While the attention of security agencies are focussed on tackling kidnapping activities, banditry and terrorism in the North West and North East of the country, the failure to effectively man the Obajana-Okene highway has worsened the security situation in the area with almost a weekly incident of kidnapping of luxury and mini bus passengers. In the latest incident which occurred on Tuesday September 22, three passengers of one of the major transport companies in Nigeria were kidnapped by gunmen and their whereabouts remain unknown till today. It is a well-known fact that the responsibility of protecting citizens’ lives and properties rests with the federal government and the failure to do this leaves the citizens distraught, helpless and at the mercy of agents of darkness.
Granted that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has made tremendous efforts to curtail the activities of these men of the underworld, but it is important that immediate attention is shifted towards Obajana-Okene and Abuja-Lokoja axis as the incidents of kidnappings, murder and sundry crimes have become not just a daily occurrence but rampant. The police and other security agencies responsible for the area ought to justify their positions by taking the fight to the criminals.
As the federal and state governments make spirited efforts to rejuvenate the economy, attract foreign investors and create jobs for the citizenry it is important that all efforts be geared towards eradicating kidnappings along the country’s highways. It is indeed pitiable that innocent citizens who struggle on daily basis to make ends meet, by travelling at night and day usually fall victims to men of the underworld who kill, maim, extort and subject them to indecent and inhuman treatments including rape.
As it stands now, it has become imperative to restore police escorts to luxury buses in order to serve as deterrence against bandits and terrorists who presently take advantage of the bad portions of the highways and absence of enough security personnel to carry out their evil intentions along the country’s highways. Even the road transport owners and stakeholders had tabled the dangers facing them to the highest police authorities, still it appears there is an upsurge rather than a reduction in the kidnapping activities. As a matter of fact most of the major bus transport companies in Nigeria have at one time or the other fallen victim to the marauders.
Every passing day Nigerians are inundated with pitiable tales of kidnappings involving passengers, drivers and conductors of interstate mini and luxury buses and it is more painful if we remember that the victims are the productive business men and women, as well as travellers who power the country’s economy with their productivity. Apart from that they are also breadwinners of their families and their dependants will suffer irreparable damage if their source of livelihood is kidnapped and killed.
Similarly the negative impact of the kidnapping activities portends grave danger to Nigeria’s tourism sector which is projected to contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in this era of dwindling oil revenues.
Therefore, there is the need for the Nigerian security agencies to redouble their efforts towards curbing the incessant kidnappings on our highways, especially the Okene-Obajana axis. Also the state, local and federal governments must synergise towards finding a lasting solution to the menace of kidnappings along the highways in Kogi state as it not only threatens the lives of innocent citizens but it deprives the affected state and local governments of the much-needed internal revenue for development. It should also be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had challenged the security chiefs to wake up and do more to curtail insecurity in the land. He had also told them that their efforts were not good enough.
It is indeed regrettable that a transport company had in the past one month witnessed three incidents of abduction of their passengers along the Obajana-Okene axis in Kogi state with one person killed, several people abducted and millions of naira paid as ransom to these dare-devil criminals. As a country we must not surrender to the whims and caprices of these devilish men. Government must of necessity immediately initiate moves to confront this menace before it becomes cancerous.
Already there is apprehension in the land including the once peaceful Southern part of the country, that bandits and terrorists are taking positions with plans to attack innocent citizens and their communities. These must not be allowed to happen as the consequences will have negative consequences for Nigeria, especially among the members of international community. Already we have witnessed periodic advisories by some foreign embassies in Nigeria to their citizens to avoid travelling to some parts of the country. It now behoves on the federal and Kogi state governments to prove the naysayers wrong by taking proactive measures towards curtailing the evil activities of kidnappers along the Obajana-Okene axis of the state.
It must also not be forgotten that Kogi as a confluence state remains a transit point for travellers from all parts of the country, and they come with their money to patronise Kogi citizens along their travel routes and this means of trade and survival will be greatly undermined with the activities of kidnappers, armed bandits and robbers as well as terrorists. Nigeria has the capacity and security personnel to confront this danger and the time to deploy the human and material resources for the purpose is now.
As I write this article, three persons including a lady were among the people kidnapped from one of the buses along the Obajana-Okene highway. Meanwhile a ransom of N10 million is being demanded on each of the three victims and over fifteen passengers sustained various degrees of injuries. These nefarious activities come with costly implications for the companies, innocent travellers and the country as a whole.
Therefore the government has an opportunity to clean up the Augean stable by going after the perpetrators of these acts in order to save people’s lives and their properties. In this fight we must not allow the kidnappers to win and a stitch in time saves nine.
Enekwechi writes from Lagos