By Boniface Enekwechi
While the attention of security agencies are focused on tackling kidnappings, banditry and terrorism in the North West and North East of the country, the failure to effectively man the Obajana-Okene axis has worsened the security situation in the area which now records a weekly incident of kidnapping of luxury and mini bus passengers.
In the latest incident which occurred on Tuesday September 22, 2020, three passengers of one of the major transport companies in Nigeria were kidnapped by men said to be in military uniform. Their whereabouts remain unknown till today.
While some might suspect the likely involvement of army personnel on account of the military uniform worn by the kidnappers, but it is also possible that this was used as a disguise to deceive their victims.
It is a well-known fact that the responsibility of protecting lives and properties rests with the Federal Government and failure to do this leaves the citizens distraught, helpless and at the mercy of agents of darkness.
Granted that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has made tremendous efforts to curtail the activities of these men of the underworld, but it is important that immediate attention is shifted to Obajana-Okene and Abuja-Lokoja axis as the incidents of kidnappings, murder and sundry crimes have become a daily occurrence. The police and army authorities in the area ought to justify their positions by taking the fight to the criminals.
As the federal and state governments make spirited efforts to rejuvenate the economy, attract foreign investors and create jobs for the citizenry it is important that all efforts be geared towards eliminating kidnappings along the country’s highways.
It is indeed pitiable that innocent citizens who struggle on daily basis to make ends meet travelling at night and day usually fall victims to men of the underworld who extort and subject them to indecent and inhuman treatments, including rape, as well as main and even kill them.
Indeed, it has become imperative to restore police escorts to luxury buses in order to serve as a deterrence against bandits and terrorists who presently take advantage of the failed portions of the highways and absence of security personnel to carry out their evil intentions along the country’s highways.
Road transport owners and stakeholders have tabled the dangers facing them to the highest police authorities, but rather than abate, reports rather indicate an upsurge in kidnapping incidents. As a matter of fact, most of the major bus transport companies in Nigeria have at one time or the other fallen victim to the marauders.
Every passing day Nigerians are inundated with pitiable tales of kidnappings involving passengers, drivers and conductors of interstate mini and luxury buses.
Incidentally, the victims are the productive business men and women, as well as travellers who power the country’s economy through their productivity. Apart from that, they are also breadwinners of their families, and their dependents suffer irreparable damage if their sources of livelihood are kidnapped and killed.
Similarly, kidnappings portend grave danger to Nigeria’s tourism sector which is projected to contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in this era of dwindling oil revenues.
Therefore, there is the need for the Nigerian security agencies to redouble their efforts towards curbing the incessant kidnappings going on our highways, especially the Okene-Obajana axis.
Also the state, local and federal governments must synergise towards finding a lasting solution to this menace as it not only threatens the lives of innocent citizens but it deprives the affected state and local governments of the much-needed internal revenue for development.
It should also be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had challenged the security chiefs to wake up and do more to curtail insecurity in the land. He had also told them that their efforts were not good enough.
It is indeed regrettable that a transport company had in the past one month witnessed three incidents of attacks of its buses along the Obajana-Okene axis in Kogi State with one person killed, several persons abducted and millions of naira paid as ransom to these dare-devil criminals.
As a country, we must not surrender to the whims and caprices of these devilish men. Government must of necessity immediately initiate moves to confront this menace before it becomes cancerous.
Already, there is apprehension in the land, including the once peaceful Southern part of the country, that bandits and terrorists are taking positions with plans to attack innocent citizens and their communities. These must not be allowed to happen as the consequences will be dire for Nigeria, especially with the international community watching.
Already we have witnessed periodic advisories by some foreign embassies in Nigeria to their citizens to avoid travelling to some parts of the country. It now behove the federal and Kogi state governments to prove the naysayers wrong by taking proactive measures towards curtailing the evil activities of kidnappers along the Obajana-Okene axis of the state.
It must also not be forgotten that Kogi, as a confluence state, remains a transit point for travellers from all parts of the country, and they use the opportunity to do business along their travel routes. This means of trade and survival is being seriously undermined by kidnappers, armed bandits and robbers as well as terrorists.
Nigeria has the capacity and security personnel to confront this danger, and the time to deploy the human and material resources for the purpose is now. On September 22, 2020, three persons, including a lady, were kidnapped and over 15 passengers injured when one of the buses plying the Obajana-Okene highway was attacked.
A ransom of N10 million is being demanded from the families of those kidnapped. These nefarious activities come with costly implications for the companies, innocent travellers and the country as a whole.
Therefore, government has an obligation to clean up the Augean stable by going after the perpetrators of these heinous crimes in order to save people’s lives and their properties. In this fight, we must not allow the kidnappers to win. A stitch in time saves nine.