Travellers panic over Lagos-Ibadan highway kidnappings, Oyo, Ogun go after gunmen

  •  Three abductions reported in one week

Fears are mounting over recent attacks by kidnappers in the Ogun and Oyo states axes of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, with three reported cases recorded between January 8 and 17.

Some drivers and commuters who regularly ply the route told our correspondent during the week that they were worried by the incidents which according to them had become rampant since December 2021.

Penultimate weekend, a Toyota Sienna bus heading for Lagos from Ibadan was reportedly attacked by kidnappers who suddenly emerged from the bush at Onigaari end of the expressway and started shooting repeatedly.

A commercial driver, identified as Oluwatosin Aruwajoye, was killed in the process and five passengers abducted, while another victim, one Ibrahim Tiamiyu, was shot in the thigh. One of the passengers was said to have narrowly escaped.

Operatives from the Oyo State Police Command’s anti-kidnapping squad and the Toll Gate Police Division where the case was reported went to the scene for the on-the-spot assessment.

It was said that the kidnappers contacted the family of one of the five abducted victims, a female, and demanded N30m ransom. It is not clear whether the victims had been freed or rescued.

Also, last Saturday, a Nollywood actress, Bimpe Akintunde, shared how she and her daughter had a close shave with kidnappers along the same Oni-gaari axis on their way to Lagos from Ibadan.

Narrating the encounter on her Instagram page, the actress said the gunmen dressed in military camouflage shot directly at vehicles plying the expressway.

She wrote, “Let’s be careful on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. I escaped the bandits’ attack around 5pm this evening, after Oni-garri on my way to Lagos. They were shooting at all the vehicles coming from Ibadan. They were like 10 in army uniform shooting directly at us. God saved me and my daughter, I can’t believe this.

“Like, they were shooting directly at us! Where are we going in this country, broad daylight attack! God came through for us, I turned back! Followed one way and alerted other drivers too. Just help me thank God for my life and that of my innocent daughter. We are back in Ibadan and healthy but in shock.”

The following day, Sunday, hoodlums also donning military uniform abducted seven wedding guests at the Isara, Ogun State end of the expressway.

The victims had attended a wedding in Ibadan the previous day (January 16) and were returning to their base in Lagos when one of the vehicles carrying them broke down on the road.

One of the victims, Folahan Akinsola, told The PUNCH that they were attempting to tow the faulty vehicle when the kidnappers struck in the morning.

He said of the seven persons abducted by the gang, three of them were freed, as the hoodlums demanded N60m ransom for the others.

He had said, “The kidnappers were all dressed in Army uniform and commanded us to enter the bush. They were more than four, as there were some of them inside the bush. They took some personal belongings and set some of us free.

“I was part of the people that were released and we were told to go and raise N15m to secure the release of each of the remaining four victims. We are to raise N60m and that is why we are seeking help from Nigerians as these kidnappers said they would waste them if they didn’t get the money.

“After we regained our freedom, we called 911. We were driving back to Ibadan when we met some metropolitan policemen and also reported the case to them. But we were told that the case was not within their jurisdiction. We were referred to the Isara Police Division.

“We later reported the case there and got to know that the Divisional Police Officer had mobilised about 25 policemen to the scene of the incident. These kidnappers have been sending threat videos showing us our friends in their custody.”

Akinsola said on Tuesday that the remaining four victims were eventually released after payment of N7.5m ransom.

“We were the ones who raised the money alongside the company my friends work for, among others,” he added.

Some other unreported cases

Commenting on Akintunde’s post on Instagram, one kashamadupeadelawal disclosed that his friend was also kidnapped at Oni-Garri on New Year day and shot dead in the bush the following day.

He stated, “Thanks so much, ma for bringing this out. On the 1st of January, our friend and brother was kidnapped in that same Oni-Garri and shot dead inside the bush the next day! I’m in pain right now! These people are everywhere…but most people didn’t know kidnapping is on Lagos-Ibadan Express now… it never happened to someone close to them! That is why no one is speaking out!”

Another commentator, maryamjameela3147, said she once witnessed kidnapping in the Oni-Garri area.

“I’ve experienced such within the same area; may God save us,” she wrote.

She had yet to reply to questions sent to her by our correspondent on her encounter as of the time of filing this report.

Tagging the Nigeria Police Force and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, one kunleadeigbe, lamented, “@nigeriapoliceforce @seyi amakinde, this is the second of these attacks in less than one week. Must we wait for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to turn into another Abuja-Kaduna Expressway before these animals are terminated?”

Drivers, commuters worry

Meanwhile, some motorists and commuters who ply the expressway frequently told Saturday PUNCH that the recent ugly trend had instilled fear in them.

A driver at a park in Ojota, Kola Ilesanmi, said they were now more vigilant than before whenever they were around the black spots on the expressway.

He said, “We drivers are now vigilant when plying that axis. We always ask our co-drivers who have gone ahead of us about the situation on the road. This issue of kidnapping along the expressway became frequent in December. It used to be rare before then.

“This is the only job most of us have and we can’t leave it. We will continue to be more vigilant and pray to God for safety. Our passengers are also worried but we try as much as possible to douse their fears. We are appealing to security agencies to rise up to the occasion.”

Another interstate motorist at Berger, shuttling Lagos and Ilorin, Kwara State, Musa Akanni, also bemoaned the security situation along the road, adding that personnel of the South-West Security Network known as Amotekun, now patrol the flashpoints.

He stated, “We are afraid to pass through those black spots in the evening. The attacks are becoming frequent and something needs to be done urgently. I have been seeing Amotekun personnel from Oyo State patrolling the Oni-Gaari area.”

An 18-passenger bus driver shuttling Lagos and Ibadan, Fatai Alatise, appealed to the police to beef up security on the expressway, saying there was a need for regular patrol to keep the attacks at bay.

One of the commuters, Mrs Dupelola Afolabi, a businesswoman, urged the government to check the problem before it became a full-blown menace.

She added, “It is unfortunate we have to worry over a journey between Ibadan and Lagos. I was shocked when I learnt about the wedding guests abducted in the morning last Sunday.

“I hope the government will take this issue seriously and not play politics with it. The expressway is an important route for people from different parts of the country going to Lagos for commercial activities.”

On Tuesday, an actor, Adeniyi Johnson, equally wrote about the prevailing insecurity on the expressway on his Twitter handle, @AdeniyijohnsonO. In multiple slides he shared on Instagram, the actor complained that the attacks had impinged on his work.

He wrote, “You need to be on that road to see how people drive now, drivers now over-speed, are reckless due to the fear of being kidnapped! Some will say what’s your own… Need I remind you that my job requires travelling as movies are not only shot in Lagos, but this recent terror has restricted me from going to work.

“I have bills to pay and mouths to feed…. As it is, the fear of being kidnapped has kept me from going… I know more than three of my colleagues who said Ibadan is a no-go area for now.”

We’re strategising, intensifying efforts – Amotekun, Police

A few days ago, the Amotekun officials in Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti states, told The PUNCH that they had got credible intelligence that terrorists fleeing military operations in the North-West would seek refuge in the forests of the southern states.

The personnel said they had started combing forests in the region for the fleeing terrorists from the North-West.

The Commandant of Amotekun in Oyo State, Col. Olayinka Olayanju (retd.), said his men had been on the lookout for strange faces who might want to use forests in the state as hideouts.

Olayanju had said, “We are aware that some of the bandits who escaped the military onslaught may want to migrate down South to start causing problems and we have started patrolling to prevent them from coming here.”

The Field Commander of Amotekun in Ogun State, David Akinremi, told our correspondent on Thursday that the corps was working with Oyo Amotekun on joint border patrol of the troubled spots.

He said, “We have our men inside the bush there because of the intelligence we received. The Amotekun Commander in Oyo and I are meeting at the border end as part of the joint border patrol efforts put in place by the Amotekun commanders in the South West.

“Whoever they (the kidnappers) might be, we are putting all security strategies in place. We may end up blocking roads to check these things. People might be inconvenienced; there is no doubt about that, but it is to ensure their safety.  As I speak with you, I am almost at the meeting point where both commanders are going to meet and further strategise and reinforce the security architecture of that axis.”

Akinremi, a retired Commissioner of Police, further said in a statement that security had been a cardinal point of Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration since he assumed office, noting that it would be preposterous to suggest that the governor or his counterparts in the South-West was playing politics with the lives of the people.

He said that the state government had concluded arrangements to fortify all the 20 local government areas of the state with Amotekun operatives.

The Amotekun boss also noted that the corps had been collaborating with the Army, police, Department of State Services, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, among others “to rid the state of criminals.”

Akinyemi said, “The security situation in Ogun State is a peculiar one; the state shares border with the nation’s commercial capital, with international borders that are porous and easily accessible by criminals.”

He, however, assured that the state “will rout the criminals with superior fire power,” adding that the government had spent so much to upgrade the security architecture of the state to maintain peace in the state.

Also, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Abimbola Oyeyemi, said the January 17 kidnapping at the Isara end of Ogun State was an ‘opportunistic attack’ as the hoodlums “quickly struck while those people were fixing their faulty car because police had not got to that spot.”

He said the command had put in place a robust security arrangement in conjunction with the Oyo State Police Command, adding that both state Commissioners of Police had carried out on-the-spot assessment.

The PPRO stated, “We have our Safer Highway Team there, the Federal Highway Team and a team of the anti-kidnapping unit. They will be patrolling the road from time to time to ensure that such ugly incident does not happen again. We are after those hoodlums and we won’t rest until we get all of them arrested. Two of them were gunned down about two months ago and two AK-47 rifles recovered from them.”

Oyeyemi however said the police had yet to establish the claim that the assailants were terrorists who fled from military offensive in the North.

He added, “We cannot say for now until we are able to get them. Whatever insinuations or suspicions people have, we are not ruling anything out. We are investigating every claim. The important thing is to ensure that our people are travelling along that road without any hindrance.”

When contacted, the police spokesperson in Oyo State, DSP Adewale Osifeso, referred our correspondent to a statement issued by the command on Tuesday, titled, ‘Oyo Command restructures security apparatus around Lagos/Sagamu/Onigaari axis in a bid to forestall activities of criminal elements.’

The statement read in part, “The Oyo State Police Command under the leadership of CP Ngozi Onadeko fdc, has reaffirmed its commitment to leave no stone unturned in ridding the state and its environs of criminal elements.

“Furthermore, in a bid to forestall future abduction incidents along Onigarri axis of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and other adjoining routes, the Commissioner of Police has emplaced proactive security measures to ensure that the nefarious activities of these hoodlums are nipped in the bud in coordinated corporation with adjoining state commands.”

The command enjoined members of the public “not to panic,” claiming that adequate tactical and operational assets would be deployed in the area and there would be joint surveillance, aggressive patrols with adjoining states and combing of forests alongside local hunters and vigilantes.”

He added, “Consequent upon these, private and public users of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway are encouraged to go about their day-to-day activities without any form of fear of molestation or harassment from unscrupulous elements as adequate security measures are on the ground.”  PUNCH

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