By Evelyn  Usman

Bandits tend to  have shifted their attention from the northern part of the country  to the South West region , like a waterfall cascading down the cliff of a hill.

This is evident in the number of cases of kidnapping for ransom in the region.

More frightening and worrisome is  the consistency of this ugly trend on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, as Nigerians  have been  inundated with news of the abduction of unsuspecting travelers plying on this 127.6 kilometre-long road.

These unscrupulous elements  who masquerade as herders, would  spring out from nowhere, intercept  vehicles  and whisk  passengers  into the forest which links one state to another in the South West region , from where negotiations for ransom take place with captives’ relatives.

While some  victims never lived to narrate their ordeals in the hands of these villains,others managed to regain  their freedom, after payment of ransom.

For some of these villains, human life means nothing. They kill at will, abandoning corpses of victims in the forests, or  burying them in shallow graves, even when ransom had been paid.

Victims

One of the abducted victims on this expressway, considered as the busiest inter-state road and a major connecting route  to the northern, southern and eastern parts of the country,  was former Deputy Vice- Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Adigun, Agbaje .

He was abducted alongside two sisters, one of whom was a final year student of the Moshood Abiola  Polytechnic , Abeokuta Ogun State, on October 28,2022.

They were released after an unspecified amount was paid as ransom.

Another victim was the daughter of a monarch in Oyo State , who was also released after an unspecified amount was reportedly  paid as ransom.

A student of a private university in Osun state who was kidnapped on this expressway , was later picked by her parents in the Ikorodu area of Lagos , this year.

Also, the driver of an inter-state bus  was shot dead by these bandits, in their bid to forcefully bring the vehicle to an abrupt halt. They ended up whisking away  some  passengers.

The list is endless!

The Lagos end of the long bridge is also not spared, as there had been several cases of attacks on motorists , especially at night.

Travelling on this expressway has become a major concern for many  Nigerians living within this corridor, as the yuletide beckons, especially for  those who may not be able to afford the increased flight tickets by airlines.

Military moves in

Interestingly,  the Nigerian Army has risen to the challenge, with troops of Exercise Still Water  combing the forests and the long-stretched  expressway  for these marauders .

 The exercise which was flagged off in October 2022 ,  replaced Exercise Crocodile Smile and it  is expected among other objectives , to fish out cultists and bandits  planning to take over some communities in Lagos.

The stern looking troops  led by the 9 Brigade Commander, Ikeja Cantonment, Brig. Gen Isangubong Akpaumotia ,  took a six- hour tour of  the inner Lagos-Ibadan expressway, as well as a  strategic  assessment patrol to beef up security  on that corridor, last  week Wednesday.

After the assessment, personnel were drafted to strategic places. Some of them went under the long bridge at the Lagos end and walked far into the bush. Others , embarked on vehicular patrol from the Lagos end, down to the Oyo end.

 Speaking on the presence of the troops, Brig.Gen. Akpaumontia, said,  “We are aware of the continuous harassment of Nigerians plying this road by kidnappers and the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General  Farouk  Yahaya ,  believes  that is not good enough, particularly at a time like this. That  is why we are here to make sure that we don’t allow it to happen.

“We  will just be doing it from  time to time  especially during this Christmas season  untill the next general  elections . We will make sure we keep the spirit of Nigerians alive.

“Immediately you pass here (pointing to an end of the expressway) to  Oyo state, you will see  our troops from 2 Division.   We  want to make sure we keep the corridor open,   as far as this Lagos-Ibadan expressway is concerned.

 ” We  will try all that is within  our ability to make sure that this road remains safe . And with the assistance of the Police ,Civil Defense,   Amotekun and other complementary security  stakeholders , the desired goal will be achieved.  We will work together  and that is what the Chief of Army Staff believes  in “, he stated.

Other objectives

Apart from the goal of restoring sanity to the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Exercise Still Water is also saddled with the responsibility  of reducing to the barest minimum the prevailing security threats in riverine environment such as piracy, illegal oil bunkering activities, pipeline vandalism, cultism, militancy, terrorism and some other common sundry crimes in Lagos and Ogun states.

The exercise according to the General  Officer Commanding 81 Division, Maj.Gen Obinna Ajunwa, who spoke at its flag off, was also  aimed at sharpening the professional skills of  security personnel  involved.

 He added that the exercise would be intelligence-driven and would  dovetail into real time operations at any moment a potent threat was encountered.

 The exercise has, at least, brought some deterrence , as some of these malevolent individuals  were said to have vacated some of the areas they were regularly sighted at night, waiting for the right time to strike.

GOC warns troops

As Nigerians plying this expressway look forward to an enduring presence of  troops  of Exercise Still Water  and other security agents , Maj. Gen Ajunwa cautioned the troops  not to allow their attention to be  ”diverted to those things that will tempt you to commit an offense  you will regret.

“Your weapon must be perfect, there is nothing like a mistake when it comes to the issue of weapons because it is a matter of life and death”.

Disclaimer

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