack. A resident of the area, who took refuge in Benin City after surviving the attack, Janet Ighodaro, said the policemen, who came to the area a day after the dastardly act, said the police only stopped at Okokhua community and instructed the affected communities to bring the corpses of the victims to them at Okokhuo.
For Amadin Aghor, the activities of kidnappers are becoming worrisome to people in the state.
Aghor stated, “It is frightening to read and hear the experiences of those who regained their freedom from these kidnappers. Imagine walking in the forest for several hours, crossing rivers in the process before getting to their (kidnappers’) camps where one undergoes torture until ransom is paid. Many people have also been killed and I will urge the government to take positive steps to stop the activities of these kidnappers.
“If concrete steps are not taken, it is likely that these heavily armed criminals will overrun the state and make it ungovernable. The vigilantes and hunters, who are also being used to find the hideouts of these criminal elements, should be empowered to enable them to work better.”
According to Adesuwa Adolor, the proliferation of arms has led to kidnapping and killings in the country, warning that if nothing was done, they would lead to the disintegration of the country.
“There are too many arms and ammunition in the country and they are fuelling insecurity in every state. For example in Edo State, the killer herders are armed to the teeth and ready to perpetrate any devilish act. There is no way they will accost people on the road with weapons and the people will not succumb,” she stated.
Adolor also called on the government to do more in securing lives and property in the state, adding, “It is imperative that the government provides adequate security for the people. Kidnappers and killers must be brought to justice or else others will be emboldened to thread the same part.”
However, the cries of the people seem to have caught the attention of the authorities as Governor Godwin Obaseki, on Tuesday, assured the people of improved security against kidnappers and killers.
The governor reassured the residents that his administration would sustain the robust relationship between the government, the military and other security agencies to ensure peace and security of lives and property in the state.
Obaseki said his government was committed to ensuring the safety and security of all residents in the state irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation.
He stated, “Our country is under attack as what we are experiencing today might be orchestrated by a series of players causing instability in the country.
“We are witnessing security challenges across the country; it’s a part of the building process, but we are lucky to have the 4 Brigade Commander in Edo at this time. Nigerians are peace-loving people. Edo people are accommodating and welcoming. Every Nigerian has a right to live in Edo; likewise, every Edo person has a right to live in any part of Nigeria.
“With the arrival of Brig. Gen. Musa Sadiq, we will work together to protect every Nigerian living in our territory in Edo. We have enjoyed a very robust relationship with the military. You are a part of our security architecture and we solicit continued close collaboration.”
The governor urged the herdsmen to fish out criminal elements among them, noting that the state would not tolerate any act of violence from anyone living in the state.
He said, “The Fulani community should collaborate with the government and security agencies to fish out criminals. As a government, we do not believe that we should politicise security. It is important that we get the facts right and understand what exactly is going on. We had reports about the crisis or impending crisis around this axis.”
Also, the new Commissioner of Police, Phillip Ogbadu, has said that in order to check kidnapping and killings, the command will work with vigilante groups and local hunters in fighting crime in the state.
He noted that the concept of community policing as adopted by the Inspector-General of Police was going to be injected into policing the state, adding that strategic stakeholders would be carried along to play advisory roles on security in the state.
Ogbadu added that to achieve this, the command had spoken with the governor on the need to meet with stakeholders in the state.
The CP stated, “I must say that we need to work with vigilantes and hunters to comb the forests in their domain and fish out kidnappers and other criminals. They know the terrain so well and they will be vital in our fight against both ills. The concept of community policing as adopted by the Inspector-General of Police is being injected in policing the state, while strategic stakeholders are carried along to play security advisory roles.
“Town hall stakeholders’ meetings have commenced and will regularly be held to review the security situations in the state to effectively check kidnapping and killings. The support of the people is also critical for effective policing of the communities. To bridge the gap created by the shortage of manpower, the command is liaising with vigilante groups in policing the state.”
While noting that anti-crime patrols and raid operations around identified black spots and bush-combing patrols were being carried out to curb crime in the state, the CP noted that the command under his watch in three weeks has visited all security agencies with a view to strengthening the relationship among them so as to foster inter-agency collaboration.