By Dare AKOGUN
Kwara, the ‘state of harmony’ had lesser reports of insecurity ravaging the rest of the country, until recently when incidents of abduction and banditry became rife in the north-central state. Dare AKOGUN reports.
SEGUN Arowolo, a businessman, based in Lagos, was kidnapped, alongside six others in August on their way back from a wedding ceremony along Oke Onigbin – Omu Aran road, in Ekiti State.
Although four of them were rescued the following day, Arowolo and the other hostages were held for three weeks.
Speaking to our reporter, Arowolo who was still suffering from the trauma, said they walked about 80 kilometres from where they were Kidnapped at Oke Onigbin in Isin local government area of Kwara State to the forest in Ekiti.
He said they were fed once a day with yam their abductors stole from farms in the forest.
“We walked far distances in the forest during the day, and we are allowed to rest at night, to eat food that was never enough. We sleep on rocks and itchy grasses with mosquitoes, sometimes under heavy rain, as we changed locations daily until I was released,” he said.
Arowolo said his abductors tortured him daily as they grew impatient over the inability of his family to raise the ransom. He said the kidnappers initially requested a ransom of N10 million, but they eventually agreed to collect N3 million.
“My family was able to gather N3 million for my release with support and contributions from other members of my community,” he said.
In the last six months of 2021 alone, cases of kidnap for ransom in Kwara was rife, especially in the southern part of the state.
Thirteen persons, including seven wedding guests, a pastor and his wife, were abducted in two kidnapping incidents that occurred between the Kwara-Ekiti axis on the evening of Saturday, August 7, 2021.
The guests returning to Ilorin from a wedding in Ekiti State in a Sienna bus were kidnapped at a point between Oke-Onigbin and Omu-Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State about 5:35 pm.
On the same day, another incident was reported between Ekan-Meje in Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State and Ekiti State, which involved a pastor and his wife and four other persons.
However, the victims were rescued the following day in the forest in Ekiti state by local hunters and vigilantes.
A few days later, on August 18, 2021, a man in his forties, simply identified as Ishola, was kidnapped on his way to his farm near Rore, an adjoining community to Omu-Aran.
Ishola told our reporter in his Isolo Lagos residence that he has not returned to Omu Aran since the incident because he still suffers trauma.
According to him, on the first day, he drank Garri with dirty water, while on the second day, he and other victims were fed with leftover food, adding that they always trekked for hours and were moving around different areas.
“They blindfolded some of us and made us walk over a long distance sometimes we were hearing sounds of cars passing during the day and night, on the first day, they fed some of us with garri with unclean water, while some who refused the food were beaten,” he said.
Ishola said after four days with the kidnappers, he was abandoned in the forest with some other victims when one of them sighted police officers on a search-and-rescue operation.
25yrs old Mansurat Elega of Olupo farm settlement, Eruku, Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, was abducted while sleeping in her room by unidentified gunmen on September 24, 2021. The Kwara state police command tactical teams in conjunction with local hunters and vigilantes were dispatched by the commissioner of police to the bushes for a search.
She was rescued two days later.
Narrating her ordeal at the hands of the kidnappers, she identified her kidnapper as Saliu who made love advances to her, but she declined.
“Salihu led the three other people that kidnapped me. He is a farmer and works as a security guard; he said he wanted to marry me, but I didn’t like him, and he swore to deal with me.
“He raped me thrice in the bush and ran away with bullets wound when the security came to rescue me in the bush; I have not seen nor hear from him since then, “she said.
Ajibike Raji was abducted alongside her two daughters, Zainab and Aliya, on September 24, 2021, at her shop inside TAIISA filling station in Omu Aran by unknown gunmen after firing shots to scare people away.
A member of the family who doesn’t want to be named because he was not permitted to speak on the matter said the kidnapper stormed the Oko junction axis of Omu-Aran, some few minutes before eight in the night, shooting sporadically in the air to scare people away.
“The gunmen later stormed the fuel station around the junction and went straight to her provision shop to abduct her and the children and drove them away, without taking anything”.
“I took the money to the kidnappers in the tick of the forest. I was on the bike for almost 45 minutes; they started shooting sporadically, like in a war film.
Seven of them came out to take the money, after which I requested for the victims. They asked me to go back that they would send them; they were released early the following day, “he said.
However, a close family member was arrested in connection to the incident and the case is still present in court.
In the last six months, this is the reality where more than seven incidences of kidnapping and banditry have been reported across the three senatorial districts of Kwara state, including the state capital Ilorin, an increase of what was witnessed last year in the state.
National President Omu Aran Development Association Major General Abidoye Lasisi (rtd), while speaking with our reporter on the kidnapping incident recorded in Omu Aran said when the first incident happened in August, one Ishola was kidnapped. The community in conjunction with other communities swung into actions by mobilising the local security operatives to conduct search and rescue operations.
“We combed the forest for three days while the kidnappers were negotiating ransom from family members, through the efforts of the technology we were able to pick their location, but as we are closing on them, they abandoned the victim in the bush, with the help of the police we were able to rescue him unhurt and no ransom paid after spending three days with his abductors,” he said.
The other one was that of the woman and her children kidnapped at her shop the community worked closely with security agencies to ensure she was rescued safely.
When asked if any ransom was paid, he says, “I can’t say for sure, but I am aware the family were negotiating with the kidnappers, we just focus on their rescue which we were able to achieve to the glory of God,” he said.
On November 19, 2020, Segun Omoboriowo was kidnapped alongside seven others, including his boss, at a sachet water factory, in Sosoki village around Alapa in Asa local government Kwara state.
However, the Kwara state police command rescued them the following day, but the owner of the sachet water factory Fatimah Nurudeen is still being held by the kidnappers more than a month after.
Narrating the incident to our reporter, he said, “we are about closing for the day around 8:00 in the night and a man came to say he needs 50 bags of pure water. So, we decided to call our oga, whose house is not far from the place, while we start bringing the pure water out from the factory.
“The man placed a call to someone to bring the vehicle; immediately the vehicle enters the compound, three men jumped down with a gun and packed all of us inside the vehicle and drove out,” he said.
Omoboriowo said they released the seven of them when they got to around Igbeti in Oyo state and drove away with the owner of the factory owner.
“Since the incident, the sachet worker factory has been closed down, I had to do the menial job working on peoples farm for survival, “he lamented.
Woru Yunusa of Nuku village in Kaiama local government area of Kwara state was sleeping in his house at about 3:00 a.m. when slaps woke him up from two-three men armed with rifle and machete.
According to him, “As I opened my eyes, I saw two men standing over me, was pointing a gun at me the other was holding a machete, they asked where I kept the money, and I told them I don’t have money at home.
“A few minutes later, the third person came out of another with my two sisters, a 17 and 19 years old, and they told me when I have money, they will release them; I tried to block them, and the one with the machete cut me, I opened my eyes in the hospital,” he said.
However, the two girls were released later in the day after the bandits had had carnal knowledge of them.
Other incidents were reported in Kwara this year
The Mogaji Erubu in the Ilorin Emirate was abducted on Thursday, December 9, 2021, on his way along Ago Oja in Asa local government area of the state around 10:00 p.m. on his way from Ilorin, the state capital.
Erubu, a retired permanent secretary and a trained medical doctor, spent eight days in the hands of the abductors. They had demanded the sum of N60 million for his release, but the amount of ransome paid by the family was not known.
Adegboyega Onijala was not so lucky after being kidnapped on his way back from Olla community in Isin Local government area of the state as his body was found in the bush on November 24, 2021, five days after he was abducted.
The remains of the deceased, a brother to Ambassador Olutola Onijala, an ex-aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan already decomposing before he was found by local hunters in the forest.
A businessman based in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, Alhaji Jamiu Olawale, was abducted on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, by unknown gunmen, at Igbo Aran village close to Aboto Oja in Asa local government area of Kwara State at about 10.05 hours.
He was on his way to the farm alongside his 8-year-old son when the incident happened.
The 8-year-old boy was the one who alerted family members when he ran home crying and narrated what happened. He was released two weeks after an undisclosed amount was paid.
On October 14, 2021, a set of twins, their driver, identified as Kunle, personal security guard, Lawrence Abiodun, and a maid, Bukunmi Akanbi, children and staff of a monarch, Owalobo of Obbo Ayegunle, in Ekiti Local Government Area of Kwara State, were kidnapped while returning from school in Omu Aran.
The victims were rescued three days later. The Kwara state police command, in a release confirming the rescue, said, “the kidnappers under intense pressure from the forces of the commands tactical teams, the vigilante and the local hunters, had no option but to abandon their victims run into the bush”.
A 300-level student of the Kwara State University Khadijat Isiaq, was kidnapped on August 22, 2021, at about 9:00 pm, very close to her hostel.
The Kidnappers who demanded the sum of N50 million for her release were arrested seven days later, and the victims were rescued unhurt.
The police arrested six persons allegedly involved in the kidnapping.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq Laments
As Nigeria continues to battle raging insecurity challenges, ranging from banditry, kidnapping and terrorism, many state governors are devising measures to keep their state safe secure and complement the federal government’s efforts and the security agencies who are overstretched with fighting too many battles.
In November this year, the Kwara state governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq raised the alarm over the rapid influx of cattle herders into his state and the attendant security implications.
The Governor noted that the herders now outnumber the indigenous population in many communities across the state.
AbdulRazaq, while speaking with newsmen after a tour of some towns in Kwara South blamed the invasion by the Fulani on the ban on open grazing by governors in the Southern part of the country.
“Fulanis have spread into multiple villages in Kwara, with their population gradually outnumbering indigenes,” said the Governor.
He blamed the ban on open -grazing by governors in the Southern part of the country.
“Security challenges are huge, especially with insecurity in the North-West and the declaration by Southern Governors to ban open grazing,” said the Kwara governor.
“Once they pronounced it and set a date, we saw a migration of herdsmen coming in, to the extent that if you go to Kwara South, Kwara North now, in some villages, the Fulani have moved in. They are more in population than the indigenes.
Mr AbdulRazaq argued that legislation enforcing the ban could not be adopted in Kwara, explaining that open grazing is enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria.
Kwara State shares a long border with the Republic of Benin. Baruten is a Local Government Area in the North part of the state, which begins in Ilesha Baruba and ends in Chikanda, the border town.
While Kaiama, another local government in the northern part of the state, share boundaries with Niger and Benin republic via the Borgu forest, which has been identified as a major hideout of criminals fueling insurgents in the North.
Kwara state also shares a border with Osun, Ekiti, Oyo and Kogi State.
Kidnapping remains the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive violent crime in the country. Suppose its manifestation in Kwara state is not urgently tamed. In that case, it might become another contagious organised crime that will threaten personal, public and business lives and adversely affect our risk perception and socioeconomic rating as a State.
Bandits, kidnappers relocated to Kwara, Kogi — Gani Adams
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, raised the alarm that bandits and kidnappers have relocated to Kwara and Kogi States respectively, noting that the spate of insecurity in the two states is becoming disheartening and alarming.
Speaking at the 2021 edition of the Oya Festival in Ira, Oyun local government area of Kwara State, on November 27, Adams decried the increasing rate of kidnapping in the state, adding that reports at his disposal indicated that some criminal elements have relocated to the state.
He, however, urged Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRasak to create a state security outfit that could help combat the growing influx of bandits and kidnappers.
He said: “Governor AbdulRasak needs to provide adequate security for the people of the state as well as the visitors. The report that some of the harmful elements, including bandits and kidnappers, have relocated to Kwara and Kogi states is alarming; the Kwara state government needs to improve the security situation in the state by using the Amotekun structure to combat the growing spate of insecurity in the state.
“The success recorded in securing the southwest through Amotekun is encouraging, and the security initiative is yielding positive outcome, he said.”
Security Agency assures residents of safety
The Commissioner of Police Kwara State Police Command, CP Tuesday Assayomo, in reaction to the claim of Gani Adams and the anxiety and concern raised by the people of the state, took a tour of Kwara South senatorial zone on November 30, 2021, to see first-hand, the security situation of the zone.
Speaking in a meeting community leader, the CP reiterated his determination to deal with criminals irrespective of names or group they belong to, while also accepting to work with any individual or group of people who are interested in collaborating with the police to fight crime.
The people were advised to join hands with the police and other security agencies to ensure that the state’s existing peace and harmony is sustained.
In an interview with our reporter, the State Police Public Relations Officer SP Ajayi Okasanmi said the state has been witnessing cases of kidnapping, especially in the southern part of the state for some time now because of its proximity to Oyo, Ekiti and Kogi State.
According to him, “Kwara State is an integral part of Nigeria, and as such, was not completely immune from the security challenges bedevilling all other states, but the fact remains that Kwara State is one of the most peaceful states in the country, where efforts by the people and the support by the government and other stakeholders have helped tremendously in sustaining and maintaining the fragile peace in the state, he said.
He revealed that about 50 per cent of the cases of kidnappings were self-motivated, where people arranged for their kidnap to extort affluent members of their families.
“We have had at least three instances whereby people have confessed to having arranged for their abduction to extort money from their wealthy relatives. Some others are initiated by close relatives working with criminals to provide them with the victims’ information.
Okasanmi said the Commissioner of Police CP Tuesday Assayomo, ensuring that the state is safe, had brought about genuine community policing by incorporating members of the communities’ partner with the command to fight crime and criminalities in the state.
“The command has organised security stakeholders meeting involving religious and community leaders in the three senatorial districts to ensure that our communities are free from crime.
“The command also has four tactical teams in the four zones created in the state, and apart from that, we have policemen in the five entry points of the state to ensure any criminals from neighbouring are neutralised at the point of entry.
“We would ensure that in Kwara State, there is no place for any criminal element, particularly the Kidnappers to hide whether in the forest at Kaiama and Baruten axis in the Northern part of the state or in Irepodun and Ekiti LGA, which share boundary with Ekiti and Kogi States,” Mr Okasanmi said.
Suspects arrested in Ekiti state
The Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State, Tunde Mobayo, on Wednesday, November 24, 2021, said a dismissed policeman, identified only as Samuel, was among members of a kidnap syndicate arrested by men of the Rapid Response Squad in the state.
He noted that the suspect confessed to participating in different abductions and robberies in the state.
Mobayo, represented by the state Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, spoke in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday while parading suspects arrested for different criminal activities, including kidnapping.
“Police investigation led to the arrest on November 17, 2021, of one Johnson, who confessed to being a member of a notorious kidnapping gang and further stated that he usually impersonated Fulani herdsmen due to his physical resemblance to a Fulani man,” he added.
The police boss said one Dele, popularly known as Petim, who was arrested on November 18 in Ilorin, Kwara State, confessed to being the third-in-command of the kidnapping gang.
The CP said, “He stated that he specialised in burglary and stealing and had burgled more than ten shops/houses and carted away more than 12 motorcycles. He confessed further that he concealed the four guns earlier recovered by the police in his mother-in-law’s house in Ado-Ekiti.”
Mobayo said one Blessing, whose duty was to identify victims for kidnapping, was also arrested as one of the members of the kidnap syndicate.
According to the CP, Blessing and another suspect in police custody identified a resident, Chief Abiodun Ayeni, for abduction.
Ayeni, who was kidnapped by the gang, jumped out of the moving car and died while receiving treatment in a hospital.
The police commissioner said men of the RRS also arrested one Bello at Igbara-Odo-Ekiti, where he demanded N50,000 ransom to release a victim, Shekina.
He noted that Bello, alongside his accomplice, who was arrested, “confessed to having handed over the victim to one Fatima, who forcibly whisked her away to Ilesa, Osun State, where the victim was kept hostage for 13 days.”
“The RRS operatives extended the investigation to Osun State, where the victim was rescued, and Fatima arrested,” he added.
Transport Unions Community Parley with Security Agencies
Transport unions in Kwara State have been urged to join hands with the security agencies in the state to deter crimes and criminality in the state.
The Kwara State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, Iskilu Ayinla Makinde, called a stakeholders meeting held at the command’s headquarters in Ilorin on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The Commandant, who was represented by the command’s head of crisis management department, Odeniran Esther Iyabo, charged the transport unions representatives who attended the meeting to close ranks with the security agencies in the area of intelligence gathering, detection of the movement of arms and ammunitions and movement of illicit and hard drugs among other incriminating items.
According to her, “The State Commandant want the transport unions to work together with the NSCDC and other security agencies to reduce crime and criminality to the barest minimum in the state, and we believe their total supports will go a long way in achieving our aims and objectives.
Among the representatives of the unions that attended the parley were the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), the Road Transport Employee Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), and the Tricycle Operators Association of Nigeria (TOAN).
This report is produced in partnership with the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).