Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
The alarming rate of kidnapping in some parts of Ondo State may soon become a thing of the past as the police and soldiers have reached a synergy to fight the scourge. This is even as the two security agencies have identified flashpoints used as kidnappers’ dens.
One of the major locations identified as the flashpoint for kidnapping is the popular Owo/Ikare-Akoko Road in the northern senatorial district of the state. The road is no doubt notorious for kidnapping, robbery and other illicit activities perpetrated by hoodlums, many of whom are from neighbouring Kogi, Delta and Edo states. Efforts of the security agencies at finding lasting solution to criminal activities on the road have not yielded any positive result.
This development led to the latest security measure by the Police and Nigerian Army. The two security agencies have temporarily relocated to the road. The rate of kidnapping on the road, Daily Sun gathered, made many drivers plying the road to boycott it and look for alternatives. Mostly affected are those going to Abuja and other cities in the North.
No fewer than 20 cases of abduction were reported on the road in the last one year. Victims included traditional rulers, chiefs, politicians, business tycoons, professionals, students and innocent citizens. Prominent among victims of kidnap attack on the road were the former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Victor Olabimtan and former regent of Akungba Akoko, Toyin Omosowon.
It was also 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 32 Artillery of the Nigerian Army is currently mounting 24-hour surveillance on the road. Yet, cases of kidnapping and robbery are being recorded on the road almost on daily basis. But the Nigerian Army said it would embrace modern technology in the fight against kidnapping with the deployment of drone in all the forests in the state, especially the forest on the Owo/Ikare-Akoko Road.
Commander of the artillery, Brig. General Zakari Abubakar, promised that men of the artillery are battle ready and determined to combat criminal activities in the forests, which he said have become dens of kidnappers. He explained that the drone, a Phantom 5DGI, procured by the Army would assist the military formation of the Anti-kidnapping Squad in identifying the movement and activities of suspected bandits, kidnappers and other criminals:
“The device, which would also help the survey targeted areas in the two states is the latest technology in aerial surveillance. The device can cover up to seven kilometres radius with capabilities of recording and transmitting report back to the base.”
The Commander who decried the worrisome cases of kidnappings in Ondo State, vowed that the days of the hoodlums are numbered as the new device will help reduce criminal activities in the forests on the road:
“In recent times, the cases of kidnappings increased in Ondo State and the General Officer Commanding, GOC, 2 Division, General O.F Azinta, directed that we must do everything possible to bring the criminality in both states to an end. There are thick forests in the state and that is the advantage some of the criminals are using because some of these places cannot be penetrated easily.
“So, in line with the Chief of Army Staff directive to have a responsive Nigerian Army in the discharge of its constitutional role, we have decided to use technology in addition to the Anti-kidnapping Squad already in place. We have two of this drone, one for Ondo and the other one for Ekiti State, which would easily help us to fight the scourge of kidnapping headlong. The two anti-kidnap squads will have each one mounted on a vehicle and once there is any issue of kidnapping they will immediately launch it particularly in places that cannot be easily access.
“The device is the latest in the market; we decided to go for it with the support of the GOC. It can go on its own and it can avoid all obstacles. The resolution is one of the highest resolutions and it can go up to seven kilometers radius.”
He lamented the rampant cases of kidnapping in the South West: “Soldiers would henceforth patrol all major roads in the state in a bid to trap kidnappers and nip the scourge in the bud. The military would fight kidnapping with full strength and modern technology will be used as guide.
“In order to fight this scourge headlong, we have already launched the Anti-kidnapping Squad of the military section. This squad, which is a special one, would be active, mobile and swift in reacting to cases of kidnapping in the states of our jurisdiction.
“To achieve our goal of ensuring security, our men are to mount strategic location of the roads, check on passengers and be vigilant to react to kidnap cases. We have identified the prone areas where these criminal elements perpetrate their evil work. They are bushes in Ondo, Ekiti and Ibilo in Edo State.”
Abubakar noted that the army has reached out to stakeholders in the security sector including community leaders and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), to further achieve success in the war against kidnapping. He said soldiers had cordoned off communities and all the major roads in Akoko area: “The troops searched various forests used as kidnappers’ dens, including the forests located at the boundary with Kogi State.”
Also, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Security, Mr Jimoh Dojumo, said efforts are on top gear by government to put an end to kidnapping. He disclosed that soldiers had embarked on intensive operation aimed at checkmating the incessant abduction on the Ikare-Owo Road, which also leads to Abuja and other parts of the country.
He said soldiers had at different times invaded Oba-Akoko, Akunu Akoko, and Ose Akoko among other towns and villages along the road. He added that some suspected kidnappers and their informants were arrested during the raids.
A community leader, Kabiru Jimoh, said kidnappers used forest as their hideouts and appealed to government to clear the forests on the highway, just as he called on the security agencies to mount checkpoints on the major roads:
“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 criminal.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr Femi Joseph, also declared that the police are prepared to fight kidnapping: “Police have already set up Anti-kidnapping Squad with specially trained police officers attached to the squad.
“The state police command has made arrangements to ensure that kidnappers are flushed out. The hotspots have been identified and necessary efforts are being made to ensure security of life and property.
“Men of the state police command are deployed to the Ikare-Owo Road both day and night. Police are already on surveillance on the road for 24 hours to ensure safety of life, especially passengers and drivers plying the road.
“Police are already collaborating with other security agencies for effective policing of roads and other troubled spots in Akure and other towns.”