Getting rid of kidnappers, criminals on Lagos-Ibadan expressway

Oyo state government and governments of adjoining states are flushing criminals out of the popular Lagos/Ibadan expressway. BAYO AGOOLA reports.

In the past few weeks, the ever-busy Lagos-Ibadan expressway has turned to another dangerous route with kidnappers gradually making it their operational base especially the Ibadan axis of the expressway with kidnapping taking place daily.

In some instances, killing innocent people including policemen who attempt to clear the gunmen holding travellers to ransom.

A personal encounter

As at the last count, victims of the rampaging kidnappers included a former deputy vice chancellor (Academics) University of Ibadan, Professor Adigun Agbaje, who was kidnapped by some gunmen along the Dominion University end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as he was returning to Ibadan from the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago Iwoye in Ogun state as well as many others alongside some female undergraduates.
According to Professor Agbaje as at the time of his release from the kidnappers custody, five other persons including two young female undergraduates, some young men and middle aged are still in the custody of the kidnappers.

He said, “It’s a new day today and I’m happy to be alive. I was released by my kidnappers yesterday evening after spending two nights in the thick forests of Ogun and Oyo states. My mind goes to the five others who are still left with the kidnappers: two young ladies, two young men and a middle aged person. I was shot at in the head during the abduction process. I thank God that the bullet that went through my car’s windscreen left only a skin deep wound on my head even though it left a gaping hole in the cap I was wearing. I did not even know about this till Saturday morning when I saw caked blood on my cap.”

Police speak

The Oyo State Police command in a statement on the abduction by the Command’s Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), SP Adewale Osifeso said, “On Friday 28/10/2022 at about 1835HRS, operatives of the Command attached to Toll-Gate Division received information about sporadic gunshots heard along the Dominion University end of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

“In a swift response to the alert, the Divisional Police Officer led a team comprising Anti-Crime Patrol Operatives, Tactical Teams, Police Mobile men and local hunters for immediate rescue and further intervention. During the process of prevailing and preventing further chaos from what was evidently an abduction scenario, an officer attached to the Command paid the supreme price with one other badly injured and presently responding to treatment. So far, expended ammunition shells and four abandoned vehicles were retrieved from the scene.”

Afenifere too

Worried by the kidnapping, The Pan-Yoruba socio – political organisation, Afenifere, expressed serious concern on the frequency of kidnap incidents in the South west especially on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in recent times, adding that the frequency and ferocity of kidnapping in the area of late engender so much concern regarding the territorial expansion of terrorists and bandits.

Afenifere speaking through its national publicity secretary, Comrade Jare Ajayi, quoted one of the survivors of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway kidnapping, a 22-year-old girl Aminat Taiwo as saying, “The kidnappers were more than 30; they covered their faces and that they shot victims whose relatives could not pay the demanded ransoms.”

Afenifere then tasked the South-west governments to turn Amotekun into a strong regional outfit that can protect the region by collectively approaching President Muhammadu Buhari along with the vice president to let them save their people from being enslaved by bandits.
It stated further that drones and relevant security equipment must be purchased and deployed to quickly snuff life out of the criminals.

Oyo CP corroborates others

Oyo State Commissioner of Police CP Adebowale Williams while speaking at a Peace and Security Summit in Ibadan said commuters and other road users plying the Lagos/Ibadan expressway would soon witness heavy strategic deployments comprising operational, intelligence and tactical assets owing to the intervention of the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Baba Alkali.

True to his words, policemen from Oyo and Ogun states, few hours after CP Williams said this, were led to the troubled portion of the expressway by their Commissioners of Police to beef up security on the hot sports along the route and since then they have been manning strategic portions on the Ogun and Oyo states axis of the expressway.

State gov’t plays own part

Also Oyo state government on its part towards flushing out the kidnappers from the Lagos – Ibadan expressway, has come up with the new innovation of involving local vigilante and traditional leaders as well as other non-state actors to be working with regular security agencies in order to arrest the perpetrators.
According to the special adviser on security matters to Governor Seyi Makinde, CP Fatai Owoseni (rtd) while briefing newsmen on the outcome of a stakeholders’ security meeting, said the collaborations of Oyo and Ogun state governments are already yielding positive results as the governments of the two states have strengthened the security architecture on the Ibadan-Lagos expressway.

“Sadly, we have had three incidents in one week that made it to look as if the security agents are sleeping on their obligations, but I must correct that impression. “Before then, it was not as if measures and strategies were not put in place to curb any incident. The perception and interpretation that has been given is that your community is insecure but it is not possible to have a totally crime-free society,” CP Owoseni stressed. “Concerning the incidents we recorded about two weeks ago, a whole lot has been put in place by the government to ensure that we give safety to commuters, not just on the express road but the road that leads to Lagos and Abeokuta and some other parts of Oyo state. And that also was the reason the governors of Ogun and Oyo states met to form Joint Security Committee. So, in essence, with what has happened, the interpretation of security would be that there must have been a gap.
“The criminal elements who are on the other side believe it is their profession and would probably must have noticed a gap that they can capitalise on, which would translate to what I can call ‘opportunistic crime. Having said that, we have looked back to see where we got it wrong and looked at the lesson. And that also explains why for the past one week, jointly with Ogun state security team, we have formed a Technical Working Group. We have been sitting together to see what we can do to remain proactive.

“For now, we have strengthened visibility and also found out some certain things. We have taken a lesson from that to say that whatever is put in place now would be something that is workable, practical, sustainable and that is where we are now. Is it that with the non-state actors that we are using, we have not been able to tidy up the framework with which we work for them? We have looked at that as well to improve the collaboration with the locals that know the nooks and crannies of the community.”

On how to secure the Lagos – Ibadan expressway, CP Owoseni said the governments of both states are working together to secure the axis, saying: “Ogun and Oyo states are working together strongly and fortunately for us, the governors of the two states recognise the need that whatever comes out from the interactions we are doing, their own support is necessary. Security is expensive and funding is key to whatever we want to do. If you want to bring in the non-state actors, local hunters, how much of motivation are we giving them? So, all these areas have been identified. We have reinvigorated our visibility on the road, deny the criminal elements the space to operate freely. We are going after the ones that have operated and bring them to justice. Our philosophy in security is, ‘don’t let it happen’. If it happens, let the people that do it know that you can get them and make them face the law’. So, we are approaching both ways.

“All the security agencies and commanders are working together and we have also used this to strengthen the synergy that all the agencies have and anyone plying the road now will see static and mobile deployments.”

Going by the presence of security agencies operatives mostly men of the Nigeria Police Force on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Oyo and Ogun axis , there is no doubt, serious efforts are on ground towards securing the route, the travelers and other road users from the hands of the rampaging kidnappers and other criminal elements that recently turned the expressway into their operational ground.

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