With the recent upsurge in the rate of kidnapping and banditry in Ogun state, analysts are asking if those criminals have finally adopted the state as their headquarters in the region. HAKEEM ADEGBENRO reports.
Ogun State is unarguably the gateway to Nigeria as access route to the expansive markets of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It is also one of Nigeria’s investment destinations, majorly due to its proximity to Lagos, adjudged the country’s commercial nerve centre.However, despite these, it is gradually becoming the gateway to insecurity as the record of kidnapping and banditry have surged to record high, leaving residents, security experts and social commentators agape.Banditry or kidnapping as the words connote refer to robbers or outlaws belonging to a gangs who typically operate in an isolated areas. They sometimes produce weapons and demand for money as ransom.In criminal law, banditry or kidnapping is the unlawful transportation, asportation and confinement of a person against their will. It can also be seen as false imprisonment by means of abduction, both of which are separate crimes that, when committed, simultaneously upon the same person merge as the single crime of kidnapping.
it is strange to believe that kidnapping or banditry, as some would like to call it especially when trying to downplay terrorism being new to the insecurity dictionary of Nigeria, it can also be seen as alien to Ogun state; however, it is sad to note that in the recent past, the state has been faced with this twin challenge. The account of kidnap and banditry cases has surged up to record high which have left many commentators wondering why the new trend is being recorded in the state.
Efforts of immediate past administration
During the last administration led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun, it was believed that the security architecture of the state was tough on all crimes and criminalities. The ex-governor was at a time seen leading the way into the thick forest wearing all military gears. It would be recalled that Amosun’s administration inherited a serious security problem which sometimes led to several banks closing business over fear of attack. For instance, during the launch of the Armoured Personnel Carriers, the very latest technology of APCs in the world and first of such in Nigeria in Abeokuta on April 22 2012, then Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar said, “I have served in all six geographical zones of this country, but I have never seen the kind of equipment you are donating to security agents today. This is the first of such maximum donation I have ever seen since I have been serving as a police officer.”As a result of this, the era of banks closing business because of insecurity ended in Ogun state and many foreign and local investors took advantage of its business-friendly environment.
In 2012, in far away Accra, Ghana, Amosun as governor was honoured as the ‘Best Security Conscious State Governor in West Africa’ by Security Watch Africa.
Security Watch Africa is an organisation that sets security agenda for African leaders and is at the forefront of celebrating Security and Safety Excellence in Africa.The governor while receiving the award at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in Accra said, “Ogun state has become the economic and business destination of Nigeria.” He said his government placed high premium on security, hence its massive investment in security equipment like the state-of-the-art Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Hilux vans fitted with modern communication gadgets, among others.“Today in Nigeria, Ogun state is ranked among the first three most secure states,” Amosun declared then.However, the state today is wearing a different cap in terms of insecurity as kidnappers and bandits seem to be having a free day without any hindrance whatsoever.
Major recent kidnap cases in Ogun
Recently, a community leader in Imope, Ijebu-North local government area of the state, Chief Tajudeen Omotayo (aka Alademeta) was kidnapped. The abductors reached out to his relatives in demand for N100 million as ransom. He was whisked away by the gunmen to an unknown destination while his vehicle was abandoned on the Ijebu-Ode-Oru-Ibadan road. He was however later released after an undisclosed ransom was paid.Also, Precious Adeyemi and Abiola Oyefule, two female students of the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ayetor Campus were recently kidnapped while returning to their hostel. They were however rescued in a rather shrouded secrecy as details of how their release or rescue was done were never made public. Efforts by newsmen to get more details were truncated by state government officials who pleaded for the victims and their parents to be spared of any interrogation after their public presentation and hand over.As a precautionary measure, the state government recently said it has beefed up security around all public schools in the state as way of curbing the recent kidnapping of students by bandits in the state.To the surprise of many, there is hardly any time that the police parade crime suspects that cases of kidnapping and banditry would not be mentioned. At times, it surpasses other isolated cases of armed robbery, rape and others. Most Kidnap cases in the state are sometimes rather not reported as the victims are relatively unknown. This though, has somewhat affected the database of kidnapping in the state.
A recently celebrated kidnappers arrest case in the state would be that of the family of seven in Sagamu area. According to the Ogun State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, five of the syndicate, Oweniwe Okpara and three of his children namely; Samson Okpara, Bright Okpara and Eze Okpara, as well as one Christian Ishaha and Emmanuel Joseph were arrested in Sagamu while three others of his children; Godwin Okpara, Godspower Okpara and Mathew Okpara were arrested in Delta state.They were all arrested for their roles in the kidnap of eight persons at different times in Sagamu and other areas of the state.The state police command also arrested two members of a kidnap syndicate who abducted a 25-year-old woman, Mariam Fagbohun’ and subsequently murdered her 50-year-old mother in the process.Mariam Fagbohun who runs a provision store and a beer parlor was abducted by a six-man kidnap gang in Ijoun, in Yewa North local government on August 21, 2020.
Effort by state gov’t
However, at the inception of the present administration, about N1 billion was raised to fight insecurity in the state.
A statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr Kunle Somorin, said the money was raised through the State Security Trust Fund committee set up by Governor Dapo Abiodun.Abiodun had, while assuming office, set up the committee to raise funds for the procurement of security equipment for security agencies in the state.The governor also recently deployed 10 patrol vans and 20 motorcycles in the Yewa axis as part of efforts to check the insecurity in the state. However, despite government’s seeming huge investments in security and its ‘low return’ so far, it seems the menace of kidnapping and banditry are fast becoming a part of daily living amongst the citizens of the state.The fear is pop in the air as people no longer feel safe to travel long distant journeys, knowing they might not return for fear of being kidnapped.