Following the increasing rate of kidnapping in the country, with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway becoming a major flashpoint in the South-West, the police and the Amotekun Corps have announced major operations to flush out kidnappers and other criminals from forests and other strategic locations in the region.
The security agencies vowed to leave no stone unturned in ridding the South-West of criminality.
Independent of abductions in the different states in the region, there have in recent weeks been a series of kidnappings and attacks on the busy highway that connects Oyo and Ogun states with Lagos, with the latest incidents recorded on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Wednesday, gunmen emerged from the bush and attacked travellers, dispossessing them of their valuables in the process before they fled back into the forest.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Lagos-bound 18-passenger bus was attacked close to the Sagamu interchange. The incident left some passengers with varying degrees of injury.
About a week earlier, some travellers, including a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Adigun Agbaje, and a student of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, were abducted close to the Sat Guru Maharaji Garden in Ibadan, Oyo State capital. They were not released until their relatives paid ransom to the kidnappers.
In their response to the rising attacks, the various security outfits said they were making efforts to address insecurity in the region.
In Ekiti State, the Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, said law enforcement agents had in the last two weeks been combing the forests with a view to ridding them of criminals.
He stated, “For over two weeks now, policemen have been combing the forests in the state. It is ongoing and it will continue so as to ensure that criminal elements do not infiltrate the state or our forests.
“As I speak with you, our men are combing the forests and ensuring that the criminal elements are possibly arrested or chased out of the state. We have made some breakthroughs.”
The PPRO noted that no fewer than 10 suspects were arrested by the police during the exercise, adding, “Some suspected kidnappers and criminals have been arrested and investigations are ongoing. No fewer than 10 suspects have been arrested.”
Similarly, the Amotekun Commandant in the state, Brig. Gen. Joe Komolafe (rtd.), said officers and men of the corps were embarking on constant monitoring of the forests as well carrying out special operations to flush out criminal elements.
He said, “We go on regular patrols. At times, we go with other security agencies and sometimes we go alone. We will be proactive and not reactive. We are also collaborating with the locals, hunters, traditional rulers and other vigilance groups, because they may see these people before we see them. We have friends and colleagues among them, so collaborating with them will give us early warning.
“What we are trying to do is to reduce criminality to the barest minimum. Don’t forget that there is no fence that separates forests in Ekiti State from those in the neighbouring states. We are also patrolling the forests to ensure they do not come back and see to it that others do not infiltrate through the boundaries.”
The spokesman for the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state, Tolu Afolabi, said apart from the activities of the Agro Rangers Unit, the corps was working in synergy with hunters, Amotekun and other security agencies to make sure that forests in the state and those in adjoining states were well secured.
He added, “We have been doing this for a very long time and it has been yielding good results. Ekiti State has expansive forests bordering other states and our agro rangers are always there on patrol and surveillance, combing the forests to make them uninhabitable for the men of the underworld, including kidnappers.
“Recently we combed the forests from Ikere-Ekiti to Ise-Ekiti and to Ijan-Ekiti, routing the criminals and we are doing that on a routine basis, making sure the places are not habitable for kidnappers and armed robbers.”
While admitting increased presence of security agents in the area lately, a resident of Ijan-Ekiti, Daniel Ojo, said more still needed to be done to secure the area, adding that they should be thorough in flushing out squatters from the forests.
A farmer in Ikere-Ekiti, Debo Fashikun, said he had not noticed additional security agents in the area except the regular patrol teams of the police and Amotekun, but conceded that forests were wide and that they might be in some other locations.
Meanwhile, the police in Ondo State said they were making efforts to ensure that bandits did not have their way in the state.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Funmilayo Odunlami, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said, “We have put our men at strategic places on the highways and the towns. Men of the state Criminal Investigation Department, Safer Highway and Highway Patrol have been deployed across the state.
“We also have secret investigators everywhere. For us in Ondo State, our highways are safe for anybody who wants to travel.”
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Security Matters, Alhaji Jimoh Dojumo, also said the state government had put all the security agencies on red alert. He explained that criminals would not have their way in the state as measures had been put in place to prevent them from carrying out attacks.
“All hands are on the deck; we are coordinating security properly in Ondo State. The governor has put everybody on red alert. We are not relaxing and there will be no cause for alarm,” he stated.
Some residents of border communities in the state confirmed the presence of Amotekun personnel and other security agents in the areas.
The state police command and the Amotekun had earlier stated that they had increased border patrols to prevent the influx of terrorists and bandits from entering into the South-West through Ondo State.
The traditional ruler of Imoru community in the Ose Local Government Area of the state, which borders Edo State, Oba Rotimi Obamuwagun, confirmed that the issue of insecurity in the area had drastically reduced.
He said, “We have to commend the Amotekun Corps; if not for them, I don’t know what would have become of our community here. I can tell you that we are feeling the impact of the Amotekun people here. The cases of insecurity, particularly, kidnapping, have gone down. Though we have some occasional security challenges; we are better off now than before.
“In recent times, there have been more security agents in our community, especially Amotekun men. I have to commend the governor for the Amotekun initiative. As I am speaking to you, my subjects have started returning to their farms, which they abandoned when the issue of kidnapping was prevalent.”
A community leader in Afin Akoko, Akoko North-West Local Government of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Kilani, said kidnapping and other forms of banditry in the area had drastically reduced as a result of the presence of more security agents in the area.
Kikani said, “We are seriously relieved. We now see men of Amotekun, the police and other security agencies in our area. The local hunters and villante groups are also helping them. We do have the area commander of the Ikare Area Command, leading the policemen and Amotekun people in the forest. This effort is yielding results, we now sleep and travel in rest of mind in our area here.
The monarch of Auga community in the Akoko North East Local Government Area of the state, Oba Samuel Agunloye, also confirmed the activities of security agents in the border town.
Meanwhile, the Amotekun Corps in the state has arrested no fewer than 38 persons for their involvement in various criminal activities. The suspects were said to have been apprehended in various parts of the state.
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the development, the Commander of the corps, Adetunji Adeleye, said the arrests were part of the ‘Operation Gbale Gbako’ embarked on by Amotekun to rid the state of criminals.
Parading the suspects at the headquarters of the corps in Alagbaka, Akure, the state capital, on Friday, Adeleye said the arrests were as a result of the joint efforts of other security agencies as well as local hunters and the neighbouring states.
“We have collaborated with the other security agencies and the local hunters in Edo and Kogi states, and the collaboration has been successful. We paraded about 38 suspects today (Friday) on our ‘Operation Gbale Gbako’ and we will continue from now till January,” he added.
Meanwhile, one of the suspects, identified simply as Precious, confessed to raping his brother’s wife and nine other women in the Olaosun Farm Settlement in the Ondo West Local Government Area of the state.
The 16-year-old suspect, who was arrested by the men of the corps for stealing 25 litres of palm oil, said his brother travelled when he committed the act.
Precious confessed that he walked into the room where his brother’s wife was sleeping naked and he laid on her to rape her. He also said he had raped nine other girls at the Laosun community.
He said, “I came to the house and saw my brother’s wife sleeping naked. I went into the room and slept on top of her.“In Laosun, I raped nine girls. Some of them are 19 and some 25 years. In the night, I would go into their rooms and start sleeping with them. I did not use a gun or knives to threaten them. Sometimes, I would be caught and they would beat me.
“I have been arrested before. I was arrested for stealing 25 litres of palm oil. I did that in order to save money to buy a phone.”
The Amotekun boss stated that the suspects would soon be charged to court.
In Osun State, the Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Funke Egbemode, said the government would scale up its strategies to prevent violent crimes across its territory.
She said, “The Osun State Government has a responsibility to the people. The governor has a mandate, and we will deliver on it until the last day of this administration. We will continue to do what needs to be done. We will request help when we need to; we will scale up our interventions at all levels to continue keeping our people safe.”
The spokesperson for the state police command, Yemisi Opalola, said in an interview with our source that the Commissioner of Police, Sunday Faleye, had posted more men to border communities to ensure adequate protection, especially on highways during the Yuletide.
She noted that the command was collaborating with neighbouring commands to prevent crime.
Opalola added that the command would continue to sensitise the people to the need to be more careful.
Also, the Field Commander of the Amotekun Corps in the state, Amitolu Shittu, said he could not give details of the state’s security strategies but noted that certain routes and the Osogbo/Iwo/Oyo boundary, Osun/Kwara boundary as well as Osun/Kwara/Ekiti boundary in Oke-Ila were receiving special attention.
Shittu, who declared the state as unsafe for criminals, said all identified volatile spots would continue to be manned by Amotekun officers and men to prevent violent crimes.
He said, “Two teams are working along the Osogbo/Iwo road. If you go there, you will find them there. On the Osogbo/Gbongan/Ibadan road, we have two teams there too. I personally monitor them.
“Along the Osogbo/Ikirun/Kwara boundary, we have two teams there. Also, around the Oke Ila/Kwara boundary, we also have our men there. Besides the Osun/Ondo joint patrol, we have an understanding with Amotekun in Oyo command, who are helping us to keep an eye on Papa near Iwo. We are monitoring from Iwo to Papa also.
“Amotekun men from Oyo are the ones monitoring from Ibadan to the Papa area. We are trying not to talk about our strategies in detail. These are the little things we want our people to know for them to have the confidence to travel.”
In Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun, on Thursday summoned a meeting of the heads of security agencies in the state, including the army, the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps. He said the meeting became necessary in the light of the recent attacks on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
A video cited by one of our correspondents showed the governor saying, “I am further compelled to have this meeting today. I spoke to three or four of you last night against the background of the sudden seeming upsurge in the spate of untoward activities on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway by these unscrupulous elements.
“I’m aware that you had planned for some joint operations today in that corridor and other parts of the state. I insisted that I must meet with you today because it is important that we are on top of this situation and it’s more important that we are seen to be on top of the situation. We must use everything to ensure that we send a very strong warning and signal to all those involved.”
The governor later said in a statement after the meeting that the heads of security agencies had received a directive to “make life unbearable” for perpetrators of crime along the expressway.
He said, “We held an emergency meeting with security chiefs today against the background of the upsurge in untoward activities by criminal elements on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. The security chiefs have marching orders to make life unbearable for those criminals who have decided to make the corridor and indeed any part of Ogun State their attack haven.
“We will not relent in ensuring adequate security of lives and property of Ogun State residents and anyone travelling through the state during this period and anytime at that.”
Meanwhile, the state police command and the Amotekun Corps in the state said they were reviewing their strategies to better police the state.
The state Commander of the Amotekun Corps, David Akinremi, said his men had been stationed in strategic points to prevent any criminality.
“Efforts are in top gear to address the situation. My men are in the bush. They will ensure that no criminal uses our forests as a haven to perpetrate crimes. We have re-assessed our strategies and seen to the effective deployment of our men in strategic locations,” he stated.
Also, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the command would not relent in its efforts to ensure the safety of lives and property.
Oyeyemi said, “The Commissioners of Police in Oyo and Ogun states were on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to find a lasting solution to the insecurity there, and they agreed to jointly ensure a very robust security arrangement in that axis.
“The first time those boys launched an attack on that axis, we engaged them sometime last year. We killed two of them and recovered two to three AK-47 rifles. They ran away from that place. It seems that they have now regrouped to wreak more havoc there. However, that place will never be conducive for them. We will never allow them.”
Meanwhile, the state government has said it will soon come up with new measures to check crime in the state.
The Special Adviser to Governor Dapo Abiodun on Communications, Remmy Hazzan, said a strong team had been mobilised to the expressway with a view to re-assessing the situation and making recommendations.
He said a team, comprising the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, AIG Sola Subair (rtd.); the Amotekun Commander in the state and the Commissioner of Police would soon come up with their findings on the state of security in the state.
“They have combed the entire Ogun State’s stretch of that highway. They will come out with a structure that will make the road safe for travellers and communities in that place. Thereafter, whatever findings they are able to come up with will determine the workable security structure that will be put in place to check the nefarious activities of criminals. Let us wait for them to come out with the findings from their physical inspection,” he added.
In Oyo State, the Director-General of the Amotekun Corps, Col Olayinka Olayanju (rtd.), told one of our correspondents on Friday that the corps was working on protecting the state from being infiltrated by bandits.
He said the corps was collaborating with some vigilance groups in the state and neighbouring Kwara State to make sure that the bandits did not turn the area into their base.
Olayanju said, “We started our patrol and monitoring movement to prevent bandits from coming to our state from Niger State through Kwara State. We are also working to prevent illegal mining. We have opened new points in some areas, and we are working with some people, including those from Kwara State, because our aim is to ensure that the state is secure.”
A fashion designer, who identified herself simply as Sewa, who traveled from Osogbo to Lagos on Friday, said she did not notice the presence of policemen or Amotekun members on the road.
She said, “I didn’t dose not play with my phone throughout because my mind was not at rest, but I did not see policemen on the road (Lagos-Ibadan Expressway).
“I expected that with the situation of things on the road, we would see policemen at various points, but that did not happen.”
But another commuter, David Akorede, who also travelled on the road on Friday, said he saw policemen on patrol, but the number was not what he expected.
He said, “I didn’t feel the presence of policemen as I had expected, but I saw a police patrol van before we left the Oyo State section of the road.
“I would like to urge the authorities to make sure that there are armed security men stationed at notorious points so that the bandits will know that they cannot operate freely on that road.”
A former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, stressed the need for security agencies to work together. He also said more security agents equipped with modern gadgets needed to be deployed to man the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
He told a source in an interview on Friday, “I think a combination of all security agencies equipped with tracking devices and aerial vehicles should be deployed in good numbers to saturate the entire axis. That I believe, will yield a positive outcome.”