In spite of the enactment of anti-open grazing law in the Southwest states, armed herdsmen have not stopped attacking and kidnapping residents of some communities in the region, reports KUNLE AKINRINADE.

ALL that was on Fasasi Olanigan’s mind when he left Abeokuta on Wednesday September 8, 2020 was how to get to his destination in Joga area of Yewa North Local Governemnt Area of Ogun State. But two hours after he left his home in Abeokuta, the state capital, Olanigan, a retired lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic, Ofa, Kwara State, he had not arrived his destination, having been ambushed and abducted by four Fulani herdsmen on the Imasayi-Isaga Road in Joga, Yewa-North Local government Area, Ogun state.

According to reports, his wife, Ireti Olanigan, said a man who was travelling with her husband had escaped from the kidnappers and rushed to their home to inform her that her husband had been abducted.

“He was kidnapped on Joga Road by four  herdsmen who were fully armed.

“I was told that as he was being dragged into the bush, someone came and shouted ‘thief’, so, the other person escaped while they took my husband away into the bush,” she said.

She added: “I have gone to the scene and the hunters have helped me to search the bush but they could not find him.

“I left the spot to report to the police at Lafenwa police station, and when I went back to the spot, I did not see my husband’s car that was abandoned. I was told the police came to take his car.”

Same day, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen were said to have kidnapped three workers of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at a Seseri village in Abeokuta.

The hoodlums allegedly ambushed the Hilux car conveying the three workers at the Obasanjo Holdings in the Kobape area of Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area.

The workers regained their freedom three days after they were abducted, due to what the police described as ‘intense pressure’ from operatives deployed to comb the adjoining forest and rescue the victims.

Police spokesman Abimbola Oyeyemi said: “Yes, we mounted a lot of pressure on the kidnappers.

“Since yesterday (Thursday) our anti-kidnapping operatives have been in the bush searching for them.

“They were able to trace them to the bush behind the Day Waterman College, along the Kobape Road.

“This evening, they released them (victims) unhurt without any ransom,” he said.

Also, on August 7, gunmen believed to be herdsmen attacked a convoy along the Ibese- Itori Road around 5 pm and abducted a Swiss national and his driver and injured two other persons.

Houses of Assembly in the Southwest states —Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti— recently passed the anti-open grazing law outlawing herders who have been linked to the gale of kidnappings in the region in recent times.

In April this year, Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, like his counterparts in the Southwest zone of the country, inaugurated the Ogun State Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun, during which the governor also commissioned scores of patrol vans and motorcycles to aid the operations of the Amotekun Corps.

No fewer than 12 travellers returning to Lagos in a commercial bus on September 9 this year were abducted around ldoani/lfira in Akoko South-East Area of Ondo State by suspected herdsmen.

It was said that the bus was conveying passengers from Abuja to Lagos when it was ambushed by the armed herders at a failed portion of the road.

It was also reported that the armed herders shot at the Toyota Hiace bus and forced the driver to stop before abducting the passengers.

The Southwest regional security outfit in the state, Amotekun, however rescued nine of the 18 passengers in the bus.

In Ekiti State gunmen suspected to be herdsmen killed a man and abducted his wife and daughter on August 6, 2021 in broad daylight.

The unidentified victim was said to be travelling with his wife and daughter in his Lexus 330 Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV), along Ewu-Ayetoro-Ekiti Road in Ido/Osi Local Area of Ekiti State when the kidnappers shot at their car.

Police spokesman, for Ekiti Command, Sunday Abutu, said: “The report we got was that the family was travelling along that route. Suddenly, suspected gunmen fired gunshots at them, killing the husband and taking away the wife and their daughter.

“The police mobilised to the spot and combed the surrounding forests with other agencies such as the Amotekun Corps, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the local hunters and vigilance group.”


How police burst kidnappers, killed suspects in shootout

In the two months, no fewer than three suspected herdsmen involved in abductions died during shootout with the police in Ogun State, while one of the suspects was arrested.

Anti-kidnapping operatives on August 31, 2021 killed three suspected kidnappers within 24 hours in Itoriarea of Ewekoro Local Government and Imala area of Abeokuta North Local Government.

Two of the suspects were killed at Itori during a gun battle which lasted 40 minutes and killed two suspected kidnappers on Sunday August 29 at Itori area of Ewekoro local government.

Police said that four Ak 47 rifles were recovered from the kidnappers.

One other suspect was gunned down at Imala while another member of the syndicate was arrested.

Police spokesman, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said in a statement that the kidnappers engaged operatives in gun duel.

Oyeyemi said that operatives had “another bloody encounter” with a kidnap syndicate at Ilala forest in Imala area of Abeokuta North Local Government Area of Ogun State.

“The gun battle between the police and the kidnappers was as a result of information received by the police at Imala divisional headquarters that six armed kidnappers were sighted in the forest.

“Upon the information, the DPO Imala division, CSP Bernard Ediagbonya, mobilised his men, the hunters, vigilante men, So-safe corps as well as Fulani youths and stormed the forest.

“On getting to the scene, the hoodlums, who sighted the team from afar, opened fire on them, following which the team engaged them in gun duel,” the statement reads.

Oyeyemi said that one of the suspects was shot dead, while another one identified as Usman Maidama was arrested.

Operatives of the Ogun State Police Command also apprehended a herdsman who simply identified himself as Mohammed with one AK-47 rifle on August 11.

•Another kidnapper, Usman Maidama arrested in Itori area of Ewekoro Local Government in Ogun State.

According to a statement issued by Oyeyemi, the armed herdsman was arrested following intelligence received by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Imeko Divisional headquarters that two young Fulani boys were sighted at CAC Oha forest, Iwoye Ketu in Imeko Afon Local Government Area with Ak 47 rifle.

Oyeyemi said: “Upon the information, the DPO mobilised his men and other stakeholders like the hunters, vigilante men, So Safe Corps and stormed the said forest.

He explained that ”after hours of combing the forest, one Mohammed was seen hiding in the bush with one AK 47 rifle and was promptly arrested.”

Oyeyemi added that the young herdsman was strongly suspected to be a member of a kidnap syndicate who has been terrorising the area for quite some time now.

”The State Commissioner of Police, Edward Awolowo Ajogun, has ordered the immediate transfer of the suspect to State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department for discreet investigation,” he added.

He also directed that the entire forest be properly combed with a view to apprehending other members of the gang.

It will be recalled that on June 8, 2021, four persons were allegedly abducted by men suspected to be herdsmen in Ayetoro-Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

It was said that the herdsmen invaded the community in the night and attacked a hotel. The hoodlums numbering 30 were said to have entered the community through the route where a traditional ruler, the Elewu of Ewu-Ekiti, Oba Adetutu Ajayi, was attacked earlier in the year.

They were said to have shot a worker at the hotel and abducted three persons.

The source added that Idowu’s brother, Sunday, who is a guard at the hotel, received machete cuts on his head and was in critical condition in the hospital.

Meanwhile, a 28-year-old herdsman, Abdullahi Bande, was on Wednesday September 1 arraigned before an Ado-Ekiti Magistrates’ Court over alleged kidnapping of one Adebusuyi Ebenezer at Ilawe-Ekiti.

Police Prosecutor, Inspector Bamikole Olasunkanmi, told the court that Abdullahi committed the offence on August 26.

He said that the victim was able to identify the defendant and that there was fingerprint evidence.

Olasunkanmi said that the case file would be sent to the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) for legal advice.

The offence, according to him was punishable under Section 3(a) of the Kidnap and Terrorism (Prohibition), Laws of Ekiti State, 2015.

In his judgment, the presiding Magistrate, Abdulhamid Lawal, ordered the remand of the defendant in a correctional centre while the case was adjourned to September 15 for hearing.

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