*Retired AVM, over 33 others abducted in 3 months
*Huge sums paid as ransom
*We’ve foiled 35 kidnap cases, says Ondo Amotekun Commander
*We’re not aware of demand, payment of ransom—Police
*No kidnapping incident in Osun
By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Shina Abubakar & James Ogunnaike
The spate of kidnapping in the last three months across the South-West is becoming worrisome despite the advent of the Western Security Network codenamed Amotekun by the South-West governors.
Though kidnap cases have been on the increase, Amotekun, in collaboration with the Police, Department of State Service, DSS and other security agencies, have worked round the clock to rescue victims from kidnappers’ dens.
In Ondo State, there has been countless abductions over the last three months, but Amotekun operatives have lived up to expectations.
It is important to note that while some victims were rescued alive, others died at the hands of their captors.
Unfortunately, in one of the abductions, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who was abducted by bandits, Mr. Bamidele Emmanuel Isibor was shot dead.
Isibor, 62, a father of five was a member of the state executive committee of the party. He was attacked in the company of three others on their way from Imoru to Ifon, the headquarters of Ose Council Area of the state.
They were heading back to Ifon after a church programme when five armed men attacked them.
The late party chieftain died of gunshot wounds.
Also, 13 passengers on transit from Abuja en route to Lagos were abducted by 10 gunmen at a bad portion of the Ifira-Akoko highway in Akoko South-East area of Ondo State at about 6:30 pm.
Although, Amotekun claimed it rescued the victims but it was gathered that the bandits took three of the victims away including two women and a man.
They immediately sent words to the family of one of the victims requesting for N10 million ransom before she could be released.
The father of one of the victims, Ojo Fajana said: “The kidnappers demanded N10 million and they were given rigid instructions. Something went out of my pocket.”
Another case was the kidnap of a 14-year-old JSS 2 student, Felix Adekunle of Furaben International College Owo, in Owo Council Area of the state, who was kidnapped while hawking slippers after school hours and a 12-year-old groundnut seller, Abibat Saani in Ofosu, Ore in Odigbo Council Area of the state.
Their parents reportedly parted with an undisclosed amount of money as ransom before they were released.
Similarly, last weekend, gunmen abducted a university lecturer, Mayowa David Adinlewa and demanded N10 million ransom.
Adinlewa, who is of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko, AAUA, was abducted along bad Akure-Ikere Ekiti road.
The victim’s brother, Toyin confirmed that the kidnappers opened a line of communication with the family and demanded N10 million ransom.
Within the week, a family of four on a religious trip was again abducted at Iju-Itagbolu in Akure North Council Area of the state.
The family, including the father, his two children and another family member were abducted while on transit from Ado Ekiti, Ekiti state to attend a religious programme in Akure, the Ondo State capital. Three other passengers in the vehicle escaped.
Findings by Vanguard indicated that relations and family members of victims may have parted with almost N10 million as ransom to kidnappers within the last three months in the state.
We’ve foiled 35 kidnap cases, says Ondo Amotekun Commander
When contacted, the state commander of Amotekun, Chief Adetunji Adeleye said that the security outfit was working in synergy with the DSS and Police to rid the state of criminal elements.
Adeleye, who noted that the state security network agency would make the state uncomfortable for criminals and make it crime-free, said they have foiled 35 kidnap cases.
He said: “We have arrested no fewer than 400 suspected criminals in the ongoing Operation Clean up across the state.
“We started from the state capital and combed all the black spots and made over 400 arrests, before we headed to the local government areas and concentrated on the Northern Senatorial District where we embarked on 24 hours patrol
“We engaged the services of local hunters and vigilante to join our men and patrol the forest.
“Substantially, we were also able to drive out the bad guys in recent times. You will find out that most of the kidnap cases you get nowadays are at the border.
“We have put out searchlight and we have mapped out security strategies to checkmate the activities of those bad people. But we are checking them.
“We want to ensure that all persons travelling along the highways, major roads, remote areas, hinterland, forests, inland waterways, and sea are free to carry out their normal social and economic activities without fear or hindrance.”
We’re not aware of demand, payment of ransom —Police
Also reacting, the state Police Command spokesperson, Funmilayo Odunlami said the Command’s anti-kidnapping unit was on top of the situation.
Odunlami said that several suspected kidnappers have been arrested and charged to court.
On payment of ransom by victims, Odunlami said: “I don’t know anything about the ransom demand.”
Retired AVM, 4 others abducted in Lagos
It is the same story as there seems to be a resurgence in kidnapping in Lagos, following the abduction of five persons, including Air Vice-Marshal Sikiru Smith, retd, in two days.
Vanguard gathered that retired AVM Smith was abducted at about 6 pm on Monday, September 27, 2021, at a site near Blenco Mall on Addo Road, Ajah area of Lagos.
The gunmen, who were hooded, announced their presence with sporadic gunshots before abducting him.
He was said to have put up some resistance, demanding to know who the intruders were but was overpowered and dragged into the kidnappers’ speedboat.
Eyewitnesses said the gunmen released some shots into the air to scare people, thus causing a stampede among passers-by who scampered in different directions to avoid being hit by stray bullets.
While the operation lasted, his driver, Corporal Odiji, was absent, as he was said to have gone on errand for his boss.
RCCG pastor, wife, others abducted
Aside from the retired Air Chief, other persons also fell victim to kidnapping in Lagos, including a pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, and his wife. The kidnappers intercepted their vehicle at Dopemu, Agege area of Lagos, on their way home.
The kidnappers, it was gathered, fired some shots into the air, dragged the couple’s driver out of the car and forced him into one of their operational cars.
His wife has been released by the gunmen after an unspecified amount was paid as ransom.
The abductors were said to have demanded N50 million for her husband’s release.
In another attack, a man with an unknown identity was kidnapped by hooded gunmen on Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1, 24 hours earlier, another Pastor, Kingsley Ogbuagu, was also kidnapped by unknown gunmen near Catholic Church of the Visitation, Festac Town, last Sunday.
Ogbuagu had parked his car and was about to enter the church when three masked gunmen dragged and bundled him into a waiting Lexus SUV and drove off.
Vanguard learned that the Lekki-Ajah axis is prone to kidnap attacks, some of which the Police have botched.
Vanguard also gathered that the kidnappers pose as private taxi drivers, only to take their unsuspecting passengers to unknown destinations.
13 people kidnapped in Ogun
In Ogun State, no fewer than 13 persons were kidnapped by suspected gunmen between July and September 2021, while about 12 kidnappers were arrested during the period under review by the state command of the Nigeria Police. Also, one policeman lost his life in one of the operations, while three kidnappers were killed during a gun duel with the police.
Analysis of series of kidnappings in the state within the three months under review showed that a retired lecturer of Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State, Fasasi Olanigan, was kidnapped while travelling from Abeokuta to Imasai in Yewa North Local Government Area of the state.
In August, a Swiss national and his Nigerian driver were abducted after a gunfight between the victim’s police escort and unknown attackers, while coming from a farm on the Ibese-Itori road.
Also, the 25-year-old son of a former National Secretary of the Nigerian Medical Association, Adewunmi Alayaki; Ademola Alayaki was kidnapped at his father’s farm in Isaga Orile, Abeokuta North Local Government Area of the state and demanded N20 million ransom before freeing Ademola.
In September, an eight-month pregnant woman and two others were kidnapped along Igbo-Ora-Sokoto road in Abeokuta North Local Government Area of the state and demanded a ransom of N30 million. Also, three workers of Obasanjo Holdings in Kobape, Obafemi/Owode Local Government were kidnapped by unknown gunmen around Seseri village.
The abductees were the company’s Financial Controller, the Group Auditor and the Group Store Manager.
The Police, however, made headway as men of the State Command of the Nigeria Police arrested 10 suspected kidnappers.
While five of the kidnappers were arrested in Ogere-Remo while trying to collect N3.5m ransom for an eight-year-old boy, Sadiq Abass, they had kidnapped, others were arrested in different locations in the state.
No cause to fear—Ogun Amotekun boss
Reacting to the series of kidnappings in the state, Ogun State Commander of Amotekun Corps, Mr. David Ajibola Akinremi, has said that the corps was established to serve the people of the state
Akinremi said: “Amotekun has always been collaborating with other security agencies in the state to ensure the security of lives and property, especially when issues like kidnapping occur. I want to assure our people that they have no cause to fear. The governor had given a mandate and we are ready to ensure the actualisation of that mandate. That is to say, we assure of protection of lives and property for everybody living in the state.
“There is no security without human beings and no human beings without security. It is a symbiotic relationship. The work of security agencies at whatever level cannot be done without the support of the people.
“That is why we want to build a people-oriented organisation.
“As we all know, security is everybody’s business and we must all join hands to ensure a safe environment. They should collaborate with us.”
No kidnapping incident in Osun
In Osun State, there was no incident of kidnapping reported in the last three months.
The Amotekun Corps Commandant in Osun State, Brig. Gen. Bashir Adewinmbi (retd), said this is largely due to surveillance and past successes in tackling kidnapping in the state.
Adewinmbi said: “Presently, there is no case of kidnapping reported so far. I believe, to a large extent, it was due to past successes security agencies achieved in rescuing victims of kidnap in the state.
“Amotekun is not doing this alone, we work with other security operatives and local hunters in areas where such incidents occurred to trail suspects and in most cases, rescue victims.
“More importantly, recently at the inauguration of Amotekun Corps in the state, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola also announced the engagement of vigilante groups on intelligence gathering to forestall any form of criminality.’