Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Security Risk Analysis: Kidnapping Hotbeds in South West Nigeria

Introduction: The first tranche of this series titled ‘’Security Risk Analysis: Kidnapping Hotbeds in Nigeria (1)’’, summed up data on reported kidnapping incidents and hotspots across Nigeria. Granted there are one-off incidents, but research indicates that many kidnapping incidents reoccur within some geographical swathes, along major highways in Nigeria. The kidnapping almost always entails an ambush usually at bad portions of the road and usually take place early in the morning or evenings.
We can deduce inter-alia that: there is dearth of security in such areas. It is also safe to extrapolate that the masterminds, foot soldiers of kidnappings in those climes are not behind bars; they lurk around and it is a matter of time before they stage their next kidnap and extort ransom. In his May 28, 2019 piece published on BBC Africa, Nasidi Adamu Yahaya’s piece titled, ‘’How Nigeria and its president are being held to ransom’’, chronicles the ‘booming business of kidnapping for ransom and extortion (KRE) in Nigeria’. Former US ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell argues in his piece titled, ‘’The Intelligence Response Team: Nigeria’s Solution To Expanding Wave of Kidnappings’’ that, ‘’Nigerians believe they are in the midst of a kidnapping wave and that the government is largely powerless to stop it. Fear of kidnapping appears to be a factor in middle-class emigration from Nigeria and the wealthy sending their families abroad’’.

Regrettably Nigerian citizens have been fingered in kidnapping incidents in neighbouring African countries. On June 4, 2019, two Canadian women, both volunteers with Youth Challenge International, a Toronto-based international development organization, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in the country's second largest city, Kumasi. Four Nigerians were reportedly arrested in the Canadian girls kidnap. Similarly, three Nigerians were declared wanted over the kidnapping of Mr. Nabil Makram Basbous, the Consular-General and Head of Mission of Estonia to Ghana in April 2019.

Southwest Nigeria is one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria comprising six states – Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Lagos. A 2013 National Crime Victimization and Safety Survey conducted by CLEEN Foundation with support from the United States based Macarthur Foundation shows that the South West had the highest incidents of kidnapping with 5 per cent of the respondent from the region saying they have either been kidnapped or attempts have been made to kidnap them. The kidnapping situation in the southwest bottomed out thereafter but it appears to be relapsing. From Ekiti to Osun, Lagos to Ondo, Abeokuta to Ekiti, Ibadan to Osun state, kidnap for ransom and extortion is currently ravaging parts of southwest Nigeria especially along inter-town or inter-state roads. Yoruba socio-cultural groups such as the Yoruba Council of Elders, YCE; the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere; and prominent citizens - the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams and elder statesman, Pa Ayo Adebanjo decried the wanton, pervasive kidnappings and killings in southwest Nigeria. The Yoruba Koya Movement declared June 12, 2019, as a national day of protest against the ongoing killings and kidnapping across Yoruba-speaking states.
The following inter-state roads have been identified as kidnapping flashpoints in southwest Nigeria: the Iwo-Osogbo Road, the Akure-Ilesa Road via Ondo State, Ijebu-Jesa/Esa Oke/Erio/Aramoko Road from Ekiti State and a number of other deserted roads within Osun State including Osogbo-Ibokun-Ada Road. Also, cases of kidnap have been reported recently in Ikirun, Inisa and Okuku communities along the highway leading to Kwara State. Interestingly, many if not all the aforesaid states ravaged by kidnapping in the southwest, nay, Nigeria have stringent anti-kidnapping laws, death sentence for kidnapping, yet kidnapping persists.

Unmasking existent kidnap hotspots will enhance security awareness, aid travel security, journey management and planning and ultimately enhance prevention of kidnapping. It is hoped that if tweaked, this collation of evidenced kidnap for ransom and extortion (KRE) hotspots would help contrive a Nigeria crime or kidnapping heat map, which will ultimately aid crime fighting, and law enforcement. Without much ado, we present kidnapping hotbeds in southwest Nigeria…

1.     Ondo state: Ondo state appears to be the ‘kidnap capital of the southwest’. No fewer than 20 kidnappings have reportedly occurred in the last three months along the Ondo-Auga Road in Akoko. During a recent Radio/Television programme tagged: “An evening with Mr. Governor”, the Ondo state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State decried the spate of kidnappings on Nigerian highways and narrated how suspected kidnappers waylaid his convoy on the Akure-Ibadan Expressway. According to Governor Akeredolu, his convoy was almost attacked along the Akure-Ibadan expressway, but his security details shot into the air to scare the kidnappers, who ran into the bush. Akeredolu was quoted as saying that 'only VIPs are now safe on our roads'. Barely three days after the 32 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army (NA) Owena Barracks, Akure, deployed a drone, Phantom 5DGI to fight the scourge of kidnapping and banditry within the Ondo and Ekiti States axis, gunmen reportedly waylaid and kidnapped 10 passengers, including the driver of a commercial eighteen-seater bus within Iju/Itaogbolu axis, along Akure/Ikere Ekiti expressway. Kidnappers take advantage of the deplorable state of roads in this axis to kidnap motorists. Kidnappers donning police uniforms are said to operate unhindered even with the presence of security operatives along the Owo-Oba-Akoko road and Akure-Owo Expressway, specifically at Amurin Village in Owo Local Government Area. Apart from the sporadic kidnappings along Akure-Owo-Akoko roads, there have been reports of robberies and killings on same route. A medical personnel was reportedly kidnapped and a police escort was shot dead after gunmen attacked an ambulance belonging to the Ondo state Lassa fever intervention program along the Ondo-Owo-Benin expressway on Friday, June 14, 2019.

Recall that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Olu Falae was kidnapped from his farm in Ilado, along Igbatoro road, in Akure, the capital city of Ondo State on September 21, 2015 by suspected Fulani herdsmen on his 77th birthday. The kidnappers subsequently contacted his family members and demanded a ransom of N100 million before he would be released from their den. An undisclosed amount was later paid to secure his release.

Sometime in May, 2019, three travelers, one of them said to be an official of Dangote Group of Companies, were kidnapped along Auga-Ise road in Akoko Northeast local government area of Ondo state by gunmen. A woman, Olawumi Adeleye and her stepson, Destiny Paul, were reportedly kidnapped along Airport Road in Osi town in the Akure North Local Government Area of Ondo State on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at about 5.20pm while they were returning from church. It was gathered that herdsmen blocked the road with cows, forcing the victims, who were in a Lexus car to stop along the road. A family source said the kidnappers contacted the husband of the woman thereafter and demanded N10million ransom.

On December 14, 2017, four Chinese citizens were reportedly kidnapped by a gang of sea pirates while travelling onboard a fishing trawler through Ayeton Creek from Lagos to Ogo-oluayo community, Ilaje local government of Ondo state.

In early November 2018, five persons including the senatorial candidate for the Ondo North senatorial district on the platform of African Democratic Congress, Jide Ipinsagba, and the party chairman, Bisi Ogungbemi, were kidnapped along Owo-Oba Akoko road amidst a retinue of bribe-collecting police checkpoints. The victims were fortunate to be released days later after a huge amount was paid as ransom. Others roads noted for random kidnapping I Ondo state include: Akure- ljare; Akure-Owo- Oba Akoko- Akungba; Oka Akoko – lsua Akoko; lpele- Ido Ani; Ondo-Ore; Ondo-Akure and Akure-Benin.

Intent on arresting firearms proliferation which seems to encourage kidnapping, the Nigerian Navy recently destroyed about 2,829 firearms comprising 2,108 single-barreled rifles, 57 units of double-barreled rifles, 189 short guns, 187 FN (Fabrique Nationale) rifles, 215 SIG (Schweizerische Industrie-Gesellschaft) rifles and 73 SMGs (sub-machine guns) seized from repentant militants by the Ondo State Amnesty Programme and unserviceable weapons of the Navy.

2.     Lagos – With an estimated population of 21 million in 2016, Lagos is the largest city in Africa. It follows that Lagos also has its own fair share of security challenges especially given its geography – seemingly un-policed estuaries, suburb which accords a getaway to criminals. February 1, 2017, the former governor of Lagos state – Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode signed an anti-kidnapping law of Lagos state. The anti-kidnapping law imposes a penalty of life imprisonment on kidnapping for ransom and also death penalty where a kidnapping incident leads to death.

The Ikorodu (Ishawo) part of Lagos state is notorious for kidnapping, cult rivalry, ritual killings (Badoo) and other security challenges. Epe axis of Lagos state is also another kidnapping hotbed. Both are riverine communities with a plethora of creeks, estuaries meandering all the way to neighbouring Ondo state. With the exception of a British citizen who was reportedly kidnapped in Victoria Island, Lagos sometime in March, 2013, most kidnapping incidents in Lagos occur in the mainland, hinterland. 

A 60 year old engineer from Phillipine, Jaime Garcia Lacar recounts how he was kidnapped and held hostage for a week by four gun wielding youths in Odongunyan, Ikorodu in Lagos State. He reportedly paid a ransom of N4 million before he was released.

September 17, 2016, gunmen stormed Channels Avenue in Isheri area of Lagos State and abducted three landlords at Oshorun Heritage Estate. The area shares a common boundary with Warewa and Wawa creeks in Ogun State. Recall that six male students of Igbonla Government College, Epe, Lagos, were abducted from their school premises on May 25, 2017 and were finally released at Aboto Creek at Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. As recently as April 6, 2019, the Director of Lagos State Fire Service, Mr. Rasaki Musibau, and six others were kidnapped at Iwoeye bridge at about along Ikosi-Ejirin-Epe road in Ikosi-Ejirin Local Council Development Area, LCDA of Lagos state. Prior to the kidnapping of the Fire Service boss, the Ikosi-Ejirin council chairman, Mr. Ajijedidun Samson Adebisi and vice-chairman of Lekki LCDA were also kidnapped within this axis. Sources say the Ikosi-Ejirin-Epe road had become the new den for kidnappers lately. Sequel to the recurring criminal activities within Ikorodu (Ishawo) and Epe axis, the Nigerian Army established a Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Epe with a view to taming the wanton security challenges prevalent in this area. Similarly, the FESTAC axis in Lagos used to be notorious for kidnapping during the reign of billionaire kidnapper, Chukwudi Onwuamadike, a.k.a Evans. 

3.     Ekiti State: Has its own share of kidnapping challenge, incidents. The Ikere-Akure Road and communities like Iyemero, Ayede, and Oloje are said to be kidnap for ransom and extortion hotbeds in Ekiti state. A Catholic priest and Parish Priest of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, Ido-Ekiti, Emmanuel Akingbade was abducted from his residence on Tuesday, June 9, 2015 by unknown gunmen at the Ido Ekiti area of the state. The kidnappers reportedly demanded a ransom of N20 million. Kidnapping scaled-down in Ekiti state during Ayo Fayose’s administration but seems to be resurging now. In January 2019, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi lamented the rising spate of kidnapping in the state, disclosing that within seven days, suspected kidnappers killed one person and abducted five others in different parts of the state. A former Commissioner for Lands in Ekiti state, Mr. Remi Olorunleke and the Director of Administration, Gbonyin Local Government Area, Mr. David Jejelowo, were kidnapped along Ado-Ijan road. Three persons were said to have been kidnapped within two days along the Aramoko-Erio-Efon road in Ekiti State. The route extends to Osun state border and is said to be a beehive for criminal activities recent time. Among the abductees are Ibadan based twins; Kehinde and Taiwo Olowoafara, who had N22m ransom dangled on their head. Ten persons, including two lecturers of the Ekiti State University and an 11-year-old boy were kidnapped from different parts of in Ekiti in April 2019. They were reportedly released after ransom payments. On January 2, a staff of staff of Emure Local Government Area, Mr Abayomi Ajayi was killed by unknown gunmen and two of his colleagues, Pastor A. Onaade, an administrative officer and Dr. O. Fashina, a primary healthcare official, were kidnapped along Ikere – Ise – Emure Road while returning to Ado Ekiti. 

Barely a week after the incident, a former Commissioner for Lands, Mr Remi Olorunleke, and the Director of Administration, Gbonyin Council Area, Mr David Jejelowo, were also abducted along Ado-Ijan Road by unknown gunmen. A similar fate befell the Secretary-General of Christs’ School Alumni Association, Ado Ekiti, Mr. Rufus Oladele who was kidnapped along Itawure-Efon Alaaye-Erio-Aramoko Aramoko in Ekiti State. He spent four days in captivity before regaining freedom. An Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) lecturer, Prof. Olayinka Adegbehingbe was abducted at about 6.30pm around Ikoyi/Apomu junction of the Ibadan-Ife expressway in Ikire, a border town between Osun and Oyo states while returning from a journey to Lagos.

4.     Osun State – Reported kidnapping hotbeds within Osun state include: Esa-Oke Junction; Iwaraja-Efon Alaaye; Ile-Ife junction; Iloko Junction; Ipetu-Ile – Ilesha; Ilesha-Ile-Oluji; Ilesha –Osogbo roads. Sometime in May, 2019, three personnel of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Osun State were abducted by a gang of gunmen at Erin-Ijesa, along the Akure/Ilesha highway in Oriade Local Government Area of Osun State. Sources said their families paid about N1.8m in ransom before they were freed. A staff of the Osun State College of Technology was killed while trying to escape from kidnappers who laid an ambush for them between Esa-Oke and Ijebu-Jesa.  Six of his colleagues and two students were kidnapped on that fateful day by gunmen. 

A traditional ruler in Atakunkosa West Local Government Area of the state, the Atagunmodi of Itagunmodi, Oba Michael Famadewa-Kosile, who was kidnapped a few kilometres from his domain while returning from a ceremony at Ilesa around 9.30 pm on May 30, last year says ''the criminal activities in his domain could be linked to illegal mining of gold, which he said is predominantly carried out by the Hausa who are in search of economic fortune from the discoveries of mineral resources in the area''.

5.     OYO STATE: There are pockets of random kidnap for ransom and extortion incidents in parts of Oyo state particularly the Oyo Ilorin-Ogbomoso Road, Atisbo Local Government Area where suspected herdsmen reportedly operate. Seemingly prevalent in Ibadan, Oyo state is random cases of missing persons and abduction for money ritual purposes. Motorists are said to have shunned the Ife-Ibadan highway because of incessant kidnapping, banditry. The Oyo State Police Command reportedly arrested 60 persons and recorded 15 kidnapping cases in the last six months. On Thursday, March 15, 2018, eight passengers were reportedly kidnapped by gunmen who hijacked a bus on Igboho-Igbeti Road, Oyo State. A source said the kidnappers emerged from a bush at the Old Oyo National Park and stopped the bus. It is reported that kidnappers in Oyo state throng and take their victims to Ogere and Iwere-Ile forests.

On April 28, 2019, petroleum marketers in Ibarapa axis of Oyo State comprising Lanlate, Eruwa, Igboora, Idere, Ayete, Tapa and Igangan, under the aegis of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), sent a Save our  Soul message to the Department of State Services (DSS) over the persistent kidnapping of their members lately. June 18, 2019, Mr. Dayo Adewole, son of the immediate past Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, was kidnapped at gunpoint on his farm located at Iroko, near Fiditi in Afijio Local Government Area of Oyo State at about 6 p.m.

Talking about abductions for ritual purposes, on March 22, 2014, a ritual killer’s den popularly known as Soka was discovered in Soka forest in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, southwestern Nigeria. Over twenty decomposed human bodies and hundreds of human skulls were reportedly found dispersed throughout the forest, and over twenty people were rescued from the forest.

6.     Ogun – Like Oyo state, Ogun state seems to have more cases of abduction or killings for ritual purposes. According to an April 17, 2016 Guardian Newspaper report titled, ''In Ogun, many ritualists, many questions'', no fewer than ''eight [ritualist] dens have been uncovered in various parts of Ogun state since 2013''. According to Guardian Newspaper, such dens have been discovered at Iyana-Ilogbo area near Sango, Idode-Imomo, Ijebu North-East Local Government Area, Iyana Egbado village in Ewekoro Local Government Area, Adigbe area of Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, Lambe area of Akute-Ajuwon, Ifo Local Government Area, along Itele-Lafenwa Road, Ota, at Abule Oke, Ado-Odo-Ota Local Government Area, at Orile Eleposo, Ode-Remo area in Remo North Local Government Area of Ogun state. A self-acclaimed prophet of a white garment church in the Sagamu area of Ogun State, Kehinde Onayiga was arrested for allegedly killing of a 13-year-old girl, Anuoluwapo Ajisafe, for ritual purposes. Similarly, sometime in January 26, 2019, assailants suspected to be ritual killers, severed the head of a 41-year-old farmer, one Fidelis Ikpechi, in Ogere Remo area of Ogun State. On March 13, 2019, 52-year-old Canadian, Kyliuk Morris was reportedly kidnapped at Fidiwo, in the Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State. Interestingly, Mr. Morris claims that policemen in Ogun State assisted him to deliver the N2.5m ransom paid to his kidnappers to regain his freedom. Years ago, a popular businessman, Alhaji Safiriyu Araba was kidnapped inside a mosque located opposite his house at Molipa area of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State. The mother of a House of Representatives member; Abiodun Abudu Balogun, was kidnapped at her Ita-Otu residence in Ogun Waterside Local Government Area. Reported kidnapping hotbeds within Ogun state axis include: Ogun Siun-Ogere; Obafemi-Owode; Abeokuta-Lagos; Abeokuta-Sokoto; Ilaro-Owode-Idi-Iroko; Odeda-Ogunmakin; Fidiwo-Obafemi; Sagamu-Ogijo-Badary; and Ijebu Igbo-Oru-Awa. On Tuesday, April 27, 2016, a former Minister of State, Senator Iyabo Anisulowo and her aide were reportedly kidnapped along Igbogila road in Ilaro, Yewa North Local Government Area of Ogun state while returning from her farm.

Written By:
©Don Okereke is a security analyst, consultant, a writer, researcher, a subject matter expert and security thought leader in Nigeria.

July, 2019

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