Osara: Another look at Kogi insecurity Richard Elesho

Osara: Another look at Kogi insecurity Richard Elesho

Monday, May 20, 2024 8:38 am

Gunmen, top, and Confluence University of Science and Technology

Gunmen, top, and Confluence University of Science and Technology

Richard Elesho


Thursday, 10 May 2024, was a Red Letter Day for the Confluence University of Science and Technology, CUSTECH, Osara. The otherwise boisterous students’ community was thrown into fierce malady and panic when unidentified gunmen invaded it, shooting sporadically in all directions. It was a night of great madness with the institution’s gallant guards returning fire for fire.

The time was about 8:30pm, when not a few students were gathered in classrooms, burning the night fleece in readiness for their upcoming examination. By the time a semblance of sanity was restored, scores of the book worms had been detached from their pedagogic enterprise and whisked away to the forest. Kidnapped!

It was later discovered that while the attack lasted, all the Close Circuit Television CCTV cameras installed in the institution were disabled fuelling a strong suspicion of internal sabotage. Similarly, the closure of an auxiliary gate hampered the escape of the traumatised students.

A rescue team comprising hunters. vigilantes, policemen, Department of State Security, DSS, and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC personnel was immediately constituted. After many days of painstaking investigations, combing the bush and fierce gun battle with the outlaws, the state government announced the rescue of twenty-one of the victims. A police helicopter provided air surveillance in the operations. At the time of this report, an unspecified number was yet to be accounted for.

In the last few weeks, Kogi people have lost sleep over a gradual resurgence of criminality, resulting in a drift to anarchy in parts of the state. Some 48 hours before the Osara mayhem, gunmen, described as Fulani, invaded Ejiba market in Yagbawest Local Government Area, LGA. They abducted a popular trader in the community, Bukola Awo, and two others. The kidnappers have since made contact demanding a whopping. N20 million for their release. Many indigenes of the area have spent days in the custody of their tormentors.

On Friday, 17 May, gunmen reportedly killed two people in the same area. They were said to have been killed while travelling on the usually lonely Ogbe to Koro road. The fatality has thrown the two communities into mourning, deep ennui, and fear.

A few days after the Osara breach, hoodlums struck in Lokoja, the state capital. On Tuesday, 14 May, they traced a woman politician, Comfort Alege, to her residence around Old Poly quarters. As she got to her neighbourhood alighting from her car to open the gate, the bad guys swooped on her and violently forced her to an unknown destination. A video of the woman in which she was blindfolded and desperately making appeal for people to come to her rescue has surfaced on social media.

Agojeju Odo in Omala LGA, where communal clashes have claimed several lives, is the centre of insecurity in Kogi East. Commercial abductions are also rampant in different areas of the Senatorial district. Commuters have randomly fallen victim to the kidnappers.

Worried by the activities of non state actors, Governor Usman Ododo, who had at different times visited both flashpoints at Agojeju Odo and Osara, recently approved the allocation of more than 100 vehicles to security agencies in all parts of the state. The governor also visited President Bola Tinubu to solicit federal assistance in tackling the challenge.

Other vulnerable places

As the state and federal governments are thinking out of the box to ensure the safety of lives and properties, it may not be out of place to identify the areas that have suffered infractions of late. Residents or visitors to those places must not take things for granted: The places to watch are:

In the West Senatorial Zone, apart from the references made above, the Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba Road has often fallen to the control of kidnappers. Their favourite spots are Aiyegunle Igun, Alape, Oshokoshoko, Akpata, and Gada Biu. In a lesser proportion, there have been infractions between Ijagbe, Mopamuro LGA, and Ijowa, Yagba East LGA.

In the Central, people have been kidnapped on the ever busy Okene to Lokoja Road. Many have fallen victim around Mark Farm and Abobo village. Others were taken on the Checkpoint- Adogo-Ajaokuta road.

There have been pockets of kidnappings along the Ajaokuta-Itobe-Ochadamu Road in the East Senatorial Zone. Boarder communities in Olamaboro and Igalamela Odolu have also recorded shares in the challenge.

Police on top of the game

The Kogi State Command of the Nigeria Police Force says it is not unaware of the seeming resurgence and doing all within its reach not only to curtail it but also to bring perpetrators to book. William Ovye Aya, spokesman of the command, said they have arrested several suspects since the beginning of the year.
He explained that the nature of the resurgence is such that no area can validly be categorised as a flash point.

“There is no area of the state that we can say is prone to kidnapping because the nature of the crime is random. For instance, if it happens in point A today and we move in to turn the heat on them, they will run away to another point, and so on. So they don’t operate in the same area for long or regularly.”

Aya identified reluctance to volunteer information by victims as a major challenge faced by the police in the fight against kidnapping. He said often the hoodlums would instruct their victims not to report to the police threatening to kill them if they do so. He advised victims and family members to avail law enforcement agents with credible intelligence, adding that “we are not magicians.”

KGSG declares war with criminals

The state government says it is rising to the challenge of defeating criminality in whatever form it may take. Kingsley Fanwo, Commissioner for Information and Communication, linked the torrent of attacks to the war against terror in the North East.

“With the rescue of 21 out of the 24 Custech students kidnapped last week so far, the State Government made a clear statement that Kogi will be ruthless against criminals in the State. This morning, we also received the heart-warming report of the rescue of the Yagba West woman that was kidnapped and another woman from Yagba East Local Government Area. We are still searching frantically for the 3 remaining students yet to be rescued as every Kogite’s life is important to the government. We have also secured the release of scores of kidnapped victims who are not even Kogites but who were kidnapped in their various states and taken to the forests.

“The Governor also has approved the immediate employment of thousands of local hunters across the 21 Local Government Areas, with the immediate task of going after the criminals and taking the fight to their camps and hideouts, which is already yielding positive results.

“Also, the Joint Forces of the Army, Police, DSS, NSCDC, Metropolitan Response Squad and Hunters Group are currently carrying our simultaneous operations in Lokoja as well as across the three Senatorial Districts, including our border communities.

“Governor Ahmed Usman Ododo has silently declared war on criminals in the state and deploying resources and forces to ensure the enemies of our people are defeated. The governor also expresses profound gratitude to the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR for his support and encouragement to make Kogi a crime free state.

“We want to assure our people that the government is working hard to protect everyone and that the criminals are learning in a hard way that Kogi won’t be a ground for their criminal trade. The criminals are rattled, and they won’t escape justice.

“As the government puts everything into winning this war against criminality, we urge the citizens to also play their part by volunteering intelligence to security agencies for the effective security of our dear State.”

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