‘Save us from kidnappers now…’
Hundreds of Epe farmers and community leaders yesterday stormed the office of the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, to protest against the continued abduction of their members by kidnappers.They claimed that nearly 50 farmers have so far been kidnapped at different times with millions of naira paid as ransom before the victims were freed.
This was even as a mild drama ensued when a wife of one of the victims of the abducted farm workers suddenly collapsed at the governor’s office while the protest was ongoing.
The woman whose husband is still in captivity was, however, rushed to the clinic in the Governor’s Office by health workers.They expressed sadness that the state government had not taken decisive action to stem the growing tide of kidnapping in the axis, lamenting that the armed abductors frequently storm their farms located on Igbodu-Ishiwo Road and kidnap their colleagues often.
They also asked the state government to mobilize the Joint Task Force (JTF) to dislodge the kidnapers from the creek surrounding the Igbodu farm settlements where the abductors are believed to be operating from. They called on the governor to immediately take action against the ugly trend, which they said is discouraging entrepreneurs from farming and achieving the economic diversification programme of the Federal Government.
The protesters, who converged at Shoprite, Alausa and marched to Lagos House, said five of their members and two Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) abducted last week Tuesday were still being held by the kidnappers.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Mr. Ayokunle Ore, said with the continued kidnapping of their members, over N20 billion investments are being threatened, saying that many of them no longer go to the farms to feed their birds or irrigate their farms for fear kidnappers, who now operate at will in the axis.
Recounting the series of successful attacks, Ore said: “On September 16, 2016, three female farm workers and a six-month-old baby were kidnapped. Two months later, precisely, November 16, four farmers were kidnapped from farmville. Also, on November 21 of the same year, five workers were kidnapped from Kodjo Farms.
On January 19, 2017, we also recorded another incident when two farm workers were kidnapped from Tanda Farms. The kidnappers also visited Elysian Farm, the farm managers and a customer, were kidnapped on the same day. Just last week, on Valentine’s Day, the kidnappers returned to Elysian farms and kidnapped five workers and two vigilance group members. As at the last count, the kidnappers were demanding N5 million for each of the seven victims still in their captivity.
Narrating his ordeal in the kidnappers’ den, one of the survivors, Mr. Kazeem Adejare, said: “The kidnappers surrounded me in the farm and took me away. Early in the morning that fateful day, I went to check the crop session of our farm when someone tapped me from behind. When I looked back, they told me to cooperate with them. Two of them were holding cutlasses, while others were fully armed with guns.
“Initially, I thought they were armed robbers, I tried to run, one of them threw a stick at me and I fell down. They grabbed and took me away. I was begging them when they were taking me away. They asked for the manager of the farm, but I told them I am the supervisor of the farm.
“They dragged me on the floor to the riverside; to my surprise when I got to the river, I met four of our workers already in their boat. When we got to the creek they beat us with cutlasses and we were also given another cloth to wear.
“The following day they took us to another creek where we were force to drink from the river were we defecated, we were also blindfolded throughout our stay in the creek.
Sometime if the kidnappers like, they would give us one meal a day and most of the food they gave us don’t have salt. So many things we went through in the creek before the ransom was paid on the seventh day. When they finally released us, we walked for about five hours in the forest before linking the main road,” he narrated.
Addressing the protesters, the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, condemned the incessant attacks by kidnappers in the area.
She said that in spite of government’s efforts to make the state safe and livable for residents and investors, some scrupulous persons still engage in crimes and make life difficult for people.
“Security issues are sensitive issues, and the government is not resting on its oars. We are doing all we can to restore peace in the area. Currently, the state government is speaking with the Federal Government to see how they can work with us to combat the problem of insecurity because we cannot do it alone.
“Government cannot be involved in paying ransom but we will ensure that it provides the security agencies with necessary equipment and support to contain the situation and rescue the victims,” she said.