With three kidnapping cases within one week on major roads in Ondo and Osun States, there are fears among commuters especially those that shuttle between Abuja and Lagos of their safety. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) and Temitope Oluwatosin (Akure) report.
The traffic between Abuja and Lagos remains one of the highest in the country as inbound and outbound passengers are never short in supply in the various motor parks in Abuja and Lagos.
In the Abuja end, there is palpable fear over recent development in Ondo and Osun States where hoodlums/kidnappers are on rampage abducting travellers on roads in the states.
All Lagos bound passengers going by road from Abuja must go through either Ondo or Osun States to get to Lagos and in return must follow same route back to Abuja.
The traffic on the various routes is always high whether in the day or at night, prompting the need for adequate policing to safeguard innocent travellers from the evil hands of kidnappers, armed robbers amongst others.
When LEADERSHIP Friday undertook a tour of some federal roads recently, not a few travellers’ complained of the declining number of police checkpoints on the Akure-Owo-Akoko road axis.
“Unlike before, the police checkpoints on Akure-Akoko road has reduced heightening fears of kidnapping and other crimes against innocent travellers,” said Mrs Funke Larry, a trader who is familiar with the area said.
Other travellers who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday complained that the resurgence of kidnapping in the two states has sparked fears in them. They asked the relevant authorities to increase the presence of security personnel on the major routes to Lagos.
“The stakes are high now, the news of kidnapping is uncomfortable and there is need for government to act fast. This is Christmas period, the road will be busy,” said a driver, Mr Daniel Okafor, in Abuja.
With the recent abduction of three health workers working with the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owo, Owo local government area of Ondo State by some suspected gunmen, many feared that more innocent persons might fall victim to the inhuman act.
The health workers were kidnapped Wednesday on the failed portion of the Emure – Ile/Owo road, which is a few kilometres drive away from the state capital, Akure.
The three victims, including a medical doctor, a nurse and a record officer with the FMC were abducted while on transit to Owo for work.
Colleagues of the kidnapped health workers confirmed the incident to journalists in Akure via a phone conversation.
One of their colleagues, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said that the victims were stopped on the road by the abductors before they were kidnapped and taken away.
She added that the kidnappers have already contacted the family of the abducted medical workers and are demanding the sum of N50 million as ransom.
According to her, the premises of the hospital (FMC) has now been thrown into confusion as a result of the kidnap incident.
“Three of our staff here in the FMC were kidnapped yesterday by some gunmen while on their way to work although we have also reported the incident to the police in the state.
“Those that were kidnapped are- a medical doctor with the hospital, a nurse and a record officer whose identity I can only remember and she is Mrs Josephine Fanikasi.
“They were abducted at Emure-Ile and l learnt that the abductors, who are heavily armed with guns, are all suspected herdsmen due to their poor grammar.
“They have contacted the family of the three victims and they are even demanding N50 million as ransom before they can be released,” she said.
The police public relations officer, Ondo State command, Mr Femi Joseph, also confirmed the incident noting that the victims were traveling when they were kidnapped.
Joseph added that the victims were waylaid by the armed hoodlums on the Akure/Emure-Ile/Owo road and were whisked into the heavy bush.
“I can confirm that the story is true but I only know about just one FMC staff who was kidnapped while the others are a staff of the Polytechnic in Owo who were traveling.
“But our boys are on their trail and they have started combing the bush with a view to rescuing these kidnapped victims alive.
“Also, let me assure you that we will arrest the criminals who carried out this job and we will ensure they are brought to book,” Joseph said.
He revealed that the police in the state have already swung into action and commenced investigation with the view to rescue the kidnap victims.
The police spokesman also advised family members of the kidnapped victims to cooperate with the police in their investigation in ensuring the rescue of the victims.
Also, last week, there are reports that suspected gunmen abducted six Abuja-bound passengers in Akunnu, in Akoko North LGA of Ondo State.
The victim’s vehicle was said to have been intercepted by the kidnappers in the afternoon, who led them including the driver into a forest, where they held them captive for five days.
It was reported that among the victims were officers of some security agencies.
A retiree and a female student were also said to have been taken captive by the gunmen, who reportedly threatened to kill anyone who refused to cooperate with them.
After rounds of beating with cutlasses and sticks, the hoodlums were said to have converted the phone lines of two of their victims to their operational lines through which they demanded N5m ransom from the families of the victims.
The victims were said to have regained freedom after a ransom was paid to the kidnappers. The state police public relations officer, Femi Joseph, also confirmed the incident.
“They (victims) have all been released. But we are still investigating the matter. That is all we can say for now. We don’t know those who did it, because none of them has been arrested,” Joseph said.
Meanwhile, more facts emerged on Wednesday over gunmen attack on some staff and students of Osun State College of Technology (OSCOTECH), Esa-Oke along Ibokun-Ijebu Jesa-Esa Oke road on Tuesday, leading to the killing of a staff of the institution, identified as Olaniyi Emmanuel Temitope of the Registry Department.
Reports indicated that the armed bandit was allegedly robbing some commercial vehicles, plying Ibokun-Ijebu Jesa road when the incident occurred.
In a statement issued by the director of media and public relations of the institution, Dr Wale Oyekanmi, the names of staff members being held in the bush by the kidnappers are: “Mr Olaleye Olalekan of the Business Administration department; Engr Adeyeoluwa Bankole, HOD Civil Engineering; Dr Jesuola Ajibola, Adenreti Chukwu, secretary to the civil engineering department; Mr Olaniyi Emmanuel Temitope, registry staff (died on the spot) and Rachael Onyinocha Akinboboye of OSCOTECH Microfinance Bank.”
However, it was gathered that four of the victims abducted by the gunmen, including three students and a lecturer have been released late Tuesday night.
Confirming the development during a chat with journalists on the campus of the institution, the deputy rector of OSCOTECH, Dr Elandia Johnson, said that the armed bandits that carried out the attack have demanded a ransom before releasing other victims in their captivity.
But he declined to give details about the actual amount of money being demanded by the abductors.
Meanwhile, the police in Osun State have reacted to the development.
Commissioner of Police, Mr Fimihan Adeoye, who visited the scene of the attack, alongside the representative of the Osun State government, Mr Oguntola Toogun, said security agents were combing the forest to ensure the release of other abducted persons.
In a reaction, a member of Osun House of Assembly, Mr Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, has described the killing and the abduction of eight staff of Osun College of Technology, Esa Oke by gunmen as pathetic and sad.
Oyintiloye in a statement in Osogbo also said the killing of one of the college staff was barbaric.
The lawmaker, however, urged security agencies to ensure that the abducted staff were safely rescued.
When LEADERSHIP Friday tried to know why there are fewer checkpoints on some of the roads in Ondo State from the PPRO, Ondo State, Mr Femi Joseph, told our correspondent that he was in a meeting as at the time of filling this report.