By Dayo Johnson
AKURE — AJAPA Community in Arogbo 11, Ese- Odo council area of Ondo State, is fast becoming a haven for criminals of all shades. Youths of the community have taken kidnapping and militancy as their vocation despite the cries and appeals from notable personalities from the area. Reports had it that the level of criminality perpetuated in the community is being discussed in the nation’s highest security echelons.
Also of concern are the criminal activities in Aboto community which is bounded by Ajapa. The two towns are notorious for criminality with many cases of kidnapping and killings linked to the places in recent times. Reliable sources told Vanguard that some top Naval officers visited the Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, last week and expressed concern over the notoriety of youths in Ajapa community and warned of dire consequences if care is not taken.
The six students of the lgbonla Model schools that were kidnapped for 65 days were released 24 hours after the threat by the top military personnel. Ironically, the town with its dignified personalities have reportedly tried to flush out the miscreants to no avail. Reports had it that one of the important personalities in the town was kidnapped because he openly condemned the activities of criminally minded youths in the riverine areas of the state. He was released weeks after, following a passionate appeal by other leaders who gave a commitment to henceforth “shut up” and look the other way.
Well educated personalities
Findings by Vanguard showed that some notable well educated personalities from the town which has six quarters including the first highest political office holder in Arogbo ljaw, the late High Chief Richard Jolowo, the first Secretary General of Ijaw National Congress, INC, High Chief Francis Williams, their first Professor, Prof. Dauphin Moro of LASU and the first former Police Commissioner from Arogbo ljaw, Tonye Ebitibituwa, among others.
The quarters in Ajapa are: Ajuesi, Agbojule, Aboyewa, Abugewa, Olomiloro and Dede. These six quarters according to findings have been expanded for easy administration yet the militants there have refused to embrace peace. With a sizeable population figure, the community according to reports has one secondary school and no fewer than 10 primary schools scattered across the community as well as the satellite town of Amatibi. The people of the community who are known for their fishing expertise have been infiltrated by some fierce looking youths whose insatiable appetite for quick money has given the community a bad name.
Consequently, a searchlight has been beamed on happenings in the community from within and outside and the community is now known as a den for criminals. Vanguard findings showed that until the home coming of the deceased notorious militant and kidnapping kingpin, Ossy lbori, who fled from Lagos to take refuge in Ajapa where he hails from, the town had hitherto been peaceful and relatively unknown.
Different interpretations have been given to the name of the community by people after it came to light following the invasion by military operatives in search of the kidnap kingpin.
Ossy was reported to have relocated from Lagos to the remote Ajapa community in the riverine area of the state in a bid to escape from the long arm of justice after reportedly committing several atrocities. However, following intelligence reports, Ossy was traced to the community and the end result was that he was killed and his boys led by America equally gunned down an Army Captain during an onslaught which was led by the troops attached to Operation Delta Safe. The death of the Army Captain and other security operatives by Ossy’s boys led to a reprisal attack by the Military and several lives and property were destroyed. Hell was let loose as the community was turned upside down following its invasion by the military in search of the killers of their colleagues.
Speaking on behalf of the community after the military invasion, a retired police commissioner who is from the community; High Chief Tonye Ebitibituwa, said that many residents of Ajakpa community had been rendered homeless after the military invaded the town. According to him, the people of the community were not against the killing and arrest of any criminal elements in the area to maintain peace but frowned at the destruction of properties in the community by the military operatives.
He said, “In the early hours of some military operatives invaded Ajapa in six gun boats and set the whole community ablaze. The community did not in any way support or encourage the action of Ibori and his group and we wondered the reasons for the setting of our homes on fire by the military.” He said no fewer than 30,000 people of the community have been rendered homeless while about 5,000 houses were torched by the military.
However, the Public Relations Officer of the 32 Artillery of the Nigerian Army in Ondo state, Captain Ojo Adelegan, denied military involvement in the burning of houses in Ajapa community. According to him, the soldiers are in Ajapa to maintain peace and flush out other members of the Ibori militant group who were terrorising the people of the coastal communities.
Adelegan said; “Our men were never involved in the burning of the Houses in Ajapa. Our business is to maintain peace in the area and to completely flush out other members of the militant groups who are still hiding in the creeks. We want to assure you that the Nigerian Army in Ondo will not give room to militancy in Ondo state. We are not involved.”
However, it took the assurances from both the Military high commission and the Ondo State government for a semblance of peace to return to the ravaged community after the residents fled to neighbouring communities. To woo the residents back the state government gave relief materials worth N25 million. The relief materials include, iron sheets, nails, asbestos, mattresses, bags of rice, bags of garri, cartons of vegetable oil among others.