Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
THE Owo-Ikare Akoko Road in Ondo State has become notorious for kidnapping, robbery and other illicit activities. These are perpetrated by hoodlums, many of who are from neighbouring Kogi, Delta and Edo states. Efforts of the security agencies at finding lasting solutions to criminal activities have not yielded positive result.
This development made many drivers to boycott the road for alternative routes. Most affected are those going to Abuja and other cities in the North. No fewer than 15 cases of abduction reported on the road in the last one year. The victims included, traditional rulers, chiefs, politicians, business tycoons, professionals, students and other innocent citizens.
Prominent among victims were former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Victor Olabimtan and former Regent, Akungba Akoko, Toyin Omosowon. It was on the same location that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, was found after he was abducted on his farm in Ilado, Akure North Local Government. The road has become a threat to peace. This may explain why the police and other security agencies mounted roadblocks on the road. However, the presence of fierce looking security agents has brought no meaningful change.
The 32 Artillery of the Nigerian Army has temporarily relocated to mount surveillance on the road for 24 hours. Yet, cases of kidnapping and robbery are being recorded almost on daily basis. Recently, its Commander, Brigadier General James Ataguba, led troops on a special operation to comb the kidnappers’ spots within the Akoko axis, leading to the arrest of some individuals.
The troops cordoned off the communities and all the major roads in the area. They searched forests regarded as kidnappers’ den, including the boundary with Kogi State.
Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Mr. Jimoh Dojumo, who followed the soldiers on the raid said the operation was aimed at checkmating the incessant abduction on the Ikarea-Owo Road. He told Daily Sun that the soldiers invaded Oba-Akoko, Akunu-Akoko, and Ose-Akoko as well as other towns and villages. Some suspected kidnappers and their informants were arrested during the raid.
In a related development, the people of Akure, the Ondo State capital, expressed worry on the spate of kidnapping in the town, even as they identified some locations as hotspots for kidnapping and other illicit activities. A community leader, Bolade Jolayemi, said: “We are disturbed by these reports more so that Akure before the recent events was peaceful. We accommodate people irrespective of their tribes, cultures, social status or creeds. Non-Yoruba speaking people living among us will attest to the fact that Akure people are loving and very accommodating.
“In our farmlands, we welcome non-indigenes to reside without being discriminated against. This made it possible for non-indigenes to bag chieftaincy titles in our communities. However, our accommodating nature has been taken for granted. Members of secret cults who are not indigenes of our community, have unleashed terror on the residents with reckless abandon.
“Apart from killing of hapless people, these secret cult members have made residents to live in fear of either being attacked or being caught in the ensuing melee. This, we insist, must stop. We are disturbed that despite the attacks and killings, law enforcement agents seem to be helpless in dealing with this menace. We are uncertain who may likely be the next target as these hoodlums have been going from one place to another attacking harmless people.
“We call on the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Director General of the State Security Service (SSS) and other security agencies to step up their patrols on the streets of Akure in order to prevent further killing of innocent people and breakdown of law and order.
“Reports reaching us indicate that some law enforcement agents are members of these secret cults. This made the fight against cultism and kidnapping difficult. Security sources told us that Eiye security men in the force would release their members if brought to police station while Aiye law enforcement agents would do the same to their members.
“We ask the IGP to purge the police of the secret cult members so that the war against cultism and other crimes could be meaningful.
We call on the Ondo State Police Command to monitor its men posted to anti-cultism and anti-kidnapping squads so that we will not have cultists masquerading as police officers.
Landlords and landowners must screen those to be given their properties so that it would not be converted to kidnappers’ den or cultists’ abode. Any property owner who contravenes this must be made to face the full wrath of the law.
“We appeal to those with uncompleted buildings to secure their properties and make sure they clear the bushes around them so as not to be converted to den of criminals. The Ministry of Environment should ensure full compliance with environmental laws so that uncompleted buildings overgrown with bushes are not converted to den of criminals.”
Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Femi Joseph, said the Police command has made arrangements to ensure that kidnappers are flushed out of the state: “The hotspots have been identified and necessary efforts are being made to ensure security of lives of the people.
He said men of the state police command are deployed in the Ikare/Owo Road day and night. Police are already on surveillance on the road for 24 hours to ensure safety of lives. Police are collaborating with other security agencies for effective policing of the road and other troubled spots in the state.