Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Troops of the military spike operation code named ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’ (OPWS) have arrested 10 suspects for armed banditry and kidnapping in Benue and Nasarawa States.
Parading eight of the suspects before newsmen at the OPWS headquarters in Makurdi on Saturday, Force Commander of OPWS, Maj. Gen. Adeyemi Yekini said five suspects were arrested in Toto and Awe Local Government areas of Nasarawa State while five others were arrested in Benue State.
Yekini stated further that one of the suspects was shot dead during exchange of fire with troops at Zaki-Biam in Ukum local government area of Benue State while an AK-47 riffle was recovered from him.
He explained further that three out of the 4 other suspects arrested in Zaki Biam were linked with the wanted militia leader, Terwase Akwaza alias ‘Gana’ while another suspect was nabbed in Tomata area of the state with a locally made rifle fabricated to fire 5.56mm ammunition which is a standard ammunition for assault rifles. He explained that this made the pistol to be as deadly as any standard assault rifle.
According to the Force Commander, one suspect that was arrested in Awe local government area of Nasarawa State was handed over to the Nasarawa State police CID because he was linked to another kidnapping in the state.
Items recovered from the suspects include two locally fabricated pistols, a self loading riffle (SLR), five locally made rifles, one AK-47 riffle, some quantities of ammunition and three phones with a Toyota Corolla car popularly known as ‘duck nyash’ which is very popular with kidnappers in this part of the country.
Corroborating Yekini’s explanation, Sector Commander of Sector Three in Nasarawa State, Naval Lieutenant Emmanuel Igwe and his Ukum counterpart, Naval Lt. Lawal Abubakar said they carried out the operations following directive by the Force Commander to deal decisively with armed bandits and kidnappers in their respective areas of operation.
Igwe particularly noted that the suspects were arrested after some kidnap suspects who were apprehended in Kogi State were brought to Nasarawa State by security agencies identified them as members of their gang.
On his part, Lt. Abubakar disclosed that weapons were recovered from the suspect that was killed during exchange of fire while the other suspects linked to kidnapping and armed banditry within the sector were also nabbed.
One of the suspects who spoke with newsmen confessed that he served as an informant to a kidnap kingpin who is now at large adding that he had given information which had led to the kidnap of a victim in Gwagwalada.
“After I gave the Fulani man the information and the victim was kidnapped and ransom paid, he gave me the sum of N30,000. The Fulani man told me that the victim was later released after a ransom of N320,000.”
On his part, another suspect, Dominic Angyer who was arrested in Guma said he was in his house when some people came and told him that troops of the OPWS were looking for a suspect who had ran to his house.
“It was in the course of searching for the said suspect in my house that they discovered the pistol. Somebody who was owing me actually gave me the pistol with N2000 about two years ago with a promise that he would come back and collect it after paying me my money.
“But since then, he hasn’t come back to give me my money or collect the pistol. On my part, I just kept the pistol and I haven’t used it since that time,” he said.
Yekini however appealed to members of the public to always give information that could help in nipping crime in the bud in the state.
“My message is very simple, enough is enough, we will not tolerate banditry, Kidnapping and other acts of criminality in Benue state in particular and not just in Benue but also in Nasarawa and Taraba States.
“I want to appeal to the public to cooperate with us and continue to give us information about the hideouts of these people. Some of these operations where we recovered these arms wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of people who gave us timely information which we worked on to arrest these bandits,” Yekini stated.