Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Olubo village is in Abeokuta North Local Government Area of Ogun State. The community, few metres to 35 Artillery Brigade, Alamala, Abeokuta, is one of the settlements on the Abeokuta-Imala-Ayetoro Road.
The village, sleepy and peaceful, has suddenly turned to kidnappers’ enclave. Before now, commuters saw Olubo as the last location before catching a glimpse of Abeokuta. The hitherto quiet and peaceful settlement has, however, become a nightmare not only for travellers, but locals in and around the village.
Even, the closeness of the 35 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army to the village has failed to allay travellers’ fears of being fallen into the hands of kidnappers.
The village first came into the news for a wrong reason when two staff of the General Hospital, Imeko, were abducted in the village, on April 7, 2021. Dr Oladunni Odetola, head of the hospital and a nurse, Mrs Bamgbose, were ambushed and whisked away by their captors while in transit from Imeko to Abeokuta.
According to an eyewitness account, the gunmen emerged from the bush at Olubo to attack their targets, while the victims’ vehicle, a Toyota Camry with number plate, KTU 584 FR, was left at the middle of the road, where the police later recovered it. Police also recovered the doctor’s NMA identity card and minutes of the association’s meeting in the vehicle.
It was also gathered that the front passenger-side tyre of the vehicle was punctured, while the windscreen was perforated. A source further told our correspondent that expended shells of AK-47 rifle ammunition were discovered at the scene of the incident.
The victims, however, regained freedom after a week in captivity and payment of a ransom running into millions of naira.
On the night of Tuesday, May 4, 2021, kidnappers struck again and abducted four travellers in Olubo. The abducted included three traders and a driver who were returning from Ilara market in Imeko-Afon Local Government.
Irked by another incident of abduction, residents of Olubo, Obada-Idi Emi, Imeko-Afon and Ilara barricaded the road in protest, when our correspondent visited the area on May 5, 2021. The action hampered vehicular movement, while many travellers were also stranded on the road.
The five other passengers travelling in the same Toyota Avensis (Verso) SUV with number plate FFF 654 TK were to be spared by the kidnappers.
Two of the passengers who survived the abduction, Mrs Akewugberu and Mrs Rofiat Oladeinde, told Daily Sun that the vehicle was abruptly stopped by four gunmen, shooting into the air. They explained that the gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles and machetes, abducted the driver and three women who were selected randomly among them.
They added that the abductors spared a Fulani and two Hausa passengers among them. They said the hoodlums collected their money and handsets.
A relative of one of the victims, Eunice Oladele, said she dropped her sister at a motor park on her way to Ilara on Tuesday morning, adding that she was shocked to learn they she had been kidnapped on her way back to Abeokuta. She said the kidnappers as at then were yet to establish any contact with the family members.
Also speaking with our correspondent, husband to one of the victims, Mutiu Oderinde, said his wife, Jelilat, travelled to Ilara market for trading to help her mother, who was unable to go due to illness. He appealed to government and security agencies to secure the release of his wife and other abductees unhurt.
Chairman, Park Management, Ayetoro Motor Park, Abeokuta, Babatunde Adelakun, disclosed that the kidnapped driver was his employee. He said there are 48 police checkpoints, including 10 highway patrol teams, from Abeokuta to Ilara.
He disclosed that his association has been supporting the checkpoints on weekly basis: “Yet, travellers on the road come under attacks of kidnappers without any assistance from the police. Passengers now dread to travel on the road, this is affecting us adversely.”
Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Bolanle Muritala, flew to the spot where the victims were abducted in a police helicopter marked 5N-GEJ. He appealed to residents to remove the barricade on the road: “We are going after the abductors, that is why we are here. We shall definitely get them.”
A resident of Olubo, Akeem Adeoye, was coming on a bike behind the commercial vehicle when it came under the volley of bullets by the kidnappers: “There was a short distance between me and the vehicle. And suddenly I heard a volley of bullets being fired by the kidnappers who emerged from the bush.
“Immediately I saw this, I pulled over and I was watching from hiding how the abductors carried out their dastardly act. When I saw that they had been marched into the bush, I mounted my bike and raced to the nearest police checkpoint where a patrol team was stationed, to inform them of the incident.
“But they simply told me that the scene that is very close to the checkpoint was beyond their coverage area, asking me to go the Artillery Brigade and inform the soldiers. If the policemen had responded promptly, the victims could have been resued.”
Another resident and member, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Aremo Akanji, said the axis was initially notorious for armed robbery attacks on traders going and coming from markets in Ilara and neighbouring Republic of Benin: “This made residents of the area to engage OPC members and vigilance groups to provide protection on the stretch of the road.
“The constant patrols during the day reduced incidents of armed robbery to the barest minimum. Kidnappers now choose the night when OPC members and vigilance groups must have withdrawn from the road, to allow police patrol at night, to strike.”
He proposed that his members and other local security outfits should be allowed to work at night to stem kidnapping on the road.
A clergy residing in Olubo, Adewale Jeremiah said an informant to the kidnappers must be residing in the village. He disclosed that apart from the doctor and a nurse kidnapped on the spot, a woman and her husband were also kidnapped in the locality: “Government and security agents should up their intelligence gathering to expose the kidnappers in Olubo and its environs.”