Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
A combined team of vigilante group and back-up by the police on Tuesday night rescued three lecturers and 16 students of the Department of Geology, University of Benin from suspected herdsmen masquerading as kidnappers at Ihevbe in Owan East Local Government Area of Edo State.
Those kidnapped were among the 48 students and four lecturers who were heading to Ikpeshi in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area of the state on a field work.
The victims were said to have boarded two-18 seater buses and were moving towards Ihevbe when they were swooped upon by the suspected herdsmen armed with guns and matchets and marched them into the forest.
It was gathered that the driver and two students escaped and ran to alert a combined team of vigilante group and the police who were on patrol along Igarra-Auchi Road.
The combined team were said to have mobilised and gave the kidnappers a hot chase exchanging gun fires and in the process arrested two of the suspects while other escaped and abandoned their victims
Narrating their ordeal, one of students who spoke to THISDAY, said: “We were attacked around 5.34 p.m yesterday (Tuesday) by Fulani herdsmen (of which I could only see five of them). We were made to lie face down and empty our belongings which we had. They had guns and knives with them.
“While dispossessing us of our belongings, they ordered some of us to move into the bush. Momentarily, they left us and led other captives away among which were three lecturers and about 16 students.
“During the brief moment we were left, we ran away to the buses that brought us and ran into the police and vigilante on the way.”
The student, who preferred anonymity, said in the night of same day, those kidnapped were rescued by a combined team of police and local vigilante with slight injuries.
Confirming the incident, the university’s Public Relations Officer, Dr. (Mrs.) Benedita Ehanire, said the university authority was expecting the team back after the rescue.
She said four lecturers and students would have been back but the management insisted that there must be a police back-up for them before they travel back to school, adding that “they are all safe and they are on their way.”
Also, Public Relations Officer, Edo State Police Command, Chidi Nwabuzor, said a combined team of the police tactical squad, men from the Divisional Police Station in Igarra and Area Command were deployed by the Commissioner of Police, Lawal Jimeta to rescue the lecturers and the students, while the two suspects were being interrogated at the State Criminal Investigation Department.
Also on his part, the Chairman Opoze Age Group in Igarra, who is also head of the vigilante group, Ibukun Dogo, said: “The driver of the 18-seater bus and two of the students escaped when the kidnappers rounded them up at gun point. They ran back to the highway where our vigilante group were patrolling and broke the news to them.
“The vigilante contacted me and briefed me on phone and I ordered that they should go after them while I quickly informed the police for back up. While my men were pursuing the kidnappers, they were shooting and so my men returned back with fire. But, we ran out of ammunition. At the end, we were able to apprehend two of the kidnappers and they were taken to the police station.
“The students who escaped were called to come and identify them and they were able to identify one of them as the people that kidnapped their colleagues and lecturers. Apparently with response from us and the back-up from the police, they abandoned the other victims and ran away.
“I also called our hunters because two weeks ago, they reported that they sighted about eight boys in the forest who shot at them and ran away and the hunters were also able to identify one of the kidnappers. We have handed them over to the police.”
He appealed for support for proper kitting, saying his men were only doing the work on voluntary basis.