Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Palpable fear and anxiety have now gripped the people of Ikare-Akoko, Akungba-Akoko, Arigidi Akoko and Ugbe Akoko in the northern senatorial district of Ondo State over the invasion of the area by some strange faces.
The situation is causing sleeplessness for the people of the area, many of whom confessed that they were scared that the strange people, suspected to be Fulani, might have come to perpetrate evil in their land.
The towns, due to their proximity to Kogi State in the North Central geo political zone of the country, already have a sizeable number of Fulanis living and working in them. But such Fulanis who live in the towns are known to the indigenes. It was gathered that they were given the right to operate in the towns by community leaders in the various communities.
But the recent influx of strange faces is daily causing apprehension among the people. The new faces of the Fulani and non-Fulani people, who are not known to the residents of the towns, has given them the feeling that their lives might be in danger.
As a result of the strange development, the traditional rulers in the five communities and other neighbouring communities had met on different occasions and reported the incident to the law enforcement agencies. It was gathered also that the communities have been taking proactive measures to prevent criminal activities by the invaders.
Findings revealed that the strangers found in the towns came in different vehicles,
After that, they reportedly spread themselves around the towns, making use of mosques and other religious centres as residences. No one could, however trace them to particular houses, a situation, which further elicited apprehension in the minds of the people.
Another source stated that the strangers came in a trailer and they were dropped in the towns at different times of the night, making it difficult for people to know their true identities.
It was gathered that some commercial motorcycle operators, popularly called Okada riders, who are of Northern extraction were also seen in the towns. While some people suggested that the motorcyclists were those banned in Lagos, others said they were from the northern part of the country.
It was learnt that passengers who patronise the Okada riders are having difficulties in communicating with the operators, since no one seemed to understand the language. The influx of the strange Okada riders has also caused serious competition between them and the locals engaged in the business.
Already, traditional rulers and community leaders in the area are having divergent views on the security implications in an area where security challenges like kidnapping, ritual killings and banditry are rampant.
The Akala of Ikaram Akoko, Oba Andrew Momodu said it was important and urgent for security agents to commence an investigation into the origin and mission of the strangers that had invaded the towns. He also urged the security agents to proffer solution to the insecurity that might be caused by the invaders.
Oba Momodu, who is also a security expert, noted that there was no law that restricted freedom of movement but maintained that government owed it a duty to regularise the operation of Okada through proper registration after a cyclist must have spent a number of years in the state.
He, however, urged all the six state governments of the South West to allow traditional rulers to have input in the recruitment of Amotekun officials so as to give them more credible elements to serve, stressing that when operational, the Amotekun security initiative would curb the menace of insecurity in many parts of Yoruba land.
Another traditional ruler, the Oluyani of Iyani in Akoko North West Local Government Area of the state, Oba Sunday Daudu, who was kidnapped along with one of his chiefs on Oba-Akoko/Owo Road recently, expressed great concern on the influx of non-indigenes, particularly the Okada riders and lunatics, and called on the state government to intervene in the matter with a view to ensuring peace in the affected towns.
The monarch who raised the alarm that the people of the towns could no longer sleep with their two eyes closed, appealed to security agents to do more by monitoring the activities of commercial motorcyclists operating in the evening and early mornings.
He said: “We now live in distress and fear in our own land. We can no longer sleep with our eyes closed in our homes because we don’t know what these strangers who have invaded our towns can do. Some of us who had suffered in the hands of kidnappers before, know how harmful and dangerous they could be, so we need the security agents to come to our rescue.
“We know ourselves and we know what we can do to ourselves. But these strangers are not known and we don’t know what they can do and what they cannot do. That is why we are apprehensive and worried about their presence in our midst. We need to prevent insecurity in our land, and one of the ways to do so is through vigilance,” he stressed.
A resident of the town, Alhaji Wale Kelani said residents of the affected towns live under fear as a result of the development. His words: “We can not protect ourselves; we need the security agents to come to our rescue by patrolling the affected towns on 24 hours basis.
“Some of us who are leaders in our own right are the ones preventing the youths of the towns from taking the law into their hands by sending the strangers packing, and there is a limit to which we can talk to them. That is why there is a need for the government and security agencies to take the bull by the horn and send these strangers away from our land,” he added.
The President of Market Women Association in Akoko Area, Mrs Bosede Giwa noted that women in the towns had lost their belongings to the Okada riders who she said have been snatching bags and engaging in other nefarious activities.
She warned that there might be persistent crises in the area if the strangers were allowed to keep living among the people. She therefore called on the law enforcement agents to prevent unwarranted crisis in the affected towns.
Commenting on the development, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for the state police command, Mr Femi Joseph assured that the police would do all necessary things to ensure peaceful coexistence of all residents in the area and the state at large.
He said the Police were already on patrol of major roads and communities in the state to ensure that criminals have no hiding places. He promised that the police would intensify efforts at policing all rural communities in the state.