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Kogi: A growing haven of kidnappers

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The increasing rate of kidnapping in Kogi has turned the state into an haven of kidnapping. The cries of residents are disheartening. From the Kogi Central Senatorial axis to the Eastern flank of the state, the gory tales of kidnapping have become a recurring decimal. Even the Western Senatorial axis that seemed to be free from such dastardly acts has recorded its own fair share of kidnapping tales.

Since 2013, when kidnapping began to sow seed in the state, the rate has continued to increase unabated. Previous Commissioners of Police, just like the present one, Mr. Adeyemi Samuel Ogunjemilusi had spoken tough against the perpetrators of the acts, but the threats appeared to have made no impact as kidnappers, on each passing day, seem to be on top of their game.

In recent times, the state has apparently equalled the trend of kidnapping common with its counterpart states in the Southern parts of the country, especially South-East and South-South, where kidnapping is almost a daily occurrence.

Presently, there is apprehension in the state occasioned by increasing cases of kidnapping as no one knows who would be the next victim. Wealthy individuals in the state now live in fear as they and their family members are the target of the kidnappers, who hold their victims and use them to negotiate for huge ransoms.

As to be expected, 80 percentage of such kidnappings are high-profile cases. Though every victim’s family always claim not to have paid ransom for the release of their loved one, cases of kidnapping keep increasing in the state, thereby disputing the claims that no ransom was paid, and which clearly confirms the rising trend as lucrative to the masterminders.

Between June 2013 to last year June, close to fifteen persons were reportedly kidnapped with other cases dealt with silently to the ignorance of the media, a development which some pundits opine must have worked seriously against the state government’s frantic efforts to woo investors to the state.

The first reported case of kidnapping in 2013 occurred when one Mustapha was said to have been adopted at his home in Ihima in Okehi Local Government Area of the state, but unfortunately, he was  later found dead and buried inside a forest in the area some weeks after.

While that was said to be political, sometime in August of that same year, the younger brother of the former governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu was kidnapped by gunmen at his Aloma home in Ofu Local Government Area of the state.

He was later released after two weeks in captivity, followed by the arrest of the suspect whose bank account was used to demand initial ransom of N30,000 for the upkeep of the victim.

As the dust of Audu’s brother’s kidnap was settling down, the burser of the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, in Idah Local Government Area of the state was kidnapped while his younger brother who was with him was killed in the process.

However, the bursar was released after three weeks in captivity following the payment of undisclosed amount as ransom.

In 2014, the kidnappers commenced their trade as early as February when the wife and daughter of the former Chairman of Adavi Local Government, Salihu Adaviruku was kidnapped in their house. The woman and her daughter spent over three weeks in the kidnappers’ captivity before they were released after undisclosed ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

Barely a month after the release of the Adavi Local Government Chairman’s wife and daughter, two sons of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Momohjimoh Lawal were kidnapped at his residence in Okene, Okene Local Government Area. The children had to stay in captivity for over two months as a result of the inability of the Speaker to meet up with the N200 million ransom demanded.

Though the police arraigned five women  in court in connection with the Speaker’s children abduction, the case has continued to linger on without much positive result.

While the people of the Central were still battling with the kidnap of the Speaker’s two sons, on May 28, 2014, Hajia Hawawu Bello, mother of the   Managing Director  and Chief Executive Officer of Fair Plus Transport, Alhaji Yahaya Bello who was also a governorship aspirant under the All Progressive Congress (APC) was kidnapped at her Nagazi residence in Adavi Local Government Area.

By and large, the kidnapping train moved back to Kogi East, as the rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Mathew Akpata was abducted but luck smiled on him when the vehicle in which his abductors were conveying him to their hideout got involved in an accident and the rector was abandoned inside the boot of the car.

Also on May 31, 2014, the registrar of the same polytechnic, Abu Kazim was abducted from his house at the institution premises.

The most dastard act last year was the abduction of 80-year-old American Missionary, Rev. Phyllis Sortor. Sortor’s abduction too occurred two days after a director of Adavi Local Government, Abdulazeez Ohere who had been kidnapped, was rescued by the police from his abductors.

Rev. Sortor’s kidnapping nearly resulted in international problem for the country, which had to rely on Interpol and other security operatives to secure her release. Immediately after her release, she was whisked away to America and has since then never set foot in the state.

The kidnappers were said to have also recently invaded Emi-woro, a village in Ajaokuta Local Government Area at about 10 am, where their victim, a woman, runs a nursery/primary school, Hope Academy. They forcefully  pulled her out of her office and scaled with her over the fence, then took her away through the forest behind the school.

How Chinese, Police encourage kidnapping in the state

Kidnapping in the state has always occurred mostly in the Kogi Central Senatorial flank, and was not as frequent until the Chinese firm, CGC, came into the area.  Saturday Vanguard gathered from a reliable source that since November 2013, when a Chinese worker was kidnapped in Ganaja village, a suburb of Lokoja metropolis, kidnapping has soared.

The police advice to the Chinese firm not to pay the ransom demanded was rebuffed. The Chinese firm refused to wait for the security operative to handle the matter.  The Chinese firm, apparently not sure that the police could handle the situation, quickly danced to the tune of the kidnappers and paid the demanded ransom. That was a great undoing. Between the next 30 days, 7 other Chinese workers were secretly abducted, and ransom secretly paid for their release.  The state government only got wind of the incidents when the Chinese Ambassador visited the state last December, and informed the state government of the ordeal his citizens encountered in the hands of the kidnappers while working on the Ajaokuta Road. Since then, the kidnappers have gotten serious with the ‘business’ in view of the ease in getting ransom as encouraged by the Chinese.

Another source also said kidnapping continued unabated in the state because some police officers are also part of the kidnapping cartel as they leak information to the kidnappers and also offer themselves as go-between for the family in negotiating ransom with the kidnappers.

While the people of the state were about heaving a sign of relief from these ugly incidents, hoping the trend was gone with last year, unknown gunmen this year attacked and kidnapped a high court judge, Justice Samuel Obayomi of Ebogogo High Court in Adavi Local Government Area.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that the gunmen who attacked the judge while on his way to the office around 8:45am also shot his orderly, Cpl. Usman Musa who died on the spot. The whole operation was said to have lasted only five minutes.

The official driver of the judge, Mr Ajayi Kolawole who gave insights into the incident said the heavily-armed gunmen who were not masked but wore dark glasses and numbering about three, stopped the car at the front of Executive Guest Villa, GRA, Okene. “The gunmen had ordered the judge and his aides to lie face down. We all complied but the hoodlums perhaps saw the armed orderly as a threat and opened fire on him, killing him on the spot.”

Area Commander of the Okene Area Command, Mr. Kehinde Kolawole who confirmed the story said the police had detained the driver to help in their investigation, adding that the driver being an eyewitness, was likely to give them useful information.

Barely a week after Justice Obayomi’s kidnap, the state Commissioner for Land and Survey, Engr. Stephen Mayaki was also kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

The commissioner was kidnapped at gunpoint on his farmland located in Osara, in Adavi Local government Area of the state, the same LGA where the high court judge was kidnapped.

Sources said the gunmen, numbering about 5, and in a Prado Jeep, traced the commissioner to his farm where he had gone to oversee the operations of his workers. “The commissioner was on the farm when gunmen emerged from the bush and kidnapped him at gunpoint and took him away to an unknown destination,” a reliable source revealed.

The commissioner was said to have been abducted along with four others who were later freed to go and source for fund for his release. It took a week before the commissioner was released. This time around, the police, keeping a sealed-lip over the ransom paid, only said the commissioner had been “re-united with his family.”

N150m ransom

Kidnappers of the high court judge were said to have demanded N150m ransom to effect his release, but they later slashed it to N30 million. Rumours also abound that he has been killed following the failure of the family to raise the ransome. This however could not be ascertained as at when this report was being filed.

NBA, JUSUN embark on strike over kidnapping

The situation has made the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) Kogi State chapters  to down tools in the state, in protest over the kidnapping of Justice Obayomi.

The professional bodies, in separate statements made available to Saturday Vanguard in Lokoja, said the they were protesting what they termed “gagging” of justice in the state.

The NBA announced the withdrawal of their services from the courts across the state through a statement jointly signed by chairmen of four branches of the NBA in the state: Amechi Obiechina, Chief Tunji Ologbonjo, Ibrahim Isiaka and J. Akubo of Okene, Kabba, Idah and Lokoja branches respectively: “As a result of this sad event, lawyers in the four branches of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in the state have resolved that no lawyer should engage in any court proceeding until the whereabouts of his Lordship is known”, the statement said.

It continued: “Lawyers cannot be engaging in court proceedings when the judges who preside over their cases are attacked and kidnapped on their way to court.”

The NBA however called on the state government to face the new crime escalation in the state with renewed vigour by deploying more police to crime-prone areas of the state.

The JUSUN in its own statement issued at the end of its emergency state Executive Council (SEC) meeting signed by its Chairman, Daniel Adinoyi and Secretary, Aminu, condemned the spate of kidnapping in the state, alleging that similar event occurred in 2013 when Justice Moses Gwatana of High Court, Ihima was attacked and shot by unknown gunmen.

The statement stated: “JUSUN condemns in totality the abduction of Hon. Justice Samuel Obayomi of the High Court of Justice, Ebogogo by unknown gunmen on the 25th of May, 2015. In view of the above, the SEC in Session resolved to embark on a three-day sympathy strike with effect from the 3rd of June, 2015 to 6th June, 2015.”

The body however called on the state government and security agencies in the state to expedite action on measures being taken to secure the release of Justice Obayomi, calling for adequate security measures for all judicial officers.

Kogi Gov places N5m bounty on kidnappers

Piqued by the incessant rate of kidnapping, the State Governor, Capt. Idris Wada placed a N5m cash reward on anyone who volunteered information towards the arrest of any kidnapper who had laid siege to the state in recent times.

Announcing the reward at the state Police Headquarters, Wada who paid a solidarity visit to the Police Headquarters said his administration would do everything possible to ensure that the state was safe for residents and investors.

His words: “My presence here today is to give moral support to men and officers of the state Police Command who have been toiling to ensure that the state is free of criminal elements. With my discussion with the state CP, I am confident that the police are capable of tackling the issue of criminality in the state.

“Let me say now that the state government has earmarked the sum of N5m for anybody who volunteers information towards the capturing of any kidnapper who has been terrorising the state in recent times. With the efforts of the people through rightful information, the security operatives will conquer these criminal gangs. We must not allow these kidnappers win this war.”

Wada donated N200,000 to each of the 12 police officers from the Command who died in the line of duty this year. He also promised additional 5 Hilux vehicles to those already procured by the State Security Task Force (KOSTF), as a means of assisting the police in fighting crime and criminality.

IG deploys 350 extra personnel to tackle kidnapping

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Adeyemi Samuel Ogunjemilusi also said the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase has deployed 350 police officers to the state to assist the state Police Command in its effort to combat crime in the state.

The CP who commended the IGP for the deployment of the police personnel to the state, appealed to the people to reciprocate the gesture by giving useful information that would assist the police in their bid to rid the state of criminality.

Ogunjemilusi who said the state was winning the war against crime, added that the kidnapping case had put the state in a bad light because it involved high-profile people.

The rate of kidnapping in the state has reached its crescendo. If nothing is done, the image of the state will grow from bad to worse. No one is safe. Fear reigns all over the state. Even the state Commissioner of Police, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi was recently rumoured to have been kidnapped too. It is as bad as that!

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