Kidnappers have increased and kidnappings have become insanely terrible in Nigeria in the past few years. The PUNCH explains how forests have been used by these criminals to carry out their crimes.
Cases of kidnapping are becoming worrying in the South-West with kidnappers having a field day in Ekiti State. It’s a miraculous story for one of the kidnap victims, sixty-three-year-old retiree, Mr Taiwo Davies, who spent about a week in the den of kidnappers after he was abducted on Friday, November 16, 2019 axis along Ikere–Akure Road.
Davies said, “Kidnappers don’t move in the daytime. Immediately they kidnap someone, they would move to the bush in that environment, but the following day, at about 7pm when they know people are no longer on the farms, they would move to another place.
“They don’t move in the afternoon. If the security agents are looking for them in the afternoon, it would be difficult to see them. The kidnappers keep their victims in places such as holes and under rocks where they cannot be located even if you are monitoring with a helicopter, you would not locate them. Like in our case, they hid us under a rock and nobody was able to locate us there.”
He urged security agencies to beam the searchlight on communities around where kidnappings take place, noting that they often have a role to play.
He noted, “Like in our case, a woman at Iju in Akure North Council area who was cooking for our abductors knows them. She knows when they come to town. Then commercial motorcycle riders assist the kidnappers. There is no way kidnap would happen somewhere without the knowledge of some people there.”
Reflecting on his experience, Davies said, “I feel bad whenever I think about my agonising experience. When I gave testimony of my kidnap experience the other time, I didn’t want to really open up.
“It calls to question a situation whereby policemen stopped my car for checking and I was stopped by bandits less than a kilometre away and the next thing was that the policemen escaped into the bush when the kidnappers fired shots into the air.
“That is what is happening now and causing controversies. A lot of people that were kidnapped, who the police claimed were rescued by them are now coming out to say they paid ransoms. As a matter of fact, the police are not being truthful.
“In my case, I had to disagree with a top police officer in Akure, the Ondo State capital, when I went to the Anti-kidnapping Unit in Akure and he said no ransom was paid, when I knew N2m was paid before my release. In fact, the money was brought to the kidnappers by my brother and the kidnappers even counted the money and ascertained it was complete before I was released.
Davies urged Ekiti State to have an anti-kidnapping squad on standby as it’s in Ondo State including Amotekun to work together and also debrief kidnap victims.
Also a former commissioner in Ekiti State, Remi Olorunleke, abducted in January 2019 along Ado–Ijan Road and spent four days in the kidnappers’ den, advised the government to deploy technology to tackle kidnapping in the state.
The ex-commissioner said looking back at his experience he had a mixed feeling.
He stated, “I thank God that I am alive. Several people were kidnapped, paid ransoms and still g0t killed. There are some victims that we don’t see their traces up till today. That is why you hear stories of people who died in the bush, seeing skeletons here and there. I experienced it and I am alive to continue to tell the story. I thank God. But it is a nasty experience. It’s an experience that one should not wish for his enemy. The security situation in the country is degenerating. It is getting worse.
“Government should do everything possible to make sure it is nipped in the bud. It is affecting many things. People are not free to move about. It is affecting the economy badly, it is affecting individuals badly. The government should do everything possible to put an end to it.”
Olorunleke identified technology as the best way the government could end kidnapping if it was sincere.
He noted, “The kidnappers were on the phone, those who kidnapped me were on the phone throughout. They even had solar-powered chargers. Their phones were always on. If somebody is communicating, at our level in this country, we should be able to zero in to the nearest place where the call is coming from. They communicate with their families. Through technology they can arrest them. The government can do it if it is sincere.”
Victims’ horrendous tales
Although the kidnappers didn’t kill a medical student, Victor Ogungbemi, abducted in August 2017 on his return for Lokoja, Kogi State to his residence in Ado Ekiti, he pleaded with the security men who went to rescue him to shoot him dead instead of saving his life considering the pains he endured.
The kidnappers shattered his leg and arm with gunshots and left him to die in the bush before help came his way. His leg has been amputated and he said the affected arm had been giving him a serious medical challenge, while seeking money for surgery at an Indian hospital.
Ogungbemi said, “I feel bad. I daily live with what they did to me. Whenever I think of my travails in the hands of the kidnappers, my eyes are filled with tears and my mood is always sober and bad because it changed my life for the worse totally.
“Now, it is difficult for me to move or walk around because one leg is already gone and I can’t hold anything with the affected hand. It’s only one hand that is working, the second is already gone. Whenever I think of it, I shed tears. I have gone to several hospitals but one hospital they introduced me to in India said it would cost me $9,500 to treat me, which is equivalent to N6m to attend to my present condition as a result of the damage the experience had caused.’’
Ogungbemi, who bemoaned the present security situation in the country, said, “There is no security. Men of the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies do not have the weapons used by the kidnappers. The weapons, which the bandits move around with, are sophisticated.
“What I think can be done to dislodge the bandits is to have enough security men in the towns and around the forest in the different states. The security agencies should be well-equipped. The rate at which the criminals are killing innocent Nigerians is alarming.”
Sadly, the family members of the late businessman, Idowu Daramola, are still lamenting the killing of their head and breadwinner by the daring kidnappers. It’s even worse as his remains lie in the forest where the abductors ended his life with their guns.
Daramola, along with his son, Olorunsola, were kidnapped on October 11, 2020 along Ise–Ikere Road. But when the family eventually brought the ransom to secure their release, it was only the son who was released to the family after five days in the forest.
Olorunsola said his father was shot dead by the gun-bearing kidnappers who donned military camouflage, for querying why the abductors were eating, drinking and starving their victims who would eventually pay them ransoms. He stated that he and other victims were not given food while in captivity.
He said he was informed by his brother after his release that security agents even offered to help the family deliver the ransom to the criminals as a bait to arrest them. According to him, the kidnappers initially demanded N100m, reduced it to N50m and later N20m although he did not disclose how much was eventually paid.
Olorunsola stated, “The amount did not matter. At that time, the lives of two members of the family were involved.”
Besides, the joy of the family of the late Prince David Jejelowo, a director in the Ekiti State Local Government Service Commission, kidnapped in January 2019, who regained freedom four days after ransom payment, was short-lived when gunmen killed him in his sitting room at about 9pm on September 13, 2020.
The late director’s wife, Olusola, who said her husband’s abductors demanded N10m, said, “I have had it tough; it is unfortunate. He was released after payment of ransom. They were calling us from the forest that he would be killed, that we should pay N10m as ransom. We paid close to N3m.
“People contributed to raise the money. We begged and sold what we could. It was the whole state that assisted us, because we are civil servants; we don’t have any business; we don’t have investments. The kidnappers said he would be released immediately; we brought the N10m; we could not raise up to N3m until the fourth day; he was about to be killed then if not for the intervention of God and people in the state.
“After his release, we couldn’t determine where the thing came from, but people said it was a mere coincidence. I asked him whether there was any Yoruba man among the kidnappers, but he said all those who kidnapped him were Bororo. He said the kidnappers spoke Fulfulde throughout the four days he was in captivity.
“He contemplated resigning from his work, but people said it was not up to that and that it was a mere coincidence. Ordinarily, the belief was that nobody could be after his life. They urged him to continue with his work following which he sought transfer to the LGSC in Ado Ekiti. He was there till when he was finally murdered.”
A ‘lucrative crime’
The seemingly attractive nature of kidnapping in the state made some youths fake a kidnap to raise money to celebrate the new year. A case in point recently was when two youths in the state, Adelusi Adeweye and Damilola Agboola, faked the kidnap of the former on New Year’s eve.
The duo, after hatching the plan, went to a bush between Iworoko and Ifaki Ekiti where they called Adeweye’s cousin to inform her that he had been kidnapped along Iyin–Ado Ekiti Road and she should pay N250,000 ransom for Adeweye’s release.
The woman, in a state of confusion, reported the matter to the Rapid Response Squad of the police headed by Marcus Ogundola, following which men of the RRS swung into operation and were able to bust the crime with prompt arrest of the two suspects and two others found in the forest that night.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, in a statement gave the narration, saying upon interrogation, ‘the suspects confessed to have conspired and faked the kidnapping of Adelusi Adeweye in order to get some money from the family members for the New Year.’
Family members of the duo later appealed to the police not to prosecute the suspects– an appeal which the police shunned and arraigned the two suspects to serve as deterrent to others.
Increasing victims of vicious abductions
On December 25, 2020, a businessman, Happiness, travelling alongside his cousin, Oluwaseun, was kidnapped along Isan–Iludun Ekiti Road and ransom was believed to have been paid before his release four days after.
Although the police and Amotekun Corps said no ransom was paid to secure his release, a family source said N2m was paid to the kidnappers before he was let off the hook. The source said the kidnappers demanded N100m which they later reduced to N10m and further to N2m.
Happiness’ kidnap occurred after a similar one on November 27, 2020 along the new Ado–Iyin Road where a Chinese engineer was whisked away by the hoodlums. They shot a policeman dead before abducting the Chinese.
An ex-Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Folorunso Olabode, was on April 26, 2020, abducted alongside a woman, while a local government councillor who drove their car was shot dead. He regained freedom after spending about a week in captivity.
However, in the three cases, the kidnap victims, who were abducted in Ekiti State, were taken through the expansive forests to neighbouring Kwara State. Sources privy to the cases said ransoms for their release were paid to the kidnappers in forests in Kwara State.
The story of the abduction of Mr Sola Fagorusi, who works with a non-governmental organisation, committed to assisting farmers to increase their yields, is heartrending.
On September 29, 2020, he was returning from one of the intervention meetings with some farmers in Ekiti State around the Aramoko-Ekiti Road when some hoodlums emerged from nowhere and shot at his vehicle and abducted him alongside another employee of the organisation.
On Thursday when Saturday PUNCH spoke with him, he said he was undergoing therapy as one of his hands was affected as a result of the harrowing experience in the kidnappers’ den.
Fagorusi narrated the ordeal on his Facebook page on December 31, 2020, “At about this time nine weeks ago, I regained my freedom. I am quick to recognise that it was primarily the Lord’s doing. I know this because my experience is too patent to be forgotten hurriedly.
“That night, in company with three other abductees, I made my way in hurried and uncoordinated steps to the ‘getaway car’; partly worried if a bullet won’t find residence in any part of my body as our abductors were behind us watching. I stretched to reach the car’s door handle with fear. I don’t think I have ever looked forward to touching anything that desperately. Dense images of the man shot in my presence days before that night flooded my mind.
“My crime on September 29, 2020, when this happened was that I was driving on a Nigerian road some minutes past 4.00pm. The memory of that afternoon and what followed is one I truly wish to erase permanently. I am putting this out there to thank acquaintances, friends, networks and families who were God’s vessels in various forms to ensure I returned home. I still haven’t been able to make all the thank-you calls and send all the I-am-grateful emails partly because of a pending health concern. My gratitude to persons and groups who supported with prayers, finance and comforted my wife and other family members in those trying and tiring 21 days.’’
The bold nature of the kidnappers further manifested hugely on Sunday, January 10, at about 9pm, when they struck again in Ado Ekiti and whisked away a petroleum products dealer, Alhaji Sulaimon Akinbami, from his petrol station along Ado–Ijan Ekiti Road to an unknown destination.
The kidnapped petrol merchant’s wife, Mrs Mariam Akinbami, who reported the incident at the Divisional Police Headquarters, Odo-Ado, Ado Ekiti, said, “Four unknown men quietly approached my husband, ordered him into his Toyota Jeep and whisked him away in his car to an unknown destination.”
Between Sunday and Friday (the time of filing this report), the whereabouts of Akinbami and his car had been unknown. But family sources said that the kidnappers contacted the family on Tuesday night demanding N60m ransom.
Some victims recently released by the kidnappers refused to talk with Saturday PUNCH, citing the sensitive nature of the cases and the fact that they were just getting out of the harrowing experiences.
However, the state police spokesperson said the Command had deployed a special team of policemen to be assisted by the Amotekun Corps, the local hunters and the vigilantes to comb the forests for possible tracking of the suspects and the release of the victim.
“How states, FG can end kidnappings”
A security expert and the Regional President of a United Kingdom-based safety association, Occupational Health and Safety Strategy, Olusegun Aderemi, advised state and federal governments to invest in technology to end the reign of the twin-evil of kidnapping and banditry ravaging the nation.
He also said until the military reworked its tactics, the ongoing battle against kidnappings and terrorism would be hard to win. He lamented that the growing insecurity in the land was a pointer to the fact that the battle could not be won by force but with modern technological warfare.
He said, “It is sad today that kidnappings and banditry have almost been elevated to legitimate businesses in Nigeria. Once anyone is kidnapped, the next thing is that you are advised to pay ransom.
“And nobody would ask questions afterward. Are we saying that there is no more technology again to track these evil people? Who is behind it? It is now a kind of racket. I hope somebody is listening. We cannot continue like this unless we are trying to encourage many jobless youths to join the gang. Kidnappings are about the most lucrative business in Nigeria today. The government needs to do more to end this evil act.
“What facility do the kidnappers use to make their demands? Where are they operating from? Who is behind it? Are we saying there is no technology to track them? Or are we saying they are spirits or operating in space?”
The state governor, Kayode Fayemi, who holds a PhD in War Studies, promised to work harder to ensure a safe, secure and prosperous Ekiti State in 2021. He also dwelt on the need to rid the state of crime and criminality by fishing out the criminals and perpetrators of crime.
The governor urged Ekiti people to support the existing security agencies, including Amotekun, with the right information to combat all forms of crime in the state.
He said, “Security of lives and property is our collective responsibility. The need to rid Ekiti State of crime and criminality cannot be overemphasised. The criminals and perpetrators of crime live among us and must be fished out for us to have and enjoy our desired peace.”
The governor enjoined Ekiti people “to feel free to feed the security agencies with the right information on how to make our state safer for all and sundry. I urge anyone with genuine information about crime and criminality that lacks the confidence to personally approach the security agencies to report to the nearest traditional ruler, who is empowered to take the case up with the security agencies without disclosing the identity of the informant.”
Police, Amotekun join forces to fight kidnappers
The state police and the Amotekun Corps said they would use new tactics to combat crimes this year.
The Corps Commander, Ekiti Amotekun Corps, Brig. Gen. Joe Komolafe (retd), said that the security outfit would employ new security strategies this year including involving traditional rulers in policing.
Komolafe said that Amotekun would explore the closeness of the traditional rulers to the people, saying, “This would be needed in resolving the security challenges in the state.”
The Amotekun commander said, “The agency will roll out a series of security measures this year that will help to end the waves of killings, kidnappings, farm invasion and other heinous crimes in the state.”
He urged residents to provide timely and accurate information on activities of criminals in their domains to the outfit, saying, “Security is the responsibility of everyone and not that of the security personnel alone. Once we have credible information to act upon, the job is half done.”
Also, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Tunde Mobayo, said the police were determined to end kidnapping in the state though overhaul of policing duties and restrategising including sustained synergy with sister agencies and groups.
Mobayo, who spoke through the state police spokesperson, said, “Due to a change of operational strategies, the RRS is now operating in all the local governments and our patrol teams are all over the roads monitoring situations.
The CP stated, “We are determined to fight kidnapping in Ekiti State and we are ready to work with Vigilante groups, Amotekun Corps, Agbekoya, and local hunters to achieve this task.”
Source: The PUNCH