•Motorists, commuters raise the alarm, as robbers, kidnappers lay siege to Ilesa-Akure Road
From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The ever-busy Ilesa-Akure highway in Ondo State is not in any way secure, but for the first-time user, the presence of fierce-looking security agents, including policemen and soldiers, would give a false sense of safety.
However, to think that the road is safe would amount to a mere daydream. Assorted acts of iniquity, from robbery to kidnapping, are now being perpetrated on the highway almost daily. Besides, the road, which was rehabilitated by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is prone to accidents. Hardly does any day pass without the road recording a crash that most times claims life and property.
This year alone, no fewer than 35 people have lost their lives on the road due to accidents, while armed robbers have also killed many commuters on it.
According to statistics released by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Ilesa-Akure road claims between 100 and 150 lives yearly. This is aside from other evils that have caused death on the same facility.
In January this year alone, it was gathered that 21 passengers were killed on the road; all the victims died on the spot. The Ondo State Sector Commander of the FRSC, Mr. John Bekinbo, attributed the cause of the accidents to over-speeding, use of expired tyres, over-loading and impatience on the part of drivers.
The road was recently identified as a blackspot, with many criminal activities, especially kidnapping, taking place on it day and night. It has recorded many robbery attacks during which vehicles of various kinds were snatched by robbers at gunpoint.
According to Daily Sun’s investigation, the Ero village end of the road, located a a short distance from Igbara-Oke, is the most notorious spot, where many atrocities are perpetrated. Not even the presence of mobile policemen and soldiers at the military checkpoint in Igbara-Oke, Ifedore Local Government Area, has helped in putting an end to criminal acts in the area.
Recently, a senior official of First City Monument Bank was gunned down with his driver in the area while on a trip to Lagos. Also, at that point, veteran journalist and former Managing Director of the Daily Times Plc, Dr. Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, was killed after he had escaped a robbery attack. He was hit by a car that also escaped from the same robbery scene.
Similarly, a student of the Osun State University, Osogbo, was found dead on the road. It was suspected that she was killed by robbers while on a journey.
Two people were recently kidnapped in front of the Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arakeji, a town along the same road. Indeed, the list of those that have experienced tragedies of various categories while on the road is endless.
Ironically, a Nigerian Air Force training school is located along the road. Many religious organisations, too, have their worship centres along that stretch. The Christ Apostolic Church has its headquarters there. The Faculty of Education, Osun State University, is located in Ipetu-Ijesha, a town through which the road passes, same as the Joseph Ayo Babalola University.
Our correspondent learnt that the road has become a terrible route for drivers to ply in the day. It is even worse at night when more atrocities go on, with no assistance or protection from the security agencies.
Mr. Ayotunde Richard, a regular traveller on the road, said the federal government must do something drastic to rid the road of crime, recalling that many times robbers take control of it when there is no presence of law enforcement agents. He accused the security agents manning the area of being careless in the discharge of their duties.
He also advised residents of the towns and villages located close to the road to form local vigilance groups to secure the facility against men of the underworld, just as he called on the leadership of the National Union of Road Transport Workers to declare a state of emergency on the highway.
A resident of Igbara-Oke, who simply identified himself as Seun, tols Daily Sun that the youths of the town had on different occasions protested against the spate of robberies and other criminal acts on the highway.
“On different occasions, we blocked the road when we discovered that the rate of robbery was becoming unbearable. We burnt tyres on the road and put logs of wood to prevent vehicles from plying the road. This was because we discovered that most of the atrocities are perpetrated by the drivers and not the people living around the road,” he said.
He exonerated residents of the community from all the evils in the area, disclosing that the people of various settlements located close to the road provided security for passengers and other road users.
Prophet Joseph Oladipupo of Faith and Victory Church, Akure, said he had witnessed no fewer than four robbery incidents on the road.
“Government needs to protect the lives of the people on the road by increasing the number of checkpoints on it,” the cleric said.
He claimed that ot was mostly young men and women that were involved in the criminal activities taking place on the highway and, therefore, called on the government to engage the youths in gainful employment to prevent crime in the country.
Prophet Oladipupo also called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Ibrahim Idris, and the governors of Ondo and Osun states to do everything within their means to improve security on the road. Specifically, he enjoined the IGP to equip the policemen working on all the checkpoints on the road, regretting that the robbers are more equipped with sophisticated weapons than the security agents.
Police Public Relations Officer, Ondo State Police Command, Mr. Femi Joseph, promised that the police would collaborate with the Osun command and institute measures to prevent criminal activities along the road.
He said men of the state police command were on a 24-hour patrol of the road to ensure the security of road users and residents alike, adding that the police were intensifying efforts with other security agencies to bring an end to the trouble that passengers and motorists.
Officials of the FRSC said they could not react to inquiries on the frequent auto crashes recorded on the highway, claiming that only the sector commander of the commission could make public comments on behalf of the agency.