While the attention of security agencies is focused on tackling criminal activities, banditry and terrorism in the North West and North East of the country, the failure to effectively man the Obajana-Okene axis has worsened the security situation in the area with almost a weekly incident of kidnappings of luxury and mini bus passengers. In the latest incident which occurred on September 22, three passengers including a lady, of one of the major transport companies in Nigeria were kidnapped by men said to be in military uniform along the Obajana-Okene highway. Over 15 passengers sustained various degrees of injuries during the incident. The criminals are asking for a ransom of N10 million on each of the three kidnapped victims. It is indeed sad that a transport company had in the past one month witnessed three incidents of abductions of their passengers along the Obajana-Okene axis in Kogi State with one person killed, several people abducted and millions of naira paid as ransom to these dare-devil criminals. As a matter of fact most of the major bus transport companies in Nigeria had at one time or the other fell victims to the marauders.
It is sad that innocent citizens who struggle on daily basis to make ends meet, by travelling at night and day usually fall victims to men of the underworld who kill, maim, extort and subject them to inhuman treatments including rape.
Every passing day Nigerians are inundated with tales of kidnappings involving passengers, drivers and conductors of interstate mini and luxury buses and it is more painful if we remember that the victims are the productive business men and women, as well as travellers who power the country’s economy with their productivity. Apart from that they are also breadwinners of their families.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has made tremendous efforts to curtail the activities of these men of the underworld, but it is important that attention is shifted towards Obajana-Okene and Abuja-Lokoja axis as the incidents of kidnappings and sundry crimes have become too rampant. The police and army authorities responsible for the area ought to justify their positions by taking the fight to the criminals.
As things stand now, it has become imperative to restore police escorts to luxury buses in order to serve as a deterrence against bandits and terrorists who presently take advantage of the bad portions of the highways and absence of enough security personnel to carry out their evil intentions.
The negative impact of the kidnapping activities portends grave danger to Nigeria’s tourism sector which is projected to contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in this era of dwindling oil revenues. Therefore, there is the need for the Nigerian security agencies to redouble their efforts towards curbing the incessant kidnappings going on our highways. Also the state, local and federal governments must synergise towards finding a lasting solution to the menace of kidnappings along the highways in Kogi State as it not only threatens the lives of innocent citizens but it deprives the affected state and local governments of the much-needed internal revenue for development. It should be recalled that President Buhari had challenged the security chiefs to wake up and do more to curtail insecurity in the land.
As a country we must not surrender to the whims of these devilish men. Government must of necessity initiate moves to confront this menace before it becomes cancerous.
Already there is apprehension in the land including the once peaceful Southern part of the country, that bandits and terrorists are taking positions with plans to attack innocent citizens and their communities. These must not be allowed to happen as the consequences will have negative consequences for Nigeria, especially among the members of international community.
Already we have witnessed periodic advisories by some foreign embassies in Nigeria to their citizens to avoid travelling to some parts of the country. It now behoves on the federal and Kogi State governments to prove the naysayers wrong by taking proactive measures towards curtailing the evil activities of kidnappers along the Obajana-Okene axis of the state.
Kogi as a confluence state remains a transit point for travellers from all parts of the country, and they come with their money to patronise Kogi citizens along their travel routes. This mode of business will be undermined by kidnappers, bandits and terrorists if their activities are not contained. Nigeria has the capacity and security personnel to confront this danger and the time to deploy the human and material resources for the purpose is now. As the federal and state governments make spirited efforts to rejuvenate the economy, attract foreign investors and create jobs for the citizenry it is important that all efforts be geared towards eradicating criminals along the country’s highways.
Boniface Enekwechi, Abuja