By Christopher Oji
Travellers, especially commercial bus drivers plying the Benin-Agbor and Benin-Auchi roads have expressed fears over the activities of kidnappers and bandits who have taken over the Benin bypass and adjourning roads.
Last week, gunmen abducted a man conveying a corpse for burial from Lagos to Enugu. During the attack at Ahor, along the Benin-Agbor bypass, the younger brother of the deceased, who was sitting in the hearse, was kidnapped and the vehicle was badly damaged.
Narrating the incident, the driver of the vehicle, marked KRD 782 GO, Salami Orijiwa, said: “I carried a body in the ambulance; we were coming from Lagos to Enugu to bury him and the younger brother of the deceased was sitting with me in the front seat of the vehicle. He was abducted by gunmen.”
Two weeks ago, the police found the decomposing body of a United States-based Etsako prince, Eloniyo Dennis Abuda, in a forest in Edo State, four days after criminals posing as herdsmen abducted him.
The police team, led by the Commissioner of Police, Philip Ogbadu, found Abuda’s body, with deep injuries, days after his family paid N10 million ransom. Some travellers who spoke to Daily Sun said the roads were becoming more dangerous each day. An activist, Mark Ojianwuna, attributed the incessant attacks on the release of over 120 condemned criminals from the Benin Correctional Centre during the #EndSARS protest last October.
Ojianwuna said: “We have been having pockets of attacks on the roads, but since the release of the 120 condemned criminals, the attacks have become rampart and more formidable. I am disappointed at our security agencies, especially the police, who have failed to arrest the criminals that were condemned by competent courts. The police should go after the hoodlums and bring them to book.
“With what we are seeing, the roads are dark spots that only the courageous can pass now. What is happening on Abuja-Kaduna road and in the North-East will soon be child’s play. I am from Delta State. I used to go home from Lagos every two weeks, because I have a business at home, but I can’t visit home anymore until something drastic is done about security on the road.”
On his part, a commercial bus driver, Ikechukwu Azubuike, told Daily Sun that he has sold his Seinna van that he was using for interstate travel and purchased a Toyota Corolla car, which he is now using for Uber rides.
He said: “I am afraid, with what is going on on the roads, especially atUgonoba.The worst is that the hoodlums operate at anytime, especially in the afternoon. The last trip I made to the East was in December. I nearly died as I missed stray bullets by the whiskers.”
That fateful day, we had just passed the Benin bypass, heading to Agbor. After a town, Ugonoba, gunmen had hijacked a truck and used it to barricade the road. I tried to make a detour and the gunmen started firing at me; I abandoned my vehicle and took to my heels. One man who was also running for his dear life was shot in the chest, another in the leg. Because of the indiscriminate shooting, many abandoned their vehicles, except those who felt they could not run. The hoodlums were going from car to car looting everything that they needed. I can’t tell is whether they abducted anyone or not. Some soldiers later came and confronted the hoodlums and removed the truck they used as barricade. We latter regrouped and continued to our destinations while the wounded victims were taken to the hospital. A villager told us that the gunmen operate anytime.”
Daily Sun’s Investigations confirmed that the attacks were not unconnected with the escape of over 120 condemned criminals by #EndSARS protesters. It was gathered that the zone was contending with the challenges of herdsmen and armed robbers who attack passengers.
A police officer that spoke on the condition of anonymity said: “It is the release from the correctional centre that made matters worse. Before, we used to have a few cases of kidnap, but now people are kidnapped every day. Freeing over 120 condemned criminals from the correctional centre is not a small thing. These are condemned criminals who were waiting for execution and they have no fear or care in this world. They are ready to do anything to survive and ready to kill anyone who dares them.
“The scrapping of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad and the weakening of tactical units, such as Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), has caused big problems for the public. The government has also allowed the Nigerian Army to take over our jobs and these things do not help in the war against crime and criminality. SARS and IRT operatives would have been able to track and re-arrest the criminals. That is the only solution to the problem of kidnapping and armed robbery on our roads.”
However, Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has said his administration would not politicize security issues in the state.
Governor Obaseki added that efforts were being made to isolate and deal with the issues to provide a lasting solution to insecurity across the state.
The governor made the remark when he led heads of security agencies in the state on a fact-finding visit to Udo, Ovia South West Local Government Area of the state.