South West on edge as violent crime buffets region

[FILE] A Hausa-Fulani boy stands while his cattle is grazing near some farms. (Photo by Luis TATO / AFP)

On Tuesday June 25, state governors of the Southwest took what looked like a practical step to solving the pervasive insecurity, which is now buffeting the region when they made a strong case for the establishment of state and council police to complement the efforts of the federal police, which appear overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the malaise.

As they were sweating it out at their level, elders of the zone under the auspices of Afenifere, a frontline socio-political group were holding court with President Muhammadu Buhari, whom they visited with a bag-load of grievances, prime among them rising insecurity in the area, youth unemployment, education and poor power supply.

At the “Stakeholders’ Security Summit for Southwestern States’ organised by Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission in Ibadan, where governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Gboyega Oyetola (Osun) were present, Fayemi who is also the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), urged people of the region to hold the governors accountable for insecurity, even as he assured of lasting solution to the crisis.

He said, “Insecurity has created palpable fear in the minds of the people. We owe it a duty to reconfigure our security architecture. We are set to harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity.

“This crisis should unite us, not divide us. We need to focus on the root cause of the challenge. We should focus on what we can do. We don’t have to demonise any ethnic group. Security situation should be a serious concern to everybody,” Fayemi said, adding, “we need to reform our criminal justice system and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of all criminal justice institutions. We need a regional response to insecurity given the contiguity of our states. We, as your governors should be held accountable for the insecurity. We will not sleep until the problem is tackled head on.”

The chairman of the NGF also emphasised the importance of state and community state policing system to complement the federal police saying, “We cannot have a unitary police system in a federal state. We must democratise intelligence gathering. Our demand for state and local policing is not tantamount to the removal of the federal police. They will exist side-by-side with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).”

However, monarchs and Yoruba leaders who met less than 48 hours after the governors, disagreed with positions taken by the governors and demanded for immediate restructuring of the country as a panacea to the rising spate of insecurity in the Southwest region.

Some of the leaders who made the calls during the presentation of the Yoruba language version of the book, AWO, (the autobiography of Chief Obafemi Awolowo), at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan (UI), Ibadan, on Thursday, included the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams; Yinka Odumakin, Prof. Banji Akintoye, among others.

According to the Alaafin: “The Yoruba are proud of their harmonious relationship with indigenous Fulani, which spread over centuries. It was unlike now when supposed cattle rearers are armed sophistically like soldiers. At that time, farming and rearing were complimentary to each other unlike where they are targeted against each other.“As far as I am concerned, there is no solution to the current national challenge than restructuring of our federal system to the glorious old days with some modifications where necessary.”

On his part, Adebanjo said: “Governors cannot do restructuring. They cannot talk to Buhari and Buhari is the leader of Miyetti Allah. Those governors are powerless. State police cannot happen without restructuring. To save ourselves, we must fight for restructuring.”Odumakin in his terse submission cautioned governors against ceding an inch of the Southwest to the Federal Government for any settlement of any kind for Fulani people, Said he: “Don’t give our land for Ruga settlements. When you give them land, they become chairmen. All governors in Yoruba land must not cede an inch of land for Ruga settlements, which the Federal Government is planning.”

Adams equally sounded a note of warning thus: “We must not allow insecurity to overwhelm us. We must continue to agitate for restructuring. Let us the Yoruba leaders come together. No governor dares cede our land for cattle rearing. Let us co-operate.”

As all these went on, a commuter bus was waylaid in Akure-Ikere Road by gunmen and all the passengers on board allegedly abducted and whisked to unknown destinations.In recent times, relatives and survivors have told series of pathetic tales of attacks carried out by killer herdsmen and other yet-to-be identified criminal elements that have been terrorising the Southwest in broad daylight.

As these criminals ply their infamous trade, no one is insulated from their attacks, ranging from the poor, to the rich, be they male or female.Penultimate week, the savage attacks on the region by suspected Fulani herdsmen forced the Aare Onakakanfo Council led by Adams, to ask the Federal Government to contain activities of “killer herdsmen” in the area in order to avert retaliation.

Members of the council in a communiqué, which they signed said the activities of herders “who have been ravaging our land” had become a serious concern for the Yoruba race.They maintained that the herders have continued to wreak havoc in the zone despite several appeals made to them, adding that such mindlessness necessitated their calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to take immediate and decisive action

“The campaign of blood by Fulani herdsmen, who have been ravaging our land, kidnapping, killing, maiming and raping our people in recent years have become a serious source of concern for the Yoruba race; a race renowned for their staunch passion for peaceful coexistence, national cohesion, and development,” read the communiqué, which was signed and read by Adams.

“It is disheartening and most embarrassing that the group, despite several appeals to their consciousness and common sense, has continued to wreak havoc on our land, and forcibly planning to reap where they have not sown.“They have been plundering Yoruba land, and we recognise evil when we see it. Every true blood of the Yoruba race is at the risk of being haunted and slaughtered by this reckless group if we keep sugar-coating the bloody implications of their evil enterprise.”
HITHERTO, the Southwest was believed to be the most peaceful region in the country, where everyone went about his or her normal businesses without fear or molestation, but the rising spate of coordinated kidnapping, killings and armed robbery has made the geo-political zone so endangered that both the rich and the poor are now incapable of sleeping with both eyes closed.

While residents are troubled by the heinous crimes that have robbed them of peace, the peace experienced by its forests have equally been compromised as they have become locations where these criminals warehouse their victims while waiting for ransom to be paid.The manner in which these kidnappers launch attacks from these forests armed with sophisticated guns, shoot sporadically in the air and cart away their victims fill residents with fear every time they are about to embark on a road trip, especially in the evenings.

As a result, vehicular traffic has already thinned out in some of the roads in the zone, including the ever-busy Ibadan-Akure Road, Ondo-Ife Road, Osogbo-Ode Omu Road, Ado Ekiti-Akure Road and Oshogbo-Ilesha Road, while Imeko-Abeokuta Road has almost been deserted as a result of constant attacks by the herdsmen. Now, commercial vehicles are forced to move in a convoy with escorts.

If travellers and motorists are having a tough time doing their thing, farmers in Oke-Ogun, Oyo State have taken to fleeing their farmlands at the sight of approaching herds of cattle as attack survivors have always said their attackers and kidnappers resembled Fulani herdsmen, while some are always decked in military gear.

In the wake of the abduction of Dayo Adewole, son of the immediate past Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, the Oniroko of Iroko, Oba Olasunkanmi Abioye told The Guardian that the young Adewole’s abductors were Fulani herdsmen. He said, “I learnt that those who came and kidnapped Dayo are Fulani people. There had been rumours about two or three days ago that Fulani people were seen around his farm.”

Dayo regained his freedom 24 hours after his abduction and claimed that no ransom was paid. But the inability of the security agencies to apprehend and prosecute his abductors has been a source of concern to many residents, who are now calling on the Yoruba ethnic militia group to come to their rescue.Right now, about 34 Yoruba self-defence groups are said to be regrouping to take the fight to assailants of their people, even as they are ready to collaborate with the security agencies.

THE topsy-turvy state of things in Ondo State has seen security agencies being on their toes battling incessant criminal activities that are ravaging the state, ranging from murders, arson, ritual killings and kidnapping, which is thriving in communities bordering Kogi and Edo states.However, as security operatives made frantic efforts to neutralise kidnappers crimes, bandits struck at the Ido-ani, Ose Local Council branch of First Bank, killing seven people and making away with an undisclosed amount of money.

The kidnapping menace, which was beginning to abate at some point, resurfaced with verve, as such major roads in the state, including Akure-Ilesa, Akure-Owo, Owo-Benin and Owo-Ikare became notorious due to a chain of coordinated abductions by suspected Fulani herdsmen.In the outskirts of Akure metropolis, somewhere around Akure Airport Road, kidnappers serially abducted people, and even attempted kidnapping the community’s traditional ruler, Oba David Olajide, when he was returning from the state police Command Headquarters, where he went to handover a woman, Olawunmi Adeleye that was earlier kidnapped by Fulani herdsmen, after her release.

Following these abductions, dignitaries and the haves in the state now employ the services of armed escorts when they are travelling out of Akure. Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, during a recent state broadcast, affirmed the menace of kidnappers as he recalled how his convoy ran into their siege on the highway.This made the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Undie Adie, to intensify effort, organise series of stakeholders’ meetings and replicate the launch of “Operation Puff Adder” to curb the rising crime rate in the state.

One of the biggest accomplishments of that exercise by the police was the arrest of two Hausa security guards, Ayuba Idris (20) and Taisu Abubakar (23), who killed their employer, the late Kwakye Kwaku Richard (71), and his final-year undergraduate daughter, Kwakye Tope (27).They killed the victims and concealed their corpses in the compound in Akure, after which they absconded to Kano State, but were tracked and arrested by the police about two weeks after they committed the crime.

Osun In The Grip Of Abductors
IN recent times, no fewer than six persons have, either been abducted, tortured or dehumanised by criminals suspected to be Fulani herdsmen. These dastardly acts, have instilled fears in residents to the extent that most have become security conscious, as well as conscious about where to travel to, when, and how to travel or move about within the state.

The state of insecurity is also frustrating farmers’ efforts, and have a telling effect on farm produce, as they are perpetually unsure of their safety. Some of the brave ones, who are bracing the odds, have fallen victim as their farmlands are destroyed by cattle.

Unlike what obtains in other states, where abductors target wealthy individuals going by their looks or the type of vehicles that they drive, abductors operating in Osun State seem to be personality blind as they strike without discrimination, and take away any available victims.

But the precision and audacity with which these criminals operate, suggest that they have collaborators among indigenes, who act as spies, and supply information about people’s movements to kidnappers. The latest two victims freed after the payment of N1.1m ransom raised by their community, while narrating their experience, said their assailants had good knowledge of their area of operation and very conversant with the terrain.

They said their abductors carried sophisticated weapons and charms, with which they threatened them in case they attempted to escape, or refused to pass instruction to their immediate and extended families during negotiations for ransom for their release.

A female victim, who preferred anonymity said her abductors refrained from molesting her sexually, due to their belief that the potency of their charms would be neutralised, if they engaged in such act.

The frequency of abductions and insecurity in the state recently compelled Governor Gboyega Oyetola, to summon a security meeting on how to stem the tide. The meeting gave rise to a combined patrol by all security agencies, including the army, police, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the Department of State Services (DSS), among others.Codenamed “Operation Puff Adder,” the latest security effort, residents of the state hope, would yield positive dividends soon.

Apart from kidnappings, cases of rape involving teenagers and girls below 10 are also increasing, and have almost become a daily occurrence. Despite unrelenting efforts by human rights’ groups, arrests, prosecution and the long jail terms that culprits get, the menace has continued to flourish.

This malaise has thrown up fresh questions on the reasons behind the violation of innocent children by randy adults, many of whom are old enough to either father their victims, or to be their grandfathers.The menace of armed robbery is also becoming commonplace in the state. Attacks launched on banks in Ejigbo few weeks back forced commercial banks operating in the town to close shop. They are yet to resume business. The same thing occurred in Odeomu, in Ayedaade Local Council, where the only operating commercial bank was forced to suspend operation for months.

Ekiti Rally’s Local Groups To Keep State Safe
EKITI State has had its fair share of the trepidation that is being experienced in the Southwest, as hardly does a month pass without a kidnapping incidents being recorded.

In fact, between October 2018 and May this year, no fewer than 15 cases of kidnappings have been recorded. Places identified as bad spots by travellers and feared by residents for this heinous trade include, Ikere, Erio, Aramoko, Igbara Odo Efon, Ijan and Iju.

Till date, Mr. D. Alalade, then a manager of one of the BOVAS Petroleum and Gas Filling stations in the state, still recalls with anguish, how he was kidnapped alongside his wife at Efon Alaaye, in Efon Local Council in June 2018. The kidnappers later demanded N20m as ransom for their release.Also, a former Commissioner for Lands in the state, Mr. Remi Olorunleke and the Director of Administration, Gbonyin Local Council, Mr. David Jejelowo, were also kidnapped along Ado-Ijan Road in January this year.

This incident occurred barely a week after an accountant with Emure Local Council, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi, was killed by kidnappers along Ikere-Ise Road, while two other staff members of the council were abducted.The Financial Secretary, Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kayode Oni, also tasted the bitter pills offered by kidnapped as he was abducted between Efon and Erio on his way to Aramoko, the headquarters of Ekiti West Local Council.

But the case of Adeola Adebayo was pathetic as the 33-year-old lawyer and former Secretary of Ikole branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), was kidnapped on November 17, 2018 along Efon-Erio-Aramoko Road and taken to undisclosed location. His decomposed body was found ‪on December 2‬‬‬‬, 2018 after ransom had been paid.‬The horrible sight of two decomposing bodies – a man and a woman – in the kidnappers’ den on his third day in captivity was a terrible and dreadful experience for 60-year-old Taiwo Davies.

Although the Ado Ekiti-based retiree could not tell whether the two died as a result of tiredness, owing to hours of trekking in the jungle, or that they were shot dead by the armed kidnappers, he said their Fulani captors were indifferent, as they made them walk past the bodies.

“I did not only feel bad to be abducted, I was extremely afraid that the five kidnappers who, all along had exhibited no iota of human feeling might simply kill us,” said Davies who spent one week with his abductors in the jungle along Ekiti and Ondo states boundary axis, after he was captured along Ado Ekiti-Akure Road on November 16.

Narrating his ordeal further, Davies, who was on his way from to Akure from Ado Ekiti, at about ‪4pm‬‬‬‬ that fateful day, said he had just driven past a police check-point at Ekiti/Ondo‬ boundary, when five armed men emerged from the bush, stopped the Toyota Camry car ahead of him and in the process, obstructed his Mercedes Benz 180 car.

According to him, the bandits took advantage of the bad portion at Ikere-Iju along Ado Ekiti-Akure Road, which compels motorists to slow down, to attack and cart away unsuspecting travellers.He said: “Before I knew what was happening, guns were pointed at me. Four of the five occupants of the Toyota Camry car that was ahead of me were lucky as only one of them was taken alongside me. The man and I were marched into the bush path that the kidnappers appeared from. I thought the policemen should have seen what was happening, but there was no action from their end. The other man happened to be a pastor, though I came to know him simply as Baba Ibeji, when fate brought us together in the kidnappers’ den.”

Whenever 60-year-old Davies reflects on his seven-day sojourn without food, in the deep jungle and on hilltops, he queries the heartlessness of those that collude with kidnappers for monetary gains. He said: “There is a particular woman, Funke, at Iju in Akure North Local Council that cooked for the bandits. They always called her, discussed with her and two of them would go to meet her at a location to collect the food. Most times, it would be rice.

“Another heartless dimension is that when we were there, that is Pastor and I the kidnappers would eat food in our presence without giving us. They only allowed us to drink water from pools on the hill for the entire seven days that we were with them.“Every night, they took delight in beating us as entertainment, after which they would tie our hands behind our back to ensure that we did not play any fast one on them. That was the condition we slept throughout.”

The retiree, who said he did not leave the kidnappers’ den without ransom, said: “It was on my fourth day with them that one of the kidnappers asked me for the contact of any of my relatives who could bail me out.“If I didn’t have my wife’s mobile telephone number in my head, I could have been shot dead because immediately after they captured me, they collected my phone and smashed it. So, after I told them my wife’s phone number, one of them called my wife and said, ‘Madam, we are kidnappers. We have your husband here with us. We will collect N30m before releasing him. Failure to do this will result in our killing him.’

“My wife informed them that she did not have that kind of money. I also told them that I am a retired civil servant and as such, do not have money. I equally told them there was no way such money could be raised in Ekiti State. I thank God. I did not know how I survived, because I was almost lifeless. It was a very terrible experience.”

Davies, who spent two weeks at a private hospital in Ado Ekiti to recover from the trauma, called on Ondo and Ekiti state governments to close ranks with the military and comb the expanse of forest along Ikere Ekiti, Iju and Ita-Ogbolu axis of Ado Ekiti-Akure Road.

“People are dying in that place, and many people may not be able to survive what I passed through there. So, there is need for these states and the Federal Government to rehabilitate the road. Although the DPO at Iju sympathised with me and promptly released my vehicle, we did not receive any help,” he said.

The Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Femi Joseph said the State Police Command, recently combed the forests at Iju-Ita Ogbolu area to dislodge criminals operating from there.His counterpart in Ekiti State, Mr. Caleb Ikechukwu, said the command had studied the Ikere forest and discovered that it was the same forest that connected Efon Alaaye and other parts that are notorious for kidnapping and had begun combing it to sanitise and make it safe.He called on residents to assist police by reporting strange faces, rather than keep silent while allowing criminal free rein.

However, the state government said that activities of the deadly gangs were being checked as the government was committed to routing them from the state. At an event organised to find solutions to mounting security challenges in the state, Governor Kayode Fayemi said: “To show our commitment to making Ekiti State safe, we have reinstated sacked operatives of the scrapped Ekiti State Peace Corps. We intend to recruit 800 operatives to work with the police in every community.

“The O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), as a respectable pan-Yoruba security group is also welcomed in the battle to make Ekiti State safe. We need you because you are credible. You understand the terrain and we have that confidence that you can provide support for the police, in the area of providing information for security agencies that will help their intelligence gathering for them to take proactive steps.”

Oyo State Experiencing Pangs of Robbery, Kidnapping
ACCORDING to statistics from Oyo State Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), 180 cases of armed robbery attacks were recorded in the state within the first six months of this year. And this led to the arrest of 277 suspects. Thirty-seven weapons, 3, 585 live cartridges, and 16 vehicles were also recovered, while 170 suspects were charged to court.

Although there have been many reported cases of armed robbery and raping, kidnapping is the novel crime that is gaining notoreity in the state.Only last month, petroleum marketers, under the auspices of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) in Ibarapa area of Oyo State lamented the rising spate of kidnapping of their members.

The marketers from Lanlate, Eruwa, Igboora, Idere, Ayete, Tapa and Igangan in a “save-our-soul” message to the Department of State Services (DSS), said no fewer than four of their members had been kidnapped within the last few months.According to them, they said they were now in a state of fear, panic and insecurity, a development that they say has equally affected the operation of their businesses in the entire Ibarapa land.

The marketers said that kidnappers tortured their four members, whose businesses were domiciled in Ibarapa land, and kept them in custody for several days after which they collected huge ransom before they regained freedom.An Ibadan-based lawyer, Musibau Adetunbi, who was recently abducted told The Guardian: “On April 15, 2019 at about 7:03p.m‬‬‬‬, my driver and I were kidnapped around one or two kilometres after Iwaraja Junction in Osun State by eight armed men. Two of them were armed with AK 47, while four were armed with locally made pistols. One of them was armed with a sword and knife, and the last one was armed with a sword and a cutlass.

“We were led into a bush path and we trekked for about three hours before we were engaged in any meaningful conversation, which they started by finding out our names, occupations and our residences. We trekked for another one hour before they even made mention of anything like ransom.”

On how he was released, he explained: “The following day, April 16, at about 4p.m.,‬‬‬‬ they allowed me to call my family and at gunpoint, they directed me to tell her to pay N20m into an account or our lives would be taken. At about ‪11pm‬‬‬‬, the Almighty God had turned the enemies into friends. We had fruitful discussion and we agreed to continue on Wednesday. ‬

“On Wednesday, the negotiation was concluded at about 4:30p.m. The ransom was paid at about ‪8pm, and we were released at 8:35pm. Neither my driver nor I was physically tortured. What I eventually paid for the two of us was reasonably below what they demanded.”‬The lawyer enumerated steps to take to get out of the security challenge to include good governance, a sincere solution to unemployment and underemployment.

An Ibadan-based public affairs analyst, Mrs. Yemi Alabi, who was once kidnapped, explained how the kidnappers carry out their nefarious activities.She said: “Once the victim is whisked away, the abductors take away his/her phones, jewellery, hairpins, belts and any other item that could contain a tracker. They keep their victims incommunicado for some days then go for the kill.

Another victim, also an Ibadan-based public affairs analyst, Dr. Tunde Amusat, lamented the spate of insecurity in the Southwest.At a roundtable conversation held in Ibadan recently to commemorate the first anniversary of his release from kidnappers’ den, he said the hoodlums have turned themselves into a major security risk in the Southwest.

He said: “These hoodlums have turned themselves into security risk in the Yoruba native zone of South-western Nigeria. For sometime now, these daredevils have wreaked havoc in Ikorodu, Lagos, and parts of Ogun State, Oke-Ogun and other parts of Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States. Our Roads and forests around these areas have been invaded and turned to death zones. The Yoruba dominated areas of Kwara and Kogi states are not spared as well.

“Our dominant means of livelihood in Yoruba land has always been farming, and this is now under threat, as our farms are becoming no-go areas. The impending shortfall in farm yield in the immediate harvest season stares us in the face with daring consequences.

“Family parleys, which used to bring us together, are becoming sparsely attended, because of fear of getting kidnapped on our roads. Even on our streets, we get assaulted, robbed, and abducted by notorious marauders who pose as Okada riders. The recent police arrest of Okada riders with AK47 hidden under Okada seats, attested to the veracity of this fear and concern.”

An Ibadan-based activist, Comrade Andrew Emelieze, said the situation must be curbed, just as he stressed the need for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign if he is incapable of addressing the country’s security challenge. Emelieze, who is the National Coordinator of All Workers’ Convergence, said: “Rising from an emergency convergence of concerned workers, the Nigerian workers, after extensive consideration of various situations in the country, especially as they concern the horrible spate of massive killings, unimaginable pace of suicide, the high level of insecurity generally, the prevailing hopelessness among our people, vis-à-vis massive unemployment and poor national economy, have decided that we will no longer tolerate the mindless massacre going on in Nigeria.“President Muhammadu Buhari should immediately stop the spate of killings in the country or, in the alternative, tender his resignation.”

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