Growing concern over banditry in Nasarawa State

  • Fear grips govt officials, elites over latest kidnap, embrace security tips
  • Agency raise alarm over recruitment of child soldiers
  • Police deny claim

By Victoria Ikeano

Residents of Nasarawa state have expressed concerns over increasing banditry in the state, the latest of which was kidnap of the State’s Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Hon. Yakubu Lawal and killing of a secondary school teacher. Both happened in Nasarawa Eggon. Lawal’s abductors had asked for an initial ransom of N100 million. He spent five days in captivity before being released.The Nasarawa Police Command insist that no ransom was paid. A distraught Lawal has been narrating his ugly experience to family members and associates. According to the residents, Lawal’s kidnap received media blitz because of his high profile status, adding that there were other abduction cases that were  reported and received less attention.

Notable kidnap victims in recent years include, chairman of keffi local government who lost his orderly in the process; a retired permanent secretary and member of the National Assembly Service Commission whose abduction came barely a week after that of Keffi local government boss. Varying amounts were allegedly paid for both men’s release; Immigration officer nephew of former Information Minister, Labaran Maku, the victim’s corpse was later found in a bush; a staff of Federal University, Lafia who was  later rescued; failed kidnap of chief of staff to Emir of Lafia, HRM retired Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad 1. Former Nasarawa state APC chairman,  Chief Phillip Shekwo had been assassinated in his Lafia home.

Governor Abdullahi Sule  had cried out over activities of Ansaru criminal sect in the Nasarawa and Toto local government areas that share boundary with Kogi State. His ‘save our soul’ (SOS) message to the presidency led to setting up of a military camp in that axis that eventually flushed the terror sect from those areas, giving residents there some respite. Not long ago the governor again raised an alarm that Book haram terrorists running from military bombardment in the north east and bandits fleeing the north west zone were identified in Karu, Wamba and Toto local government areas. At an emergency security council meeting some four weeks ago, Governor Sule confirmed that influx of suspected bandits into the state  has resulted to increased kidnap cases over the last two months; just as Commissioner of Police Adesina Soyemi promised increased police surveillance of all 13 local government areas.

Recall that some parts of Niger State, a state that borders the federal capital territory (FCT), like Nasarawa state, had reportedly been overrun by bandits, just as its governor, Abubakar Bello had warned that they were inching their way to Abuja. The recent ambush and killing of five soldiers of the elite Brigade of Guards on routine patrol in the FCT shocked residents of Abuja and surrounding states. Consequently, the Nasarawa state government ordered immediate closure of all schools, one week before they were due to proceed on long vacation. Education Commissioner, Hajia Fati Jimeta said that it was a preemptive measure. Weeks later, the government rolled out additional security measures, chief among which is ban on motorcycle and tricycle operations from 8p.m. to 6a.m. and 10p.m. to 6a.m. respectively. A 10p.m. to 6a.m. curfew had also been imposed on Karu local government area.

Nasarawa state director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Mrs. Priscilla  Gondoaluor alleged during an advocacy visit to a private radio station in Lafia, the state capital, that bandits were recruiting child soldiers in Nasarawa state. She urged the state government to step up its public enlightenment organs to educate the citizenry on the dangers of being lured by bandits into their nefarious activities. When contacted on this allegation, Nasarawa state Police Command’s Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Ramhan Nansel, told this correspondent, “We don’t know where they got their information from.  They should shed more light on that”. Efforts to get across to the NOA State Director for further information was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile Danlami Idris, Chairman of Nasarawa Eggon local government from where Commissioner Lawal was kidnapped sought to calm nerves. In a statement, he said, “In recent times some criminals have refused to allow the good and innocent people of Nasarawa Eggon local government to go about their farming and other economic activities. These criminal elements have succeeded in instilling fears on our people who go about their lawful businesses by abducting them for ransom. As we are all aware, security challenges are not peculiar to Nasarawa Eggon local government as such it is totally unacceptable by the APC administration under my watch as the chief security officer of the council. On this note, in collaboration with security agencies, we have since deployed all the necessary security measures to ensure security of lives and property of our people. I wish to re-assure the people of Nasarawa Eggon local government that we are on top of the situation to curtail the ugly security challenges in the area. I, hereby call on you all to be vigilant and report any clandestine movement to the security for prompt action”.

Narrating how the Information Commissioner was abducted from his home in Nasarawa Eggon, the state’s Police Commissioner, CP Soyemi speaking through the Public Relations  Officer, DSP Nansel said that policemen on routine patrol were attracted to sporadic gunshots in the area at 20.45 hrs. “Consequently, Police operatives attached to Nasarawa Eggon Division raced to the scene while the  I immediately reinforced the men with a combined detachment of the Police Mobile Force, the Anti kidnapping unit, Military personnel, Vigilante as well as local hunters. Upon arrival at the scene, it was discovered that unknown gunmen while shooting sporadically,  invaded the residence of one Hon. Yakubu Lawal Addah,  forcefully abducted him to an unknown destination”. The team then  launched a Search and Rescue operation  led by Skwanga Area Commander,  ACP Halliru Aliyu. He was released five days later.

In his reaction Governor Sule strongly condemned the act, stating that his administration has zero tolerance for crime and criminality and vowing to bring the full weight of the law on perpetrators.  Senior government officials and politically exposed persons, etc., have reviewed their personal security. They are embracing security tips as  alternating  the places they pass the night, among others.

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