THE security challenge facing the country has continued to generate interest from stakeholders. They are worried because it is no longer safe to travel around the country by road. Even the high and mighty that move about with security details are not spared. From the south to the north, no part of the country is spared.
In the Southwest geo-political zone, some prominent persons have been kidnapped; some have lost their lives in the process. Among such is Chief Olu Falae, who was abducted from his farm in Ondo State by herdsmen. He secured his release after paying an undisclosed amount as ransom.
A lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Olayinka Adegbehingbe, was also abducted. Like Falae, he was released after ransom was paid to his abductors. Mrs Olafunke Olakunrin, the daughter of Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, was not so lucky; she was killed between Ore and Benin Expressway. Her death drew knocks from the high and low, who remarked that the country was fast becoming a banana republic.
This had led some Nigerians from the Southwest to relocate from their rural community to urban locales, for the fear of being kidnapped. For instance, former Minister of Transport Ebenezer Babatope of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) confessed at a function in Lagos that he is on self-exile in the Centre of Excellence, where he believes some level of security is guaranteed.
Babatope said it has become unbearable to lead a meaningful life in the Southwest region particularly and the country in general. In the light of this, stakeholders from the Southwest are not relenting in their effort to secure the region, by ensuring that lives and properties are no longer wasted. One of the gatherings aimed at finding solution to the problem was convened under the auspices of the Development Agenda for the Western Nigeria (DAWN). At the summit put together to address the rising cases of kidnapping and other security breaches in the region, governors from the region urged stakeholders to find ways to end the escalating insecurity that was causing residents sleepless nights.
The Director General of DAWN, Seye Oyedele, said the commission was worried about robberies, abduction on roads and the highways. The governors were not comfortable with the development, which was attributed to herdsmen.
The governors were at the receiving end during the summit, for their inability to put an end to the menace. The summiteers therefore prevailed on them to ensure that the Southwest remains a safety haven for its people.
Oyedele said: “DAWN commission supports all efforts by state and federal authorities and the international community to ensure the protection of people of the areas and appeal to relevant authorities not to relent in their efforts at ensuring that perpetrators and those directly or indirectly responsible are held responsible.
“It also appeals to the general public that, contrary to the alarmist, exaggerated and sometimes misrepresented of fact by mischievous elements on the social media and other fora, western Nigeria largely remains peaceful, safe and welcoming to law abiding people.”
The position of DAWN notwithstanding, the Yoruba social cultural group, Afenifere, condemned Southwest governors for saying that herdsmen were not responsible for the incessant killings.
The governors had indicated that it would amount to jumping to conclusion to hold herdsmen responsible for the rising incident of kidnapping in the region. Investigation revealed that some local elements were collaborators in the unfolding drama.
Afenifere Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, said the DAWN commission’s report represented the views of “our governors in the midst of the monumental tragedy that has befallen our people in the hands of invading marauders”.
He added: “The Afenifere welcomes the decision of the Southwest governors to do something over the siege on Yorubaland by herdsmen and militia. The situation had degenerated to the point that our people are now afraid to travel on the roads in the zone as their safety cannot be guaranteed.”
Traditional rulers are not left out of the search to end the festering security malady. The Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, said every right step would be taken to chase away ‘bad herdsmen’ in the region. He said it was no longer feasible to allow a gang of terror masquerading as herdsmen to hold the region to ransom.
The Ooni while playing host the Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Muhammed Dantoro, said the attack on Yoruba nation was alien. He saod the Yoruba and herdsmen had lived together for centuries without any threat. He wondered why some criminal elements who were bent in fomenting trouble hijacked the smooth relationship to inflict pains on the people of the region.
Oba Ogunwusi said: “We keep hammering on the herdsmen trying to take over everywhere, it is the bad ones that we want to kick out and enough is enough. We will kick them out and do justice to the peace and peaceful coexistence in our country. We have to separate the corn from the chaff.
“We want our country to be prosperous in peaceful coexistence; we do not want people to live in fear and that is the reason why we are trying to connect to one another as traditional rulers to find lasting solution to this criminality. We must join hands together to end this crimes being perpetrated by enemies of Nigeria.”
Various leaders have expressed their disenchantment about the killings and kidnapping in the land. Some of them had threatened to retaliate in the same measure the misguided herdsmen moving about with AK 47 plundering farmlands and destroying wealth that is supposed to enrich the region.
Observers say the economic implication of herdsmen allowing their cattle to destroy farms indiscriminately would not go without dire consequences. They are of the opinion that the farmers and herders must live side by side without undermining each other’s means of livelihood.
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Aare Gani Adams, warned that those making peace impossible would face the music. He threatened to deal with violent herdsmen in the Southwest, if they continue to behave as if they were above the law.
He said the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) was ready to partner with the police to provide security to the people, noting that the body was capable of securing the region.
He added that the best way to get people to do the job of local policing was to engage youths at the grassroots to assist government in doing some of the job that it is almost finding difficult to provide.
Observers say this boils down to the fact that the centrally-controlled police has failed to live up to its responsibility of securing the people and that it is high time the framework for community policing was introduced in the country’s constitution.
Adams urged the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), represented by his Chief of Staff, Mr. Jude Nwankor, to rise up to the occasion. He said: “The security situation is becoming worrisome; cases of killings, kidnappings, raping and banditry is growing out of proportion. The Inspector General of Police must be given the support to make his task less cumbersome.”
Reacting, Nwankor said the police would put every measure in place to ensure that peace and security return to the Southwest and other regions in the country. He said: “We are happy to relate with you as a prominent voice in Yoruba land. We know there is no way we can secure the grassroots without local intelligence. The IGP has indicated interest in seeking your assistance and support.
“That is why we are here to tell you that the police as an institution are ready to partner with you. Nigeria will be made safe for everybody to go about his or her legitimate livelihood.”
As part of the measures to secure the region from the wicked machination of criminals, residents have been warned not to house those they do not know. For instance, in Ogun State, Governor Dapo Abiodun warned that any landlord who harbours criminals in their premises would face the law.
He said government would demolish buildings that are being used as hideouts. This measure, observers say, will check crime. They said if criminals do not have where to keep their heads they would leave the state or abandon the act completely.
The governor, who gave the warning during the state presentation of the 2020 budget, noted that other governors in the region agreed that a joint patrol by the security apparatus would be instituted.
Governor Abiodun said no serious investor would be willing to commit funds in the area where they were not sure of the security of their lives and investments. He said an amended Security Trust Fund would be forwarded to the Ogun State House of Assembly that will provide stiff punishment for those who constitute nuisance in the state.
Ekiti State indigenes resident in Lagos have forwarded a petition to Governor Kayode Fayemi on the worsening security situation. They urged him to rise up to the occasion, by restoring peace and order in the state.
The President of Ekitiparapo, Lagos branch, Mr. Dare Ojo, said indigenes travelling to Ekiti do it in fear. The group set up a seven-man committee to review the situation and make recommendations to the governor.
He noted that the act of kidnapping was done with the collaboration of some indigenes who disguise as herdsmen to kidnap people from their homes.
Ojo said the kidnappers target parents of influential children who are in position to pay the ransom they demand.
He said: “We have observed that the forest reserves have become the hideout and the operational base for the kidnappers and armed robbers. The old practice of patrolling and monitoring by forest guards appeared to have been abandoned.
“There should be a way of creating synergy between neighbouring states and this would no doubt strengthen the security of the area at the external level. The state should endeavour to ensure that all land owners are known.”
Ojo advised communities to keep a register of its people, noting that newcomers to the community must ensure that they are properly introduced to the traditional head of the community.
He said: “Our Kabiyesi and royal fathers should be mobilised by the state government and be encouraged to explore traditional methods and strategies, which had been found to be very potent in curtailing security failure.
“A situation where some indigenes collaborate with outsiders to kidnap aged parents of the affluence is no longer tolerable. We therefore solicit your support to be vigilant, particularly in areas where we share boundaries with other states, where some of the miscreants pass into our state.”