Miners now hire private guards
Police, OPC, vigilantes brace up to tackle menace
BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
Residents of Osun State have expressed worries over the current resurgence of kidnappings for ransom after some periods of relief.
As witnessed in other parts of the country, the inhabitants of the state experienced pockets of abductions in the past. The victims were made to pay huge amounts of money as ransom to their abductors while the unlucky ones were killed as a result of their inability to pay.
The menace that died down several months after a long-drawn-battle between the security outfits and the bandits have since resurfaced.
Since June this year when an expatriate gold miner was kidnapped in the state, the residents had urged the state government and the security agencies to re-strategize with a view to forestalling a surge.
The foreign miner who was abducted by some armed bandits amid gunshots at a gold mine Iyere village, via Itagunmodi in Atakunmosa East Local Government Area was rescued by local hunters days after the victim got into the web of the kidnappers.
It was gathered that the bandits later contacted the relatives of their victim to demand for ransom. However, security sources disclosed that the expatriate was rescued without the payment of ransom.
On Friday, July 29, another gold miner named Musibau Adepoju and his driver were reportedly kidnapped by some gunmen along the Ilesa-Osogbo road shortly after leaving a gold mining site on the outskirts of Ilesa. The victims were said to have been whisked into the forest.
The kidnappers earlier demanded for a N100 Million ransom. But, according to the Police Public Relations Officer, Osun State Command, Mrs. Yemisi Opalola, the men of the underworld later reduced the ransom to N50 million.
Some associates of the victim (Adepoju) told The Point that the gold miner was eventually freed after paying N20 million ransom.
Checks by The Point revealed that the recent attacks by abductors were being targeted mostly at foreign gold miners in the state. Most of the gold miners now move about with retinues of private security guards in order to check the incessant attacks.
Meanwhile, security experts and other stakeholders in the state have called for concerted efforts in a bid to nip the trend in the bud.
Akin Adeyi, a security expert, urged the residents of the state to always be cautious, especially when embarking on a journey, stating that “It’s really disturbing that the news of kidnapping has come to the fore in our dear state. The earlier the people started taking security measures the better. Our security agencies should do the needful to flush the criminals out.”
Another security expert, Jackson Lekan Ojo, warned that the last kidnapping incident that was reported in the state might be a pointer to a more serious security threat, saying that all hands must be on deck to boost security the architecture in Osun.
Ojo noted that the police were grossly overwhelmed with little to offer in terms of crime fighting and prevention. He reiterated that the state government should commit more funds to activating local security operatives such as the hunters, the Agbekoya and the Oodua People’s Congress.
He said, “It is a pity that we handle security issues with levity in Nigeria. Insecurity is a global phenomenon but we must be prepared to prevent it in our various localities.
“The criminal activities in the northern part of the country are gradually creeping into the South-West. It is already happening in Ondo and there is now a flash of that in Osun State. We should know that what happened in Ondo State might happen in other South-West states.
“If this issue of kidnapping is not nipped in the bud, it would spread like wildfire. Osun people should wake up and secure their state.
There is a threat on the ground.
“When you look at the activities of terrorists and bandits in Nigeria, I think the police and the army are already overwhelmed. People have been clamouring for the creation of state police. The state police can be there without uniform. What do I mean? The hunters, Agbekoya and others should be empowered. The state government should start funding them.
“They said every criminality is local. People need to be sensitised seriously in Osun State. The government should bring all the hunters in each of the villages and communities together. The governor should have meetings with them, including the military and the paramilitary. They should work together. Even if what they will do is to give an intelligence report alone to the government security forces, I think it would be helpful.”
It was gathered that security outfits in the state were already strategizing in a bid to curtail the surge in crime with special reference to prevention of kidnapping.
The Osun State Police Command has said that it would do all within its reach to curb kidnapping and other forms of crime in the state.
Opalola said, “The police are disturbed by the kidnapping of the miner and his driver. It has been a long time since we had such an occurrence.
“You will observe that kidnaping is happening in areas where mining is taking place. One major problem is that there are lots of private security operatives there. Some miners engaged the services of private security men without the consent of the police.
“If we challenge anybody with arms or other things in our regular patrol, they would tell us that they are private security employed by the miners. This has been making it difficult for the police to isolate criminals. That is why the kidnappers have their ways there.
“Notwithstanding, we have intensified efforts in securing the entire state and especially Ijesaland where mining activities are taking place.”
Opalola urged gold miners to always relate with the state command on security issues.
The Commander General of the Harmonized Vigilante Group in the state, Ridwan Hussein, also faulted the engagement of private security operatives by the miners, saying, there are many unknown private security operatives in the mining areas. This, he said, made things difficult for the local security operatives who are familiar with the terrain.
Cautioning farmers against what he called the arbitrary release of their land to miners, Hussein said, “The last time we had an issue of kidnapping was last year in Ibokun. Ever since, Osun has been at peace. But, the last kidnapping case buttresses the fact that mining activities in Ijesaland are a threat to the security of the state. All the kidnap cases that we have (in Osun in recent times) are in the mining areas.
“Big miners and their sponsors are the targets of the kidnappers. And, these targets are vulnerable because the informants of the kidnappers are close to them. They engage the services of private security operatives who do not know the terrain.
“We have to warn our farmers from releasing their farmlands to miners arbitrarily. It is evident that the kidnappers have infiltrated these mining communities. But, we will make sure that we fortify those communities and secure our people (from attacks). Osun will not return to the notorious era of kidnaping.”
Hussein dismissed the insinuation that Fulanis were responsible for kidnapping activities in the state.
He said, “I want to urge our people to desist from giving diversionary information. What do I mean? Our people are fond of saying that Fulanis were responsible for kidnappings.
“From experience, we have observed that there are also the Yorubas in the kidnapping rings. People should be factual and give accurate information.”
Deji Aladesawe, Chairman of Oodua People’s Congress (Gani Adams’ faction in Osun), accused the South-West governors of paying mere lip-services to security issues in the region.
According to Aladesawe, it is unfortunate that kidnapping took place in Osun few days after the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, raised the alarm that forests in the South-West had been infiltrated by the Fulanis.
He said that Osun, like any other state in the region, is vulnerable to attacks. “Kidnapping is happening in areas where we have mining activities in Osun. There are lots of steps that the OPC would have taken but we don’t have power to do that.
“Our forests need to be fortified. We are ready to combat criminals. All we need is the support of the government. With this, I want to assure our people that there would no longer be kidnapping in Osun again.”