Kidnapping for ransom in the South-West is now a growing phenomenon and has become a sort of headache to security personnel and the political leadership of the region. Most of the victims were abducted on some roads in the region, though a few others were abducted either in their farms or right inside their homes.
Nigerian Tribune investigations identified about 48 kidnapping spots in the region: from Lagos, Ogun, Oyo to Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states.
In Ondo State, there are five active spots. According to residents of the areas, these bandits appear to have deep knowledge of the terrains.
The dangerous spots identified by Nigerian Tribune include Uso town, Ago Ajayi along Akoko road and Elegbaka near Ifon town in Ose Local Government Area and the ever busy Owo-Ikare and Owo – Benin road.
Most of the kidnapping activities are being carried out on Owo-Ikare and Owo -Benin road and these routes have become notorious for kidnapping and other criminal activities.
Apart from kidnapping on the highways, these criminals have visited farmlands, attacked, maimed and killed farmers while some have been abducted for ransoms.
Between November and December 2020, no fewer than 25 people were victims of these kidnappers at Uso, in Owo Local Government Area of the state. The victims included the market women leaders from Akokoland who were guests of the kidnappers for almost a week. Other kidnap victims in that axis, apart from these women, include students, lecturers, and health workers.
In January, a young man was abducted within Uso town while on a site with his family and spent about four days with the criminals who released him after the payment of N10 million ransom. A couple travelling to Akure was also abducted, while their three underage children were left behind in the car by the abductors. They were released three days after parting with N2 million.
Apart from this, some six young men escaped being abducted and killed by the kidnappers who shot at their cars in an attempt to stop them at this particular spot in Uso.
Apart from Uso, Ago Ajayi along Oba Akoko is another dangerous spot. People of the area have lost count of abduction cases that have taken place on that route. Some of who fell prey to the kidnappers include, traditional rulers including a regent; military officers; clergy men and Reverend sisters; expatriates and many others.
For instance, a traditional from Akokoland, the Oniyani of Iyani Akoko in Akoko North-West Local Government Area of Ondo State, Oba Joel Daodu, spent days with the criminals before he was rescued after payment of ransom, while a naval officer was also kidnapped by gunmen in Ago Ajayi, on the Oba Akoko road. It took the intervention of the military from Akure before the Naval officer regained his freedom after spending 11 days with his abductors.
The regent of Akungba-Akoko, Oluwatoyin Omosowon, was kidnapped alongside three others in her car while on her way to Akure for a lecture at the Federal University of Technology. Her driver, a policeman and a foreigner were later rescued after a joint operation by security personnel from Edo and Ondo states. Also in Ago Ajayi, some gunmen abducted wife of a traditional ruler in the state, the Orunja of Odigbo, Oba Rufus Akinrimade, two of her daughters and the palace driver.
However, the criminals relocated from Ago Ajayi to other areas after the joint security forces moved to the area to flush out these criminals. The incessant abductions in the area prompted the state government to embark on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the bad spots on the road.
But while cases of abduction have reduced in Ago Ajayi route, it is not the case with Elegbaka village before Ifon in Ose Local Government Area. Residents of this community have lost count of kidnapped victims. According to a resident, Adekola Ilori, “you will always find empty vehicles in this spot at every particular period as their occupants would have been dragged into the bush by the kidnappers. Some cars are usually here for weeks because their owners are with the kidnappers.
“The kidnappers find their activities more lucrative in this area, with an average of about 40 people being captured and herded into the thick forest in this area in less than six weeks,” he told Nigerian Tribune.
Perhaps what has aided the bloodthirsty criminals are the craters and potholes on the Elegbaka road. Many people had lost their lives in accidents with vehicles damaged as the motorists tried plot an escape from the killer herdsmen, who would sometimes operate in broad daylight.
Among their victims were a former captain of the National Scrabble team, Paul Sodje and his friend who were killed on their way to deliver ransom to the criminals who kidnapped Chris, Paul Sodje›s brother. Two footballers of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), Dayo Ojo of Eyimba FC and Benjamin Iluyomade of Abia Comets spent harrowing time with the kidnappers.
On a single day, a mother and her three children who were said to be travelling from Lagos to Imoru for an annual age grade festival were kidnapped. They were stopped by the armed men in Elegbaka area and dragged into the bush. The hoodlums later freed the mother of three but kept her three children in their custody as their insurance for payment of N50 million ransom.
The list also includes five travellers from Lagos who ran into the abductors’ ambush around Asabia village, Alagbaka. They were abducted while their driver was shot by the bandits.
Last December, a first class traditional ruler, the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adeusi was shot dead by these kidnappers. The killing of the Ifon oba led to the invasion of the forest by security operatives who arrested some suspects. Security operatives and patrol teams have since been stationed in the area as well as other notorious spots to stem the tide of kidnapping in the state.
A commercial driver plying Akure-Ikare Akoko, Wale Adenrele, said he spent 10 days in the forest after he was kidnapped along Ago Ajayi and herded into the forest.
He explained that he was abducted with four other passengers, including a military officer. “It was a very bad experience. We ran into these kidnappers who were in police uniform around 7.25am.
“When I saw them, I did not identify them as kidnappers because I thought they were policemen. But when they started shooting, we surrendered to them and they took us hostage for more than 10 days.
“With the way they handled the weapons, I can say that these people are terrorists. They are well trained. They are Fulani from their physical outlook and from the way they speak. Some of them were in police and military uniforms and cannot be more than 23 years old,” he narrated, adding that, “I’ve stopped plying that road for the past six months.
“Despite the constant arrest of suspects and presence of police officers on the road, the kidnappers continue to have the upper hand so much that commercial transport operators have been avoiding this road.”
However, the Commandant of the Ondo State Security Network, known as Amotekun, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, said some measures have been put in place to tackle the kidnappers. According to him the corps has established synergy with local hunters, vigilance groups and other security agencies to fight kidnapping, especially in the northern senatorial district of the state.
“We have also called the meeting of local hunters and vigilante in the Ondo North and this collaboration is yielding results and I want to assure you that kidnapping will soon become a thing of the past in the area. We cannot make our tactics public, but I am assuring members of the public that these hoodlums will be chased out of this state. Our men have been going round to secure the release of people who have been kidnapped.”
Also the state police command said the command is not resting on its oars and have established synergies with other sister agencies to put an end to kidnapping and other criminal activities.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO) Tee -Leo Ikoro, said the state police commissioner had ordered his men to comb every part of the forest in these notorious spots to flush out the criminals and ensure that the perpetrators of kidnapping are apprehended and brought to justice.
Ikoro said: “The result of which was the rescue of some kidnap victims and this would not have been so easy without credible intelligence gathering and the support of the good people of Ondo State.
“It is obvious that the people of Ondo State and other security agencies in the state are police-friendly. With this kind of support in information sharing, I’m sure there will be no hiding place for criminals in Ondo State. I want to reassure the public that Ondo is safe and the police have reinvigorated their crime-fighting strategy to ensure the protection of lives and properties in the state,» adding that the command has commenced a discreet investigation to unravel those behind the killing of the first class monarch in the state.
Oyo State has recorded series of cases relating to kidnap. A security source disclosed that prime kidnap locations in Oyo State are Ido Local Government Area, Igangan axis and other parts of Ibarapa, areas around the Oyo and Kwara states› boundary.
Although no particular number was given on the active kidnapping spots in the state, Sunday Tribune estimated it to be a little over 10, considering the vastness of the state and its strategic placement as it shares borders with three states and Republic of Benin.
The source disclosed that all routes into Oke-Ogun zone and the entire zone serve as hotbed for kidnapping.
Furthermore, drivers identified Ibadan-Ijebu road and the Ogunmakin and Alapako areas on the Lagos-Ibadan road as critical spots they drive past with their hearts in their mouths.
When contacted on the action of the Oyo State Police Command, the state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Olugbenga Fadeyi, said that the command has been collaborating with local hunters and vigilance groups that are used to the various terrains.
He added that the police embarked on constant policing across the state, especially its tactical teams, highway patrol, Swift Response Squad (SRS) and anti-kidnapping squad.
He however noted the importance of community policing and urged members of the public to be vigilant and give the police constant and credible information about happenings in their areas.
Investigations carried out by Nigerian Tribune revealed eight spots in Osun State. These spots are Wasinmi area on the Ife-Ibadan highway; Iwaraja town area on the Ilesha-Akure highway and Ajebandele village environs on Osogbo-Ibokun road. The other notorious spot where one or more abductions have taken place in the last two years is Erinmo/Omoh-Ijesa area; Itawure junction to Ekiti State boundary, which is creating fears among travellers though security has been beefed up around the area.
There is also Iwo-Osogbo which has been deserted due to the rampant cases of kidnapping a few years ago. There has been no recent incident there.
Although there were pockets of abduction cases recorded in Ejigbo when Alhaja Muibat Salaam, wife of the speaker, Osun State House of Assembly was kidnapped right inside her shop, as well as in Testing Ground and Oke Bale in Osogbo and also in Ilesa and Iwo, the major kidnapping was being carried out in the highways.
The most recent of these cases occurred on Saturday, March 6, at Wasinmi area where two travellers were kidnapped by unknown gunmen. Other cases were the attack on Ajebandele village on March 2, by gunmen who killed one person and abducted many others and the kidnap of some travellers along Omoh/Erin-Ijesha road in Ori-Ade Local Government Area of the state.
Some persons travelling on the Ilesha-Akure highway were attacked in February 8 in the night and abducted three persons. All these attacks that were reported by the media have been confirmed by the state police command which also promised speedy solution tothe crisis.
Apart from the highways, Nigerian Tribune identified two other hot spots which are the gold mining communities of the state. The most active of such is Itagunmodi in Atakumosa East Local Government Area of Osun State and Ifewara in Ife East local Government where three Chinese were kidnapped recently.
However, one noticeable feature of the kidnapping cases is that most of them took place usually in the bad portions of these roads, where the drivers would need to slow down to avoid driving into potholes and craters.
But while many of the victims were freed through payment of ransom or efforts by security agents, some were not fortunate as they were killed by their abductors. According to accounts of the victims, most of the abductions were carried out by Fulani herdsmen.
On December 25, 2020, a businessman, Happiness, travelling alongside his cousin, Oluwaseun, was kidnapped along Isan – Iludun Ekiti road and ransom was believed to have been paid before his release four days after.
Although the police and Amotekun Corps said no ransom was paid to secure his release, a family source said N2m was paid to the kidnappers before he was let off the hook. The source said the kidnappers demanded N100 million which they later reduced to N10million and further to N2 million.
Happiness’s abduction occurred after a similar one on November 27, 2020 on the new Ado–Iyin road where a Chinese engineer was whisked away by the hoodlums. The kidnappers shot a policeman dead before abducting the Chinese.
An ex-commissioner for agriculture of the state, Folorunso Olabode, was on April 26, 2020, abducted alongside a woman, while a local government councillor who drove their car was shot dead. He regained freedom after spending about a week in captivity.
However, in the three cases, the kidnap victims, who were abducted in Ekiti State, were taken through the expansive forest to neighbouring Kwara State. Sources privy to the cases said ransoms for their release were paid to the kidnappers inside Kwara forest.
Another victim, Mr Sola Fagorusi, who works with a non-governmental organisation, committed to assisting farmers to increase their yields, was returning from one of the intervention meetings with some farmers in Ekiti State on the Aramoko-Ekiti road on September 29, 2020, when some hoodlums emerged from nowhere and shot at his vehicle and abducted him alongside another employee of the organisation.
On October 11, 2020, one Olorunsola Daramola was abducted alongside his father, Idowu, along the Ikere-Ekiti – Ise road. According to the victim, the abduction took place about 400 metres from the military checkpoints put on the road. But while the son was released after payment of ransom, the father was killed for asking the kidnappers to feed him and other abductees on whom they were expecting ransom. Almost six months after, all efforts by the family to find and retrieve the corpse of Idowu Daramola were not successful.
Like Idowu Daramola, Revd Johnson Oladimeji on November 26,2020 was murdered by his abductors, suspected to be herdsmen on November 26,2020. It was gathered the cleric was shot at when he refused to stop his car after being ambushed by the gun wielding herdsmen.
Two weeks ago, a another Chinese said to be supervising the construction of Ilupeju-Ire-Igbemo-Ijan road was kidnapped by gunmen after being waylaid at Igbemo-Ekiti.
Speaking on his experience on the roads, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) Mr Kehinde Osatuyi, who plies Ado -Akure route, noted that most of the kidnappings along major roads usually happened at the bad portions of the roads, saying that the poor condition of roads has contributed greatly to the incidence.
Osatuyi said: “We travel on this road everyday and I can tell you that the poor condition of the road is contributing to the crimes, especially kidnappings, on the road.
“Most of the abductions happened when drivers were navigating the bad portions and before you know it, the gunmen would emerge from the bush and pounce on their victims.
“If government is ready to end kidnapping, they should immediately commence rehabilitation of our major roads, doing this, it will help to reduce the crimes.
Mr Biola Ogunmola, a member of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN) whose vehicle plies Ikere- Ise road, who also spoke with Sunday Tribune, said there is need for the state government to deploy more Amotekun personnel for regular patrol on the roads.
He regretted that crimes were on the increase on the roads due to little or no presence of security agents.
“You can see that along these roads, you won›t see a single police checkpoints in these places that have become notorious. Even Amotekun officials were not seen but I understand we have a few of them in the state at the moment.
“So, I want to urge the government to employ more Amotekun men and deploy them to these flashpoints to curtail the waves of criminalities happening on these roads.”
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Sunday Abutu, said the police were determined to end kidnapping in Ekiti State, saying the commissioner of police Tunde Mobayo, had constituted a special tactical team in addition with the new Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
“Due to a change in operational strategies, the RRS is now operating in all the local governments and our patrol teams are all over the roads monitoring situations. The CP is determined to end kidnapping in the state and that is why we had a stakeholders’ meeting recently where the head of Fulani community and other stakeholders were invited.“
In Ogun State, Sunday Tribune highlighted over 10 kidnapping hot spots. These are Ogunmakin end of the Lagos -Ibadan highway; most roads leading to Yewa region of the state, especially on the border with Republic of Benin, Ogbere; Sagamu-Ijebu-Ode-Benin highway; Aiyetoro; Imeko-Afon; Onigambari on Ibadan-Ijebu Ode road and Ogun State border with Oyo State around Idi-Ayunre area.
On the Lagos-Ibadan highway, Ogun state section is perhaps the most dangerous. Three active spots: Ogunmakin/Alapako, Saapade and Long Bridge-Kara are the dangerous kidnapping spots. At Ogunmakin alone, many cases of abduction have been recorded in the past eight weeks. The victims while sharing their experiences after regaining their freedom usually painted gory pictures of armed young Fulani men who abducted them.
Only some few days back, two undergraduates of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, Aiyetoro campus, fell in the hands of the kidnappers just as a secondary school teacher at Community High School, Ilara-Yewa, also fell victim. The three of them have since regained their freedom.
Other recent cases in the state is the one involving a commercial driver and his passengers who were abducted on the Aiyetoro road, just as a family of seven who engaged in kidnapping in Sagamu area of the state were arrested by the police in collaboration with local vigilance group in the town.
The Ogun State Police Command insisted that providing adequate security for lives and properties remained its priority. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the operatives of the command are not resting on their oars in ensuring that the people of the state sleep with their eyes closed. He noted that criminals have no hiding place in the state, hence the resolve of the Command to work in collaboration with other sister security agencies in making the state a safe haven for residents and investors alike.
Unlike other South-West, Lagos has not been under heavy attacks from Fulani herders. But recent cases of kidnapping in the Ikorodu axis are creating fear that herders may gradually be finding their way into Lagos, especially through the border communities.
Tribune identifies about eight spots in the state.
Until about a month ago, there was hardly any reported case of kidnapping, where the kidnappers were identified as herders or that they collected ransom before victims were released. There were many reported cases of kidnapping of school children either by their neighbours, relatives, employees and suspected ritualists as recently witnessed in Orile, Mile 2,Obadeyi along the Lagos – Abeokuta expressway, Ikeja and Sogunle area of Lagos State.
Communities in Lagos like Imota, Itokin, Epe, Isiu, Ikorodu, Obadeyi, Sogunle, Ladipo, Orile, Mile 2, Lekki, Ajah and Badagry are notorious for crimes; but with the latest trend in kidnapping, there are genuine concerns that suspected herdsmen could have infiltrated some parts of boundary communities, especially along Ikorodu – Epe expressway, and established their operation points.
It is recalled that the two most serious cases of students kidnapping in Lagos State took place in Ikorodu and Epe: Babington Macaulay Seminary School, Adamo Ikorodu and Lagos Model College, Igbonla, Epe. Though the two incidents were not in any way linked to herdsmen, the recent cases along the same axis are now being linked to the dreaded herders.
Some communities along Epe – Itokin- Ikorodu expressway in recent times have become key spots for the abductors. Suspected herdsmen abducted six people on the way to their farms and collected huge sum of money before they were released.
Traditional rulers in the boundary communities between Lagos and Ogun states have since moved to allay the fear of their subjects by organising local security groups, including: Oodua People›s Congress, Agbekoya, Vigilante Group of Nigeria ,and others to safeguard their communities.
The traditional ruler of Emuren land, a border community between Lagos and Ogun State Oba Adesegun Alowonle confirmed to the Nigerian Tribune that “it is true that those people ( Fulani men) have infiltrated our area “
The owner of Ikorodu Integrated Farm was early in March abducted alongside his younger brother, during a busy to his farm in the Isiu area of Ikorodu and his family had to pay N15 million naira before they were released after some days.
Tribune gathered that the abductors after collecting the ransom, which was negotiated down from N100 million, left them in a forest in the Sagamu area of Ogun State, where their family eventually found them.
A resident of Isiu, who simply identified himself as Lamina, said “the incident ( abduction of the farm owners) has caused panic among our people .This happened at a time that we were just enjoying peace after about one year of bloody fight over land and obaship tussle in the community.
“The Fulani gunmen just invaded the farm with heavy weapons, shot sporadically for more than 10 minutes and took away the farm owner and his brother. We learnt that they were released in Emuren in Ogun State. We have not recorded any incident like that involving Fulani men in the past.
“What we used to have were incidents of land thugs abducting suspected opposition members and killing them and not for ransom. This has really created serious panic among our people,” he stated.
The Elemuren of Emuren land, Oba Adesegun Alowonle, while speaking with the Tribune confirmed the presence of the herdsmen.
“The issue of Fulani herdsmen calls for serious attention from the government of Ogun and Lagos states. These people are in our communities .They have kidnapped people in two different communities in this area.”
According to him, the traditional rulers in the affected towns have taken steps to contain the criminals. «We have been meeting. We are engaging the local security groups … and others to protect our towns, but we still want the government to act as fast as possible,» he pleaded.
The police in Lagos State though denied that any reported case of kidnapping was lodged with any of the police stations in Ikorodu and neighbouring communities called for partnership with members of the public to forestall kidnapping.
The state commissioner of police, Hakeem Odumosu, also said that the police are working on ways to protect schools in all parts of the state against activities of kidnappers, as witnessed in the northern part of the country.
The image maker in charge of the state police command, Muyiwa Adejobi told Sunday Tribune that “the police commissioner has deployed police men to these volatile areas to forestall any ugly incident.” (Nigerian Tribune)