Some residents of Lagos State under the aegis of The People’s Forum have advised the federal and state governments and suggested solutions to crimes, especially kidnappings, on Nigeria’s expressways, following recent kidnappings on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
In recent times, kidnappings have reportedly returned to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and this has become a cause for concern to commuters and residents of Lagos State.
On September 26, 2022, The PUNCH reported that officers of the Ogun State Police Command foiled a kidnap attempt on the Kara Bridge end of the expressway after a gun duel with the kidnappers, and a victim was rescued.
PUNCH Editorial in its November 7 publication noted that at the Ibadan, Oyo State end of the expressway, suspected Fulani bandits attacked travellers on October 27, abducting five persons and killing several others.
The report, referring to the expressway attack, stated that the daring gunmen repelled the police before killing those who resisted them and capturing several travellers whom they took into the forest.
Another report emerged on October 29 which stated how security agents foiled a kidnap attempt on the same expressway on Friday, October 28.
“The kidnap attempt occurred at Imolisa village and which is within the territory of Ogun State, although it is not far from Dominion University which is located within Oyo State. I was told that the security agents had travelled to Lagos Airport to pick up their boss and were returning when they ran into the incident. They were said to have exchanged fire with the criminals but eventually repelled them and chased them away before they could whisk away their targets,” the report quoted the Commandant of the Amotekun Corps in Oyo State, Col. Olayinka Olayanju (retd.), as saying.
In a follow-up report on the October 28 kidnapping, The PUNCH reported that a policeman was killed and another injured during the incident. “During the process of prevailing and preventing further chaos from what was evidently an abduction scenario, an officer attached to the command paid the supreme price with one other badly injured and presently responding to treatment,” the Oyo State Police spokesperson, Adewale Osifeso, was quoted as saying.
Further details emerged of how the abducted a student of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, alongside her graduate sister and an ex-deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof. Adigun Agbaje.
The report also highlighted the kidnap incidents that had taken place on the expressway from January 1, 2022.
On January 1, an Instagram user, @kashamadupeadelawal, posted “Our friend and brother were kidnapped in that same Oni-garri and shot dead inside the bush the next day,’’ He was reacting to a post by Nollywood actress, Bimpe Akintunde, who narrowly escaped being kidnapped on the route at the time.
On January 7, a commercial driver, identified as Oluwatosin Aruwajoye, was killed by kidnappers and five passengers were abducted. Their abductors later demanded N30m ransom from their family members.
On Sunday, January 17, seven wedding guests were kidnapped at the Isara-Remo end of the expressway.
One of the victims, Folahan Akinsola, narrated then that they were told to go and raise N15m each for the remaining four victims.
On August 9, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Gbenga Obaleye, wrote on Facebook that criminals kidnapped 20 persons along Kara Bridge. The police later dismissed the claim as a lie.
On August 16, a teenage student of a private university in Osun State, Ireoluwa Akinlaja, kidnapped along the expressway and later escaped from his captors at Ikorodu, Lagos.
On September 6, a photographer, Olabode Adekunle, narrated to Saturday Punch how he was abducted by teenage Fulani along the Long Bridge on the expressway.
Again, The PUNCH reported how kidnappers in military uniform attacked an 18-passenger bus on Tuesday, November 8, shooting commuters.
These reports and several others across the South-West and other parts of the country got members of The People’s Forum, a group domiciled in Ikorodu, Lagos State, and with membership from different walks of life, talking about possible solutions to these incessant kidnappings and crimes on Nigeria’s expressways.
Speaking to our correspondent, a member of the Forum and academic staff member of the Yaba College of Technology, Hassan Temidayo, fondly called Dee-One by members of the Forum, said there was a need for neighbouring governments of affected highways to set up a joint taskforce patrol.
Speaking specifically about the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway incidents, Dee-One said, “Joint taskforce patrol of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states” should be considered with “Operation no road block.” He said such should be “strictly patrol.”
He added that the local security outfits, including vigilantes, must be part of the joint taskforce because, according to him, they understood the terrains better.
Another member of the Forum, Dayo Osore, an engineer, said there was need for an increase in the presence of security agents on the expressway.
He added that another measure that the government could consider was to clear the bushes that could serve as hideouts for criminals on the highways.
“Intelligence gathering is, of course, a measure to consider as well,” he further said.
Osore further advised that governments in affected areas should increase the presence of security patrol, stationing patrol teams in about 20 minutes drive apart. He said the huge presence of security officers would keep kidnappers and other criminals off the highways.
Asked if the country had enough officers in its security apparatus for such a presence on highways across the nation, Osore suggested massive recruitments of security officers and called for more local security outfits to be grafted into a taskforce for highway patrols.
Another member, a retired teacher, Mrs Bisi Bello-Mustapha, said the states concerned should have a joint security taskforce to tackle the menace.
She added that the FG must intervene as a matter of urgency, while calling on traditional rulers in affected communities around the highways to cooperate with security operatives in the effort to rid the highways of crimes.
In his own contribution, Mr Ohi Obadan advised that technology (drones to track the criminals) should be deployed.
Obadan added that security agencies must intensify patrols on the highways.
He also said that constant clearing of bushes around the highways for clearer and proper views was necessary.
In addition, Obadan advised governments to organise, sensitise, engage and coordinate youths in the affected communities to be involved in intelligence gathering and security efforts.
He added, “Most importantly, commuters should be discerning enough to take responsibility for their personal safety.”
An information communication technology expert, Wasiu Sobona, said, “For Lagos-Ibadan (Expressway), community policing will solve the issue.
“Amotekun was designed to be ‘Agro-Rangers’ or farm patrols, so that’s their terrain.
“Provide them with the right surveillance system, like drones, and other intelligence gathering tools, and they’ll flush these boys out of that bush.
“I’ve seen the OPC (Oodua Peoples Congress) boys raid bushes to arrest these people.
“Then state governments should find a way to build trusts amongst the people so that when they see something, they could talk about it.”
Sobona said although there were communities, especially in parts of the South-East and the North, that would not say anything regardless of what they knew about the insecurity in their terrain because of the consequences that might follow from the criminal, governments still needed to build the required trust that would make locals feel free to share intelligence with them.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Adeboye Dankuwo, in his contribution highlighted some actions that must be taken to curb the menace of kidnappings on Nigeria’s expressways.
Dankuwo said, “We must know the numerical strength, firepower and specific locations of these people in and out of the forest. (The) use and deployment of local intelligence and drone can easily do this.
“Results gathered would be critically analysed, dissected and carefully concluded on.
“Their mode of operation should also be carefully understood.
“A covert but simultaneous operation should be launched on them with the involvement of the state security agencies.
“The operation should be so covert that no news media should be allowed to report it.
“They (the kidnappers) should be wasted once and for all and their cells taken over.”
The secretary of the Forum, Gbenga Odegbile, noted that security agencies needed to be proactive and more concerned about protecting the lives and properties of citizens and making the nation’s highways safe for commuters.
Odegbile advocated adequate and regular presence and patrol of well-equipped and combat-ready security agents on the highways.
He said it was important for governments to introduce security lights and modern technology such as drones, security breach alarms, and CCTV cameras, on expressways across the country.
He also called for synergy and collaboration with locals for first-hand information gathering.
Odegbile added that there was the need for the establishment of special forces trained in guerrilla warfare, saying that most of the terrorists perpetrating the crimes employed guerrilla tactics in their operations.
He also called for the proper equipping of security forces with modern and sophisticated weapons, adding that a robust life insurance policy should be put in place for the security officers.
He further stated that potholes and bad portions on highways should be immediately rehabilitated as criminals used those spots to carry out their attacks.
In addition, the Forum’s scribe advised that police booths/patrol vehicles should be built/stationed on the highways at a reasonable distance from one another.
He also advised travellers to avoid travelling at night, adding that they should always listen to news for updates on states of the roads.
The chairman of the Forum, Mr Adewale Gbadamosi, noted that kidnappers hide under the cover of thick forest and around failed portions of highways to operate, adding that they also hide under the cover of darkness on these highways to attack unsuspecting travellers, killing their victims who could not mobilise the huge ransoms often demanded.
Gbadamosi said solutions to the menace included provision of smooth road infrastructure across the length and breadth of the nation, especially on highways, by governments across all levels; lighting up of all the nation’s highways; deployment of technology, including drones and installation of CCTV cameras on the highways can also play a very big role if , CCTV cameras are installed on the highways monitored from a central station, coupled with regular police patrols.
He added that reviewing the nation’s laws on kidnapping and making kidnapping offence to attract death sentence would discourage potential kidnappers.
The convener of The People’s Forum, Wasiu Olowu, urged the federal and state governments to consider the suggested solutions given by members of the Forum and other well-meaning Nigerians and nip the menace of kidnappings on the bud once and for all.