By Aderonke Ajayi
Oyo State people are an interesting lot. They boast that they don’t copy anyone while all others are free to struggle to do as Oyo does. Whenever the nation is in the labour room preparatory to birthing a major occurrence, Oyo, especially, Ibadan, its capital, is a barometer to measure it. Nigeria is in the middle of a security crisis and the South West is in it too, very involved. It is thus necessary to look at how Oyo is beating back or beating off the wind of insecurity blowing everywhere in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s south is no stranger to battling serious security problems. In recent times, a particularly baffling one had presented in the form of herdsmen killing people and laying waste to farms. That problem was anticipated to go into a suppressed state with the advent of the regional security network, the Amotekun Corps. And the initiative of the South West governors is truly proving to be so much help in keeping farmers and other residents safe and the murderous herdsmen at bay.
However, governments in the region had no foreboding that they would soon have more on their plates in terms of abnormally frequent cases of kidnapping – undoubtedly the biggest security threat the country is facing today. The reason for this lack of suspicion is not far-fetched: not so long ago, this particular ‘strain’ of crime appeared to be a problem that was peculiar to the North.
A report headlined ‘Spotlight on Nigeria’s Diverse Security Challenges’, which was written by Mark Duerksen and posted on the website of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, in March 2021, looked at the beleaguered North’s gradual descent into its present criminal and abysmal kidnap-for-ransom enterprise.
A part of the report reads: “Exploiting a security vacuum, criminal gangs in North West Nigeria have been behind a surge of kidnappings for ransom targeting boarding schools.
“In the last five years, the North West has experienced the greatest concentration of kidnappings in Nigeria. The ransoms collected through these mass abductions have become a means of business for these criminal gangs.
“Mass kidnappings in Zamfara, Niger, and Katsina states have emulated 2014’s infamous kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram and have forced the government to respond. Government spokespeople deny paying ransom to secure the release of the children, but on-the-ground accounts contradict this.
“Moreover, government officials may benefit from the large amounts of cash used to secure hostages’ release. As in the North East, kidnapping for ransom has made highways in the region too dangerous for travel, and airlines now operate short flights from Abuja to Kaduna.”
But current realities have left no one in doubt that the South, especially the South West, is not immune to the problem of kidnapping and the enormous threat its prevalence poses to its citizenry in spite of any previous indications or expectations to the contrary.
Today, for government at all levels in the country, finding solutions — elusive, as it were — to the problem of kidnapping is on the front burner, with nearly all other governmental functions, economic or social, relegated to the background.
However, the recent discovery of major kidnap locations in Oyo State is presently being viewed by stakeholders as a game changer in the resolve of the state government to fight the crime of kidnapping head-on.
Feelers from the circle of security experts in the state also indicate that this newfound ace in hands of the state government is expected to be deployed in tackling other crimes that are distracting it from real matters of growth and development.
It was gathered that the locations that were discovered to be majorly targeted for kidnapping in the state are in Ido and Oluyole local government areas, as well as Igangan axis and other parts of Ibarapa areas around the boundary between Oyo and Kwara states.
All routes into the Oke-Ogun zone are said to now be hotbeds for kidnapping.
Recent cases of kidnapping in the state include that of a female student of a health institute in Eruwa. She was kidnapped on Igboora-Eruwa Road. There was also the report of the abduction of two other persons who were travelling on the same road. Also recently, three women were kidnapped at Onipe community in the Idi Ayunre area of Ibadan. A hotelier, his wife, and seven other members of his family were also reported kidnapped in Ajaawa on April 24.
Governor Seyi Makinde, a couple of weeks ago, inspected a security base established primarily to check kidnapping on Ibadan-Ijebu-Ode Road. The base is located in Mamu, a village in Oluyole Local Government Area. It is a border community between Oyo and Ogun states. At the event monitored by one of our correspondents, the governor said the base was a pilot project and the intention of the government was to secure all entry and exit points in Oyo State.
According to him, the joint security base has a Close Circuit Television (CCTV) and cameras that are being monitored from the state’s control room in Iyaganku, Ibadan. He stated that the personnel manning the security base were expected to call for reinforcement in dealing effectively with any suspicious movements or criminal activities.
To ensure the presence of security agents at the base 24 hours a day, a joint team of men of the police, civil defence and military will be operating in shifts. Locals in the areas around the base will also be collaborating with the security agents in terms of providing useful information in a timely fashion.
While inaugurating the base, Governor Makinde said: “This particular place has really been in the news for kidnapping, people coming across the border to perpetrate evil.
“This is a pilot project and we want to secure all the entry and exit points to Oyo State. This is the border with Ogun State. If everything works well, because we have CCTV Cameras out there that are being monitored from the control room.
“If anything is going on here, they can alert us so that the security agencies can deal with the situation appropriately. But for us, if we know people coming in and we can trace them or if any crime is committed inside the state and they want to run out, we can activate the process whereby they can be apprehended at the entry/exit points.”
The governor presented five operational vehicles to the state police command and three to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)vin the state to support the security base.
Governor Makinde is also presently heading an 11-man security task force as part of measures to address security challenges in the state.
The wise learns from others’ misfortune and takes protective measures. A measure of the pacesetting culture of Oyo is the recent decision of the governor to weave a special security cordon round schools, especially the very vulnerable ones across the state.
At the inauguration of the security task force in his office in Ibadan, recently, Makinde said the body was set up to address the various security challenges and ensure that the state was always on top of security situations.
He said that with recurring incidents of kidnapping, especially of students in the North, the state had to be on its toes to prevent such kidnappings and tackle all other forms of criminality.
He added that the committee would regularly link with traditional rulers, stakeholders across all local councils, political stakeholders, and different ethnic nationalities to have requisite information on happenings across the localities.
The state Commissioner of Police, Ngozi Onadeko, in what seemed to be in furtherance of the state government’s crusade against kidnapping and other crimes, also visited an Ibarapa community, Ayete, on Thursday, May 6, where she urged the residents to partner with the police in solving the security problems that are being experienced in the areas.
Onadeko had visited the town on Thursday for a firsthand assessment of the situation on the ground and to meet with other security agencies, traditional rulers, community leaders, indigenes and residents of the surrounding towns and communities, especially in Ibarapa North Local Government Area.
According to the police commissioner, the visit became necessary following the incessant kidnappings occurring in Ibarapa towns and communities.
In attendance were other security agencies, traditional rulers, community heads, religious leaders, social workers, local government representatives, local hunters and vigilante group members.
“I have been concerned and worried about the spate of kidnappings and other violent crimes going on here. It is no use sitting down in Ibadan and issuing directives. It is better I come here and we all sit together, talk as a family, advise one another and find a solution to what is going on in our community,” the commissioner said.
She said she was in Ayete to seek the people’s support “so that we can all work together and see how we are going to stop this issue of kidnapping and other crimes.”
Security experts who spoke with our correspondents agreed that the effectiveness of the newly established security base in Mamu will determine how the government will secure other entry and exit points across the state.
One of the experts expressed the view that proper funding is a critical element in the success of the security project. He also also said that synergy among the security agencies as well as the cooperation of their local helpers would be crucial in successfully stopping the influx of bandits, kidnappers and other criminals into the state.
He, however, warned the state government against losing sight of criminals and other miscreants that still constitute nuisance to security in towns and communities.
•Ajayi, a security analyst, writes from Ogbomoso