Anxiety as banditry, killings return after 2023 general polls

general elections

Benue, Lagos, Nasarawa, Zamfara, others affected


Palpable fear pervades the entire horizon as renewed incidents of banditry, kidnappings, killings take centre-stage after a ‘cease-fire’ noticed in Nigeria ahead of the general elections in February and March.

This new development has left many Nigerians in confusion. For instance in the past 10 days, the news outlets are awash with stories of criminality, some with chilling accounts in terms of fatality. From Benue, to Nasarawa, to Zamfara, Lagos, Edo and Kaduna, it has been one story of criminality after another.

Friday morning, witnessed high caliber abduction in Nasarawa when a former deputy governor was kidnapped, while in Zamfara reports of mass abduction of children numbering over 60 pervaded the media space barely 72 hours to Easter celebration. No fewer than 52 people, including three policemen were reportedly killed, while scores were injured in different attacks by the armed bandits in Benue, Lagos and Edo states in the last 24 hours.

In Edo, gunmen within the week, killed three policemen and injured the fourth person near the Agor Market, along the Igarra-Auchi Road in Edo State. It was gathered that the officers were returning to their duty post when the unfortunate incident happened. One of the assailants died of gunshots while another sustained gunshot wounds and was taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment and interrogation, while six rifles were recovered from them.

It was gathered that the incident happened between 5:30 and 6am, close to the popular Agor Market where the mobile policemen usually mount roadblock. It was also learnt that they established the checkpoint because of the activities of kidnappers in the area, who comb the farm settlements in that area, kidnapping and collecting ransom from hapless farmers.

While the policemen were driving in their car, another of their colleague was riding on a motorbike following the vehicle when the assailants, who apparently laid ambush, opened fire on them, but the one on bike was said to have engaged the assailants who fled into the bush with the four rifles of the policemen after killing them.

It was gathered that men of the vigilance, who were called for reinforcement, later combed the bush and traced the assailants to their hideout and recovered the four police rifles and another two belonging to the attackers.

Head of the vigilance group in the area, Ibukun Dogo, said: “I got a call from the DPO around 6am that his men were attacked, and we quickly mobilised to the place and saw the lifeless bodies of the three officers.

“We saw blood markings on the ground into the bush, and we trailed that blood stains to a hideout of the suspects where we met two of them with gunshot injuries, one died from the gunshots while the other was taken away by the police to the hospital.

“We recovered the four police rifles and additional two in the area we found them. The suspect said they are from Okenne in Kogi State, but we don’t know their mission, whether it is armed robbery or kidnapping they wanted to use the arms and ammunition for.” Edo State Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, said the command was yet to get the details of what happened.

In Lagos, the police confirmed that three people were killed by unknown gunmen in the Gowon Estate, Ipaja area of the state. The command’s spokesperson, Benjamin Hundeyin, who confirmed the incident yesterday, said the incident happened on Wednesday, at about 11.35pm. He said the Gowon Estate Police Division received a call from the Naval Block of the estate that some people were shot by unknown gunmen on 41 Road, Union Bank Block in the estate. The image maker said two patrol teams immediately moved to the scene.

Hundeyin said at the scene, the police officers were told that the victims had been rushed to the Igando General Hospital. While at the scene of shooting, the police recovered nine expended cartridges and a bunch of keys.

“At Igando General Hospital, one unknown male body was recovered and evacuated to the Mainland General Hospital, Yaba, for preservation and autopsy. Further information given to the police revealed that two male bodies were taken away by their families. One male survivor, Doba Ngoze, is currently on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba,” he said.

The spokesperson said investigations into the case were already ongoing.

In Benue, for the second time in 24 hours, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen militia attacked the Umuogidi community in Otukpo Local Government Area (LGA) of the state, this time, killing 46 people, including a policeman.

As of the time of filing this report, the police said eight dead bodies had been recovered, including that of a police officer. It was gathered that the incident happened on Wednesday evening.

Three people were killed in the same community on Tuesday, March 3, 2023, bringing the number of those killed to 49 in 24 hours. A source from the community told newsmen that while the villagers were burying the three people killed earlier, the gunmen invaded the village, again, and started shooting sporadically.

Chairman, Otukpo LGA, Bako Ejeh, said his son, in-law and nephew were all killed during the attack.

“The Fulani herdsmen invaded the village again, at about 4:15pm yesterday, and killed 46 people, including my own son. We just buried him and some other people are still missing. We don’t know their whereabouts. My immediate younger sister, the same mother and father, her husband, and her second son of about 38 years old were killed.”

Special Adviser to Governor Samuel Ortom on Security Matters, Lt. Col. Paul Hemba (retd) also confirmed the attack and said 46 bodies had been recovered while more could have been killed, as some members of the community were not yet found.

Hemba said: “Yes, that is what happened. I can confirm to you that there was an attack in Umogidi, and as of this morning, the casualty figure from those who were seen physically from what I was told was 46, and other people are still missing, so the figure could rise higher than that. The unfortunate thing is the local government chairman is from that community and his 33-year-old son is also a victim. It’s a very tragic and painful incident.”

While stating that the herdsmen have consistently attacked that axis from Apa and Agatu LGAs in the last one month without provocations, Hemba said, “sometimes they cause a lot of destruction, damages to property and even to farmers in the area.” He noted that the place was a bit calm at the time of this report, as police and soldiers had been deployed there to restore normalcy.

“I spoke to the Brigade Commander, 401 Special Forces Brigade, he sent soldiers and they are there. So the security situation, for now, is calm,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Benue State Police Command also confirmed the attack and said eight people were killed. The Police Public Relations Officer, Catherine Anene, in a message, said: “Attack on Umogidi community confirmed. Eight bodies recovered, including a police officer. More police teams have been deployed to the area to forestall further breakdown of law and order.

Although, there were reports of attacks in Kaduna State, the state government has denied it happened in the state. The Kaduna State Government says stories of kidnapping on the Abuja-Kaduna road are false and misleading.The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr Samuel Aruwan, debunked the story in a statement issued on Friday in Kaduna.

Aruwan said a report alleging that bandits kidnapped scores of citizens on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway is false and misleading, as no such incident occurred on the highway which straddles five Local Government Areas (LGAs) across Kaduna and Niger states.

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“An excerpt from the inaccurate report with the headline ‘Bandits Abduct Travellers On Abuja-Kaduna Highway’ reads:

“Scores of travellers were abducted after bandits opened fire on motorists in Iche community, some few kilometres away from Kagarko town, along the Abuja-Kaduna highway.”

He said contrary to the story, reports received from security agencies and the Kagarko Local Government Council indicated that armed men barricaded the Gwaje village axis of the Kagarko-Jere Road on Wednesday, April 5, and kidnapped an unspecified number of occupants from two vehicles, a Volkswagen Golf Wagon, (Reg No. LGT 228 XA) and Volkswagen Passat (Reg No. FSK 556 AV).

“The vehicles were subsequently found empty,” he said.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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