By Jethro Ibileke
Edo State, ‘The Heartbeat’ of the nation is truly living up to its name. Many hearts are beating whenever they step their feet on the soil of the state. Many have heart rendering stories to tell, many hearts have been broken and shattered while many others are refusing to travel home for fear of ending up in the hands of ‘the king of the jungle,’ kidnappers, who are on the prowl in several vicinities, lurking around to pounce on their vulnerable preys.
In the last few weeks, kidnapping have been on the rise in Edo, with high-profile personalities and the low in the societies abducted and made to cough out millions of naira through their families or have their fragile lives brutally cut shot.
Unlike several years ago, kidnapping was relatively unknown in Edo and in Nigeria. News of it was somewhat strange and frowned at by majority of the people. Even when political kidnapping was introduced by Niger Delta agitators, it was to draw attention of government and international communities to the pitiable living conditions in the region that lay the ‘golden egg,’ the black liquid gold called crude oil, for the entire country.
But kidnappers in Edo State are getting more bold in carrying out their nefarious acts, no thanks to extremely bad roads littering communities in the State. Kidnappers have have been terrorising residents and others unchallenged. Beside local miscreants who have turned themselves to kidnappers in their respective communities, armed bandits, including herdsmen have also taken the business of kidnapping to a higher level.
Commuting on most major highways across the state has become a nightmare for travelers. Many notable men and political figures have become victims of kidnapping. Not a few time have the entire passengers of commercial busses been diverted into the forests and abducted for ransom. Many victims, including security operatives, have also suffered death in the hands of their abductors.
The heavy presence of security agencies, like the army, police, airforce and the DSS, in Benin, the state capital and in other parts of the state, has not deterred these hoodlums from carrying out their nefarious activities.
Reported cases of kidnapping indicate that certain spots have become flash points for kidnapping in Edo state. Below are the flash points to avoid.
Oredo local government area:
The Iyekogba/Irhirhi axis of Benin city, down the airport road, by Ogba village, has become a hot bed for kidnapping. The Ogba river behind the Zoo, gives easy leeway for the kidnappers to escape with their victims through the Benin River to either Ondo or Delta state.
Many notable residents and visitors alike have been taken from this axis of the state capital. This is beside other pockets of kidnap cases of victims who were either trailed to the city or were traced to their houses.
Ovia north-east local government area:
Okada, Ofosu, located along Benin/Lagos highway, in Ovia north-east local government area of Edo, is another hotbed for kidnapping. Local residents in these agrarian communities and others have become victims.
Also notorious for kidnapping is John Holt (formally Ogbemudia farm), along the same Benin/Lagos express way. The oil palm plantation on the farm gives cover to the bandits to pounce on motorists who ply the road unnoticed, and an easy escape with their victims.
At one time or the other, several buses have had their passengers forcefully abducted and taken all long, arduous journey walk into the forest that span several kilometres. Security operatives have had herculean task combing the forest in search of kidnappers and their victims.
To reduce the ease with which the hoodlums operate, a former commissioner of police in the state had to clear oil palms on the farm, 30 meters from the road, thereby reducing the cover it gave and also opening up the road at the same time.
Orhionmwon local government area:
The Iyekeorhionmwon axis of Benin/Abraka road, in Orhiomwon local government area is another fertile region for kidnapping. The river in the area gives the kidnappers unhindered movement as they ferry their captives through the river, either to Delta state or to interior villages in the difficult terrain.
Uhumwode local government area:
Ogbemudia farm, now owned by the late Chief Tony Anenih, along the ever-busy Benin/Abuja highway, is another place many commuters have had bitter experiences with rampaging herdsmen. Many important personalities and the very common alike have been abducted on this highway. The thick evergreen forest in the area makes it easy for the Kidnappers to operate without much hindrance. The riverine Obadan village makes it easy for the hoodlums to escape with their victims to Agbor, in Delta state.
Just last week, these gunmen struck, when they abducted Waziri Edokpa, a professor in the department of Mathematics at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, and chairman of Esan Central local government area of the state.
While the dust raised by the abduction of the local government chairman was yet to settle down, news also came that all passengers of a popular Benin-based transport company were hijacked and kidnapped by gunmen. Family members of the driver of the bus were not given the privilege of negotiating ransom for his life, as he was allegedly killed by the hoodlums, before taking his passengers into captivity.
Not so lucky was a 400-level medical student of an unnamed university, Oghogho Christiana, who was also kidnapped last week on this road. News of her abduction was posted on a social media platform in Benin.
Akoko-Edo local government area:
Kidnappers have also operated with ease on the Auchi/Igarra road. Many times, these cruel bandits have operated in the most barbaric manner. Road users are always at the mercy of the gun-toting hoodlums.
Meanwhile, the government and security agencies are working round the clock to check activities of kidnappers across the state.
Just last week, the state governor, Godwin Obaseki, disclosed that the state was devising a new state-led security scheme to tackle rising insecurity in an effort to safeguard lives and property of the people. Obaseki who spoke during a thanksgiving service to commemorate his inauguration for a second term in office, charged religious bodies, communities and other stakeholders to join hands with the government to ensure the success of the state’s community policing initiative so as to ensure safety in communities.
“We must now adopt new security plans in our religious centres, schools and communities. We, as a state, will be investing in our intelligence gathering system.
“The point I am trying to make is that we are concerned as a government. I called the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu and told him that I was worried that his men were being killed. It is bad enough if citizens are killed. The IG has responded and we are still waiting, but the point I am trying to make is that we have come to the point that we must now secure ourselves. We can no longer continue to wait for help from anywhere; let us do what we can,” he said.
Perhaps in response to Obaseki’s distress call, Adamu, last week deployed anti-riot policemen from northern states of the country. The immediate effect of their deployment is already being felt.
Similarly, operatives of the state joint security taskforce, raided the Upper Sakponba area of Benin City and combed riverine communities and various forests across the state, which serve as hideouts for kidnappers. Their effort yielded fruitful dividends last weekend, with the arrest of seven suspected kidnappers at Ogbemudia oil palm plantation, barely 24 hours after the taskforce moved into action.
Prior to the operation, the General Officer Commanding 2 Division, Major General Omozoje, intimated Obaseki on their activity in the state. He promised to bring a halt to the recent rise in criminality in the state.
On their operations in the riverine communities and other hotspots, he said: “Troops of the 4 Brigade are on clearance operation at suspected kidnappers hideouts at Ogbemudia oil palm plantation and the river behind it. We intend to disrupt all kidnapping activities along the axis and secure the Benin/Auchi expressway.”
It is the hope and prayer of all citizens that all these efforts will yield the desired result.