Obaseki’s Exemplary Leadership on Edo Train Station Attack
The prompt rescue of all the train passengers abducted by armed herdsmen in Igueben Train Station in Edo State by security agencies without the usual payment of ransom was a demonstration of the efficiency of a resilient security system in the state. Ejiofor Alike writes that other governors should emulate this high level of commitment and transparency demonstrated by the Governor Godwin Obaseki’s administration in coordinating the rescue operation and stop abandoning kidnap victims and their relations to pay ransom to bandits
When armed herdsmen invaded the Igueben Train Station on Saturday, January 7 and abducted over 30 people, an angry Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, had made a strong commitment to ensure that security agencies rescue all the victims unhurt.
The state government had quickly mobilised soldiers, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), police personnel and vigilantes to track the abductors.
The state police command had in a statement, said the kidnappers were herdsmen armed with AK-47 rifles.
Narrating the incident, the state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, had disclosed that one of the abducted victims escaped at 8.15pm on the same day of the incident, adding that 31 others were still with their captors.
Nehikhare stated that the abductors came with cars but took their victims into the bush on foot.
“The police, working with the vigilante and hunters, started combing the bush almost immediately and one suspect has been arrested and he is helping the police in their investigation.
“The Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu visited the scene of the incident and we are sure that with a suspect apprehended, the investigation will lead to the arrest of others and the rescue of the victims.
“The state government commends the police for their prompt response while we also praise the vigilantes and hunters who took part in the bush combing operation. We hope this will be the last time an occurrence like this will happen in the state,’’ the commissioner reportedly explained.
On his part, the Onogie of Igueben and Okaigun of Esanland, Ehizojie Eluojierior I, also confirmed the rescue efforts.
He reportedly said, “the police, vigilantes, and the hunters are working together on the issue. They combed the bush till midnight on Saturday and resumed on Sunday morning.”
With the strong determination of the state government and the security agencies to rescue the victims, it was not surprising that six persons were rescued just two days after the incident even as the kidnappers had reportedly made contact with some families of the victims and demanded N20 million for each of them.
Nekhihare, while giving an update on the efforts by government and security agencies, appealed to the Edo residents to be vigilant, adding that, “Operation Bush Combing” was still on going, and that nothing would be left to chance.
“A large portion of the forest is being combed. We call on Edo people to be vigilant. If you see something, say something,” Nekhihare said.
He also said: “Our Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, spoke with me this morning to share the latest information on the efforts being made by the military, police and personnel drawn from other security agencies, including the vigilante and hunters who know the bushes like their backyards to ensure the kidnapped passengers are released soon.
“The governor has provided the needed logistic support to the various security agencies that are combing the bushes, small settlements, forests and everywhere around the place of the incident to smoke out the kidnappers.
“Governor Obaseki has mandated his deputy, Philip Shaibu, to coordinate the operation. The governor urged citizens to remain calm and pass any useful information to his office or the security agencies,” he added.
Also one week after the incident, the state police command disclosed that 12 more abducted passengers had been rescued unhurt at Udo Forest in Ughboa.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Dankwara, also released the names of the rescued victims.
Dankwara said the operation had brought to 18 the number of victims rescued.
The sustained efforts of the security agencies also recorded another success last Sunday when Nehikhare disclosed that 12 of the remaining 14 kidnapped victims had been rescued.
Obaseki later visited the 12 rescued victims at the Police Cottage Hospital in GRA, Benin City, where they had been taken for medical attention.
He assured the families of the two remaining abductees that he would deploy the full apparatus of the state to ensure their release.
The governor said information at his disposal indicted some traditional rulers in the area who disobeyed government’s directives against open grazing as they still harboured herders in their communities.
“We have information that some traditional rulers in that area do not obey and respect the government’s decision to discourage open grazing by herders in their forests.
“I have instructed that those traditional rulers should be investigated and anyone found to be harbouring the herders will have questions to answer because that was what led to this incident. Communities that obeyed don’t have such incidents in their domain.”
Asked if ransom was paid to secure the release of the victims, Obaseki said: “No money was paid for their release as our special forces engaged in the joint operation and overpowered the kidnappers and rescued 12 persons and the kidnappers ran away with two victims.”
“We are happy as a state and people that we have been able to secure the release of 12 of those kidnapped at the Igueben Train Station over a week ago. It has been a very difficult situation as the might, will and security system we put in place in Edo State have been tested. We are glad the system is resilient,” he said.
On his part, the state Commissioner of Police, Dankwara, said the kidnappers operated at the Ugboha and Udo forests where special security forces laid ambush for them for over a week.
He noted that as the kidnappers were trying to move their victims around that location, they were intercepted and were only able to escape with two other victims.
He added: “We are working to ensure those two are released. We have arrested some persons who are a syndicate of this kidnapping gang. They are in our custody. Initially, we rescued 10, with this 12 rescued we have just two left with the kidnappers. We assure Edo people that we will rescue them.”
The state government matched its words with actions as it last Wednesday confirmed the rescue of the remaining two passengers and the arrest of two village chiefs in connection with the train attack.
Nehikhare disclosed that seven other suspects had also been arrested in connection with the incident.
The Edo State Government and the security agencies in the state have set a standard, which other governors should emulate. The state government, DSS, police, army and the local security outfits have demonstrated that the security architecture in the state is resilient. Other state governors should muster the political will to set up similar security structures and implement the anti-open grazing laws like Obaseki. Governors should also not abandon the relations of kidnap victims to pay ransom. Payment of ransom is the incentive that encourages abductions in the country.