Ondo State, hitherto known for its tranquil and peaceful environments, is now a hellhole for travellers and residents alike, many of whom have been victims of kidnappers and ritual killers.
Only recently a 13-day old baby was kidnapped from its family in the wee hours of the night by daredevil kidnappers without a trace after many days. Also, politicians and citizens have been paying ransom to kidnappers, boosting a trade that has been outlawed by both the federal and state legislative institutions.
The rate of kidnapping is now on the increase, not only in Ondo State but also in some other states of the South-west.
Two weeks ago, four persons were abducted by kidnappers along Akure-Owo Expressway, specifically at Amurin Village in Owo Local Government Area of the state. Among the victims was a lecturer of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic Owo (RUGIPO), Taiwo Akinyemi.
Mr Akinyemi was not freed after six days in captivity, despite the payment of ransom to the kidnappers. Although the others, members of staff of the Federal Medical Centre Owo, have been freed after payment of ransom.
Sadly, the body of the 52-year-old Mr Akinyemi was found in a bush tied to a tree last Sunday evening. He was killed by the kidnappers, reportedly for the failure of his family members to produce the ransom on time.
In early November, five persons including the senatorial candidate for the Ondo North senatorial district on the platform of African Democratic Congress, Jide Ipinsagba, and the party chairman, Bisi Ogungbemi, were kidnapped along Owo-Oba Akoko road amidst a retinue of toll collecting police checkpoints. They were fortunate to be released days later after a huge amount was paid as ransom.
Ayomide Ogunsuyi, a 23-year old student of Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, narrowly missed hell, when on November 29, vigilant “Good Samaritans” spotted her being taken away by kidnappers right at the heart of the capital, Akure, to an unknown destination. The kidnappers sedated her as soon as she got into what she thought was a taxi taking her to her destination. They made a detour from the main expressway and headed back to the town, an action that drew the attention of other commuters who felt the girl had actually indicated a different direction when she boarded the taxi. A police patrol at the area was immediately alerted and the girl was rescued.
In July this year, a former Chairman of Akure North Local Government, Dele Fagoriola, was kidnapped in his farm in a border village between Ondo and Ekiti State. He was said to have been trailed to his farm where he was abducted at about 3 p.m. He was, however, released after a ransom was paid to the abductors.
The state has also suffered a spate of murders closely linked to ritual killings.
Most enraging was the killing of a 75-year-grandmother in Ikare Akoko. Her breast, womb and parts of her private parts had been removed. The petty trader, whose death shocked her children and residents alike, was murdered while in her sleep at night. Another elderly woman who woke to raise the alarm was attacked in the process and only managed to survive after she was helped to the hospital at the break of day.
Also in July, the lifeless body of Khadijat, daughter of former Ondo State deputy governor, Lasisi Oluboyo, was found in the room of her boyfriend, Adeyemi Alao. She was a student of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, The suspect, who was later arrested, was alleged to have killed the girl, buried her in his room and put his mattress on the grave. Mr Oluboyo had hinted that his daughter was killed and used for rituals.
The spate of kidnappings and ritual killings has sparked several protests from groups and associations, demanding the government’s action and the commitment of security agencies.
The Nigeria Medical Association, Ondo State, last week, issued a seven-day ultimatum to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, saying they would not be able to guarantee industrial harmony in the health sector if he failed to find a solution to the problems of kidnapping and ritual killings.
They specifically referred to the recent kidnapping of four persons including the slain lecturer of RUGIPO. Two nurses (one of them pregnant) and a medical doctor were among the victims.
The chairman of the association, Wale Oke, told journalists in Akure that his members now work under intense fear.
“It is worthy of note that within three months, three cases of kidnapping have been linked to doctors and other health workers and other good citizens of this state,” Mr Oke said. “This is becoming worrisome and highly unacceptable as our colleagues are now working under intense fear, and getting to their workplaces becoming a Herculean task.”
“We wish to reiterate unequivocally that the government needs to urgently do the needful, failure of which we may not be able to guarantee the peaceful industrial harmony currently being enjoyed in the state from our members. We also demand visible and palpable solutions within the next seven days.”
The Nigerian Bar Association, Owo local branch in Ondo State, has also learnt its voice to the rising rage against kidnapping, accusing the police in the state of not doing enough in terms of securing lives and properties. The association also called for a state of emergency to be declared on kidnapping.
The lawyers had staged a peaceful demonstration last week to press for immediate government action. Speaking on behalf of the lawyers, the chairman of the association, Tajudeen Olutope-Ahmed, said the rampant cases of kidnapping in Ondo State was becoming a source of concern to members of the legal profession.
“We, therefore, call on the police authorities to wake up to the present security challenge in Owo. This is not the time to slumber. It is not the time to be supine as well. Police must, as a matter of necessity, be at alert to the security situation in Owo and its environs. To this end, we suggest that the idea of mounting police checkpoints — which are nothing but avenues to rake bribes from commuters — be reviewed,” Mr Olutope-Ahmed said.
“Constant police patrol of the roads should be embarked upon. In this way, police will be able to foil any attempt by the men of the underworld from showcasing their daredevil skills on the roads.”
A group known as Sunshine Liberation Front demanded the immediate redeployment of the state police commissioner, Gbenga Adeyanju, for his inability to stem the tide of violent crimes, including kidnapping in the state.
In a statement by its coordinator, Akinyele Akinwale, the group maintained that the police in the state was not doing enough to stop the criminals whose activities were claiming the lives of innocent citizens and putting their families under in emotional and psychological trauma. The group also accused Mr Akeredolu of insensitivity.
“We have observed that kidnapping of innocent residents and motorists has now become a lucrative job and business for these criminals who have converted, with ease, the bushes and thick forests in our state to their abode and masquerading as Fulani Herdsmen,” the statement said.
“Many persons have become victims of kidnap for ransom in Ondo State, while family members have also not found it funny in coughing out millions of naira to free their breadwinners from captivity.
“According to media reports, no less than 15 kidnap cases have occurred and reported in Ondo State within two months. This calls for more attention and critical concern and evaluation of the security apparatus and arrangement in the state.
“Just last week, a senior lecturer at the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, lost his life while in the den of these dreaded criminals. He was shot several times, with machete wounds all over his body. He was found dead, gagged and tied to a tree with his own cloth. It was also reported that three medical personnel, including a pregnant woman, at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) were also victims and released on ransom after days in captivity. All these took place between Owo and Akure!
“Last month, prominent political gladiators in Ondo State were held by kidnappers on Akoko roads. These men got their freedoms after their families had parted with tens of millions of naira and spending days in captivity.
“Apart from these endless kidnappings which happen mostly on Akure-Owo-Akoko roads, there have been reports of robberies and killings on same route, with no respite and solution in sight.
“The cumulative occurrences and investigations from individuals who have fallen victims of these kidnapping cases in the state, suggest that there is a ‘ring of collaboration’ and connivance between these kidnappers and the top echelon of security agencies in the state.
“This is why we, Sunshine Liberation Front, are calling for the immediate redeployment of the Commissioner of Police in Ondo state, Mr. Olugbenga Adeyanju. Adeyanju has allegedly been aiding and abetting criminals and their like minds including hoodlums, a good example is that of NURTW thugs, who recently staged an attack on some of the lawmakers of Ondo House of Assembly and journalists who were only carrying out their duties as permitted by the Nigerian constitution.
“While we are asking the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to wade into the security issues in the state, we are also demanding to know the role of the Governor, who is the Chief Security Officer of the state, on the rampant kidnappings in Ondo state. It is a pity that while the state is on fire, with the constant kidnapping of innocent residents in the state, Mr. Governor is out of the state attending to party affairs, or out of the country coordinating family issues, ignoring the cries of the people for safety.”
The police in the state, however, denied that they were paying lip service to the fight against kidnapping. The Ondo State police spokesperson, Femi Joseph, told PREMIUM TIMES that the police had deployed officers to the troubled spot, especially along Akure – Owo way, and they are combing the forest to clear it of the criminals.
He said much of the intervention by the police is undercover that may not be open to the public, but soon, there would be cheery news, as the efforts would soon begin to yield results.
“We are doing our best to make sure we bring the situation under control. Efforts are ongoing to arrest those who perpetrated the crime, and also to ensure that there is no reoccurrence of the crime,” he said.
“There are a number of things we are doing undercover that we may not tell the public, but I believe that soon, there would be results.”
He added that besides the recent incidences of kidnapping, the police had taken steps to flush out kidnappers completely from the state.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...