Kwara State, nestled in the North-Central region of Nigeria, has historically been synonymous with peace and tranquillity. However, recent years have seen a drastic transformation, as insecurity has taken root, with kidnappings becoming the new scourge. This investigative report delves deep into the rising kidnapping epidemic in Kwara State, examining its causes, effects, and the challenges faced by local communities.
The Surge of Kidnapping
Kidnapping has emerged as a grave concern in Kwara State, with criminal groups wreaking havoc on the lives of its residents. The perpetrators typically target victims for ransom, plunging families into agony and uncertainty.
Afrika Eyes discovered that a significant portion of the kidnappers plaguing Kwara State had been pushed out of the neighbouring southwest states by the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), known as Operation Amotekun. With the southwest no longer a haven for their criminal activities, these groups sought refuge in Kwara State, where they found an environment conducive to their illicit trade.
The Genesis of Insecurity
The catalyst for this surge in insecurity can be traced back to a series of events in late 2020 and early 2021. The crisis in Ibarapa, a neighbouring area in Oyo State, sparked an influx of criminal Fulani gangs into Kwara State. These criminal elements have ruthlessly attacked agrarian and pastoral communities, leaving a trail of terror in their wake.
One turning point was on January 22, 2021, when Yoruba rights activist Chief Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, launched an operation against Fulani herdsmen suspected of orchestrating kidnappings and killings in Igangan, Oyo State. Following this incident, SB Morgen Intelligence released a report in February 2022, stating that the North Central states, including Kwara, had witnessed a surge in violence perpetrated by organized armed groups. These criminal gangs, often of Fulani origin, merged with the existing local Fulani population, exacerbating the security crisis in the region.
Kwara South: A Kidnapping Hotspot
Owu Isin is located within the jurisdiction of Sin Local Government in Kwara State. The distance from Oke Onigbin to the southern border of Owu-Isin measures 12.0 kilometers. As I travelled along this route, there was an eerie silence, with no signs of cars coming or going. I couldn’t help but feel a bit apprehensive due to the history of kidnapping incidents on this road.
However, my inner resolve pushed me forward, and eventually, we reached Iwo Isin.
The night was marked by frigid weather and heavy rainfall. It happened to be a Friday night, and the clock read 9 p.m. when a group of suspected gunmen launched an attack on a filling station in the Sabaja area of Iwo Community, which falls under the Isin local government area of Kwara State.
Chief Saka Oladimeji, one of the deceased’s brother and the Elemosho of Sabaja, recounted to Afrika Eyes how Chief Adewuyi Raphael met his end by a stray bullet in his room.
He said as the assailants approached, Mr Adewuyi had turned on the lights in his room, presumably to identify them. However, they mistook his actions for a threat and opened fire. A bullet pierced his window, striking him at close range.
“That fateful night, we were preparing for a town meeting when the rain began. Mr. Raphael called the Bale (community leader), informing him that he couldn’t make it to his house due to the rain. We were gathered at the Bale’s house discussing when we suddenly heard gunshots. Recognizing the danger, we rushed inside the house for safety. In less than fifteen minutes, we received the news that Mr. Raphael had been killed.
“It was later revealed that he had been in his room, preparing to sleep when the attackers struck.
At the same time, they had gone to the filling station, abducting the station manager, a security guard, and a cleric from the Christ Apostolic Church (CAC). It was during the abduction that they shot Mr. Raphael, he said.
Afrika Eyes learned that by the time they reached Mr. Raphael’s residence, he had already succumbed to his injuries. Meanwhile, the incident occurred just three days after the kidnapping of one Mrs Rukayat Musa in the Oniyangi area along Emir’s road in Ilorin, Ilorin West Local Government Area, Kwara State. Her captors were demanding a ransom of N50 million for her release.
Furthermore, on Thursday, July 13, 2023, five people were kidnapped by gunmen in Isanlu Isin, within the Isin local government area of Kwara State.
The victims were abducted between Ijara Isin and Isanlu Isin amidst sporadic gunfire. Fortunately, they were later rescued from a forest near the locality through the collective efforts of local hunters, vigilantes, and law enforcement officers on Saturday night.
The Heroes of Kwara’s Defense
Afrika Eyes has learned that many successful foil attacks or kidnapping rescue missions are carried out by local vigilantes and hunters.
One such local hunter, Mr. Femi Bamidele, who played a crucial role in rescuing the abducted Christ Apostolic Church pastor and the station manager, shared his harrowing experience with Afrika Eyes.
“I was away from home that day, in a village called Iji when I received a call about kidnappers operating at the Sabaja filling station. I rushed to the scene and learned that some fellow hunters were already searching for the culprits. I took a motorcycle to join the search and noticed a distant light source deep in the bush. Unfortunately, we couldn’t pinpoint their exact location that night.
“The following day, we continued our search for the victims. We followed the traces of their footprints and the marks where they had dragged the abductees through the ground inside the bush. We crossed a river and reached a point where we noticed that they had pilfered maize from people’s farms. Despite our efforts, we couldn’t locate them, and fatigue set in.”
Mr Bamidele went on to explain that their search spanned three days in the dense bush. The kidnappers had targeted three persons, including a pastor who had just completed a 21-day crusade. He was kidnapped at the filling station while visiting his wife, who sold provisions there. The other victims were the station manager and a security guard.
“After a ransom of 5 million was paid, we managed to rescue two of the victims. Additionally, the kidnappers had taken 200 thousand naira from the station manager. Unfortunately, the third victim was killed after he revealed that he had no one to pay for his ransom.”
Challenges Faced by Local Hunters
He described the challenges faced by the hunters when confronting the kidnappers.
“If we had more advanced weapons, it might have been easier to apprehend them. Our local guns aren’t as potent as the firearms used by the kidnappers. We urgently need surveillance drones to track their movements and telescopes to locate them before they spot us. Walkie-talkies would also be invaluable; as of now, I rely on my personal phone network, which can be unreliable.”
Silencing the Victims
Mr Bamidele further revealed that the rescued victims were too afraid to speak with journalists because their abductors had warned them not to engage with the media.
The kidnappers had threatened that if they did, they would return to kidnap them once again.
Voices from Local Leaders
The Bale of Iwo in Isin Local Government of Kwara State, Alhaji Yusuf, shared his distressing experience with Afrika Eyes regarding the ransom paid to the kidnappers.
“We were in the midst of preparations for the Ileya festival when a sense of panic swept through the community. At about 9 pm, I received a call informing me that three persons had been kidnapped. Among the victims was an elderly man who had returned home from the festival. When the kidnappers passed by his window, he inquired about their identity, and in response, they opened fire on him through the window.”
Alhaji Yusuf revealed that one of the captured victims was a hunter responsible for guarding the Sabaja filling station, named Kazeem. The kidnappers demanded a staggering 20 million naira as ransom, prompting the community to rally together and contribute funds. He personally oversaw the handover of the ransom money to those selected to deliver it to the kidnappers, and the total amount collected was 5 million naira.
“We anxiously awaited the release of the three kidnap victims, but to our dismay, only two of them returned. We were informed that Kazeem had been killed by the kidnappers after they discovered his occupation as a hunter. They endured ten days in captivity before we could pay the ransom and secure the release of the two survivors. Tensions in the community remain high to this day.”
He went on to explain that one person was apprehended by local hunters and subsequently handed over to the Nigerian police. This captive eventually confessed that his gang had operated from Ijara-Isin.
However, much to their surprise, the two other suspects were released, reportedly due to a lack of formal statements being filed against them.
Alhaji Yusuf emphasized the need for government support in providing the necessary equipment to aid the activities of local hunters, facilitating swift action against kidnappers.
He also urged the state government to follow the example of other South West states by empowering the Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), commonly known as Amotekun, to enhance security in the region.
Iwo Odu-Ore, Silent Like A Desert
Afrika Eyes embarked on a journey to the remote community of Iwo Odu-Ore, where an unsettling silence seemed to permeate the surroundings. The road leading to the community was in a deplorable state, necessitating an hour-long motorcycle ride to reach Iwo Odu-Ore. Despite the fears stemming from previous reports of kidnappings in the area, the commitment to telling the story compelled the journey.
Upon arrival in Odu-Ore, Afrika Eyes had the opportunity to meet with the local Chief Security Officer of the community, Chief Mathew Afolabi Akanbi.
Chief Akanbi is the brother of one of the unfortunate victims who had fallen victim to kidnappers during the invasion of the nearby Isanlu community, where 20 people were abducted.
He recounted that the deceased was originally from Odu-Ore but had built a house in Oke Onigbin and operated an Islamic school. However, he and his students were kidnapped while travelling from Ijara to Isanlu-Isin.
According to him, “We waited for the abductors to make contact, but there was no sign of them. The following day, local vigilantes began searching for ways to rescue them.”
Chief Akanbi explained that when the vigilantes and local hunters entered the bush to rescue the victims, the kidnappers, upon spotting the rescue teams, opened fire and killed their captives. Realizing that they wouldn’t be able to secure a ransom from them and that the victims would soon be free, they chose to take their lives.
He went on to describe the profound impact of the deceased on the family and the community, highlighting the various projects and initiatives he had undertaken before his untimely demise. Unfortunately, no one had taken up the responsibility to continue these projects since his passing, he said.
Since the tragic incident, Chief Akanbi emphasized that the local hunters have remained dedicated to the security of the community, particularly in the Isin local government area.
However, he stressed the urgent need for government support in the form of weapons, ammunition, motorcycles, vehicles, and stipends.
“As hunters, we need better weapons to confront these criminals, as they possess sophisticated firearms compared to the local ones we currently use.
Chief Akanbi also discussed the positive impact that the community had experienced with the limited resources they used to purchase motorcycles and phones for the hunters, which have played a crucial role in securing the community and responding to emergencies when needed.
The Abduction of Sikiru Kola: A Targeted Attack
Sikiru Kola, a young businessman hailing from Jebba in the Moro local government area of Kwara State, became a victim of the kidnapping epidemic. On the night of Sunday, September 24, 2023, Sikiru’s life took a terrifying turn when three armed men stormed his residence, The assailants opened fire sporadically before invading his compound, leaving visible bullet holes in the walls of his home.
Afrika Eyes observed bullet holes in the walls of his compound, testifying to the violence of the attack.
Afrika Eyes travelled to Jebba town in Kwara to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr. Sikiru Kola’s kidnapping.
Initially, he hesitated to speak with Afrika Eyes, understandably traumatized by the ordeal. However, he eventually found the courage to recount the terrifying events.
In a trembling voice, Sikiru recounted the ordeal: “On Sunday, September 24, 2023, at about 10 pm, we had returned home while waiting for our business partner from Kano State. We called him around 9:30 pm, and he informed us that he was in Kaduna. I told him that it was too late to meet up that night and that we would come to pick him up the following day. As we reached the gate of my residence, my companion got out to open it. As I drove in, we were suddenly startled by the sound of a gunshot. The kidnappers, who were of Fulani descent, were armed with AK-47 rifles.”
Harrowing Days in Captivity
Sikiru went on to provide a chilling account of his ordeal, detailing how he was kidnapped on a Sunday and held captive until Tuesday. During his captivity, he and his companion were subjected to inhumane treatment, including a lack of food and communication barriers.
“They did not offer me anything to eat, and they all communicated in the Fulani language,” Sikiru recounted.
When the kidnappers initially abducted them, they inquired about SK’s identity. Sikiru and his companion initially tried to mislead them by claiming that SK was in Ilorin and not present at the scene.
However, the kidnappers were keen observers and identified Sikiru by a particular sign. They released his companion but intended to harm him. Sikiru had to plead with them to spare his companion’s life.
“We endured severe beatings and were struck with the butt of an AK-47 rifle. We spent the night in the bush because, on the day of the kidnapping, the kidnappers lost their way in the dense forest.
The Kidnappers’ Fatal Misstep
The presence of local vigilantes with their torchlights had disrupted their movement, prompting them to change their route,” Sikiru revealed, highlighting the perilous and terrifying circumstances they faced during their captivity.
He expressed immense gratitude that the kidnappers took them to a different location than the one they originally knew. It turned out that the gunmen were cautious about avoiding the vigilantes, and their decision to change their route inadvertently led to their getting lost.
Sikiru recognized this twist of fate as a fortunate turn of events and thanked God for their safety, as it likely played a crucial role in their eventual release.
A Courageous Escape
Sikiru continued his harrowing account of the ordeal, explaining that on Tuesday, after nearly three days in captivity, the kidnappers regained their bearings. When they reached a town where there were people, Sikiru decided to take matters into his own hands. He noticed that the kidnappers were receiving information from two individuals named Mallam Hassan and Magaji, who spoke the same language as the kidnappers.
Throughout their journey inside the bush, SK’s face had been covered, but he managed to shift it slightly at times to get an idea of their location. When they approached a town, Sikiru saw two young men but had doubts about their ability to rescue him, fearing they might run away in fear.
The kidnappers concealed their weapons and placed them beside Sikiru to avoid detection. He was sitting on a motorcycle behind one of the kidnappers while the second bike followed behind.
After trekking for more than 24 hours, Sikiru had not eaten anything, and neither had the kidnappers. They hadn’t even allowed him to pray, and they themselves did not pray. Instead, they resorted to stealing farm products like groundnuts from the local area to sustain themselves.
Upon reaching the town, Sikiru seized an opportunity to make a daring escape. He dragged the bike with the kidnappers into a pit and then managed to flee to save his life.
It was at this point that Sikiru encountered local vigilantes who arrested the kidnappers the following day and recovered all their belongings, including their phones. Sikiru was subsequently rescued by the vigilantes and the Nigerian Army, bringing an end to his terrifying abduction.
Mr Sikiru recounted the frightening details of the kidnappers’ ransom demands during his ordeal.
He said Initially, they had demanded a staggering sum of 50 to 100 million naira for his release. But if he failed to secure the ransom, their boss would raise the demand to an astronomical 300 million Naira
What made the situation even more unsettling was that the kidnappers did not make any efforts to reach out to Mr. Sikiru’s family during his captivity. The lack of communication left his family in the dark about his whereabouts and safety.
He further explained that the kidnappers used threats and intimidation, including brandishing their weapons, to instil fear and pressure them into compliance, making the situation even more terrifying for Mr. Sikiru and his companion.
The Ineffectiveness Of Law Enforcement
Mr Sikiru expressed deep disappointment with the actions, or rather the lack thereof, taken by the police to secure their release during his kidnapping. He reported that the police did not take any visible steps to rescue them, leaving him and his companion to rely on the efforts of local vigilantes for their rescue.
After being rescued and returning home, Mr Sikiru revealed that the police from Jebba still demanded money from him, presumably for fuel for their vehicles. It appeared that the government had not provided adequate resources for the police, and they were resorting to such practices.
He lamented the state of security in Nigeria, particularly in Kwara State, and the lack of support for those who were genuinely willing to protect the people, such as the vigilantes. According to Mr Sikiru, the vigilantes who rescued him were hesitant to hand him over to the Nigerian soldiers, as they suspected the soldiers might seek to take credit for the rescue.
In his view, the Nigeria Police did not contribute significantly to his freedom. Even the police officers who initially responded to his case at his house were not equipped with ammunition.
Mr. Sikiru urged the Kwara State government to take urgent and decisive action to address the issue of insecurity in the state and to provide the necessary equipment and support to empower the vigilantes.
He also revealed a disturbing incident where vehicles and motorcycles provided by the state government for the vigilantes in Moro Local Government were seized by the Transition Implementation Committee (TIC) and used to transport drinks for their wives.
The TIC allegedly threatened the vigilantes with legal action if they dared to inquire about the missing vehicles and motorcycles.
Philemon Jiya’s Terrifying Encounter
On Sunday, September 24, 2023, an unsettling incident unfolded during our charcoal business outing with my boss, who is an exporter. We were anticipating the arrival of someone from Kano, but when my boss called them, they informed him that they were in Kaduna. Realizing it was already night, my boss decided not to wait for them.
Around 10 pm, as we returned home, my boss handed me the gate key. As he drove into the compound, an unexpected and terrifying event occurred. Gunshots rang out; there were three intruders.
In the chaos that ensued, “I made a dash for where our car was parked, but the armed intruders trained their guns on us. They physically assaulted us while demanding to know who “SK” was. Both of us insisted we were working for SK, who lived in Ilorin.
“Sitting on the ground, they singled out one of us, touching his nose and threatening us if we didn’t reveal the truth. We maintained our claim that we were associated with SK.
“Subsequently, we were forced to march deep into the bush, enduring this ordeal for nearly three hours. At one point, two of the kidnappers debated whether to kill me, but one dissented, and we were ordered to continue walking.
“Eventually, we reached a location near Basita, where, at midnight, they instructed us to sit on the ground, pointing their guns at us, and ordered us to bow our heads. I pleaded beside my boss, begging for our lives. Two of the assailants left briefly while two others held guns, and one brandished a cutlass.
He told Afrika Eyes that after a tense 20 minutes, the two returnees pointed at his boss and confirmed that he was the SK they sought.
“They conversed in Fulani, directing us to stand up, as their vehicle had arrived to transport SK. One of them insisted on my release, handing me a flashlight and showing me the way home.
“Tearfully, I implored my boss to plead for my life. Eventually, one of the kidnappers relented, and they thoroughly checked me, confiscating my phone and belongings. They even made me remove my trousers to ensure I had nothing concealed. Finally, they instructed me to leave and not look back.
“That’s how I found my way home, following the beam of light I had been given, as I was unfamiliar with the route.”
Philemon, when recounting his harrowing experience with Afrika Eyes, shed light on the grave insecurity plaguing Kwara State and how kidnappers have turned it into a den of criminal activity.
He lamented, “No one is safe anymore; we are left defenceless, except for the local vigilantes who offer some semblance of protection due to their proximity.”
Philemon noted that when the incident occurred, the Focus Vigilantes were quick to respond, contrasting this with the police, who arrived ill-equipped.
He expressed doubts about the security provided by the police and called on the government to empower the vigilantes with modern weaponry, as their current arsenal paled in comparison to the kidnappers’ AK-47s.
He pointed out that the kidnappers were armed with deadly weapons while the vigilantes relied on rudimentary firearms, urging the government to provide them with vehicles, motorcycles, and walkie-talkies to enhance their ability to patrol the forests effectively.
Philemon also shared the lasting trauma from his experience, revealing that the fear still lingers, preventing him from sleeping alone at home.
Sikiru’s Father’s Anguish
Mr. Isiaka Alo Bosere, a man in his 60s, stood tall and dark in complexion. He recounted the harrowing night when gunmen came to abduct his son, Sikiru. The trauma of that night was etched into his memory as he showed Afrika Eyes the bullet hole in the wall left behind by the attackers.
It all began when Mr Isiaka received a distressing call from his son’s wife around 10 pm. She urgently requested his presence, informing him that Sikiru had been forcibly taken from his car.
Mr. Isiaka initially assumed that they were in Ilorin, but to his surprise, his daughter-in-law revealed that they were in Jebba.
“Upon arriving at Sikiru’s house, the distressing scene revealed the gravity of the situation. Sikiru’s siblings were already in tears. Learning that the kidnappers had taken both Sikiru and Philemon, I immediately contacted the local vigilantes from Jebba and Pako, who wasted no time in responding to the crisis. They ventured into the bush at midnight to begin the search.
“Subsequently, the vigilantes informed me that one of the captives had been released. The following day, they resumed their search for Sikiru who is still held by the kidnappers.
Mr. Isiaka expressed his disappointment with the Nigerian police, stating that they did nothing to secure his son’s release. Instead, the police demanded money from him to track Sikiru’s phone.
He described how one of Sikiru’s managers paid N50,000 to the police in Jebba to track his boss’s phone.
Despite the pressure, Mr. Isiaka refused to send any money to the police, even though they provided him with an account number for payment.
He recounted how, during their journey to Ilorin to follow up on the case, the police’s vehicle broke down, highlighting their lack of resources and preparation.
Mr. Isiaka urged the Nigerian government to prioritize and support local vigilantes because, in his view, the police have failed to protect citizens.
The traumatic experience left him unable to eat or sleep as he worried about his firstborn son, the only son he had. He questioned what the government provided as a dividend of democracy and good governance, reflecting on the emotional toll such incidents take on families and individuals.
The Terror in Alalubosa
On the morning of Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at about 6 a.m., Afrika Eyes received a distressing call reporting that suspected Fulani herdsmen had launched an attack on the community of Alalubosa. This incident had occurred the previous night at around 10 p.m., following Oko-Olowo, in the Asa local government area of Kwara State.
By 7 a.m., Afrika Eyes’ investigative team had arrived at Alalubosa and encountered a grim sight. There, at the scene of the incident, lay the lifeless body of one of the kidnappers.
The local vigilante team had successfully neutralized one of the suspected kidnappers, and the community was enveloped in an air of mourning and apprehension. Among the victims of this attack was AbdulRasheed Alafara, who had lost his life after being shot by the kidnappers.
In the midst of this sombre atmosphere, Semiat Mukaila, a young girl, had suffered a gunshot wound to her arm. Abdullahi Awe had sustained a broken leg from a blow with a gun butt, and Isiaq Abdullahi had narrowly escaped death, albeit with a gunshot wound to his shoulder.
The community had been shaken by this violent and senseless act, and the scars of the attack would likely linger in the hearts and minds of those affected for a long time to come.
Isiaq Abdullahi’s Narrow Escape
Isiak Abdullahi was one of the fortunate individuals who narrowly escaped death during a harrowing incident. He sustained a shoulder injury and recounted his near-death experience to Afrika Eyes, describing how he was struck by a stray bullet.
“The incident occurred around 10 pm while I was with my father, engaged in a discussion with my siblings. Suddenly, a gunshot rang out, and chaos erupted as shots were fired indiscriminately, compelling us to seek safety.
Some people who were enjoying the evening outdoors were also targeted, becoming victims of the gunfire.
He shared that three people were wounded, while tragically, another lost their life.
“Upon hearing the initial gunshot, I rushed outside to escape, but I was unfortunate to be hit by a stray bullet in my shoulder. Despite the injury, I managed to make my way to my brother’s house in the backyard to inform him of the unfolding crisis.
“He promptly called the police, who assured us they were on their way. However, they did not arrive, so we decided to contact the local vigilantes. Despite their limited resources and mobility, the vigilantes responded promptly and managed to neutralize one of the kidnappers.
Mr Abdullahi recalled that when he glanced through a window during the incident, he saw that there were six gunmen. He said the assailants had AK-47 rifles and continued to rain bullets upon the community for over 30 minutes.
He noted that although they had called the police at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, they only arrived the following day at about 10 a.m. Fortunately, the vigilantes were able to rescue his mother during the operation.
However, he urged the government to equip the local vigilantes with the necessary tools and resources to combat kidnappers and other criminals effectively.
Mr Abdullahi expressed his disappointment in the Nigerian police, emphasizing that without the vigilantes’ timely response, they might not have survived the ordeal or escaped kidnapping.
Community Leaders’ Pleas For Security
Imam Shuiab Olanrewaju, the chief Imam of Alalubosa community, also voiced concerns about the lack of security in Kwara state, particularly in Asa local government.
Upon receiving a call about the kidnapping incident at 10 pm, he rushed from Oko-Olowo to Alalubosa. However, the police advised them to contact the nearest vigilantes as they lacked transportation to reach the community.
The vigilantes, despite their own limited resources, managed to secure transportation and arrived at the scene to engage the kidnappers in a gunfight.
Imam Shuiab Olanrewaju elaborated on the vigilantes’ heroic efforts to protect the Magaji of Alalubosa, Mallam Isiak Ajao, and his wife from the kidnappers.
He urged the government to prioritize the state’s security, as it was clear that no one was safe. The police, despite multiple calls for help since the previous day, had only responded that morning, highlighting the pressing need for improved security measures.
Vigilantes Confronting Criminals
Muhammad Jamiu Hussan, a member of the anti-robbery vigilante group in Kwara State, recounted the events when they received a distress call at approximately 10:30 p.m. reporting the presence of kidnappers in the Alalubosa community.
“As soon as I received the call, I immediately contacted my fellow vigilantes to brief them about the situation unfolding in Alalubosa. Nearly six of us swiftly assembled, but the challenge we faced was our lack of mobility. We had to search for a bike to transport us to the community, and we ended up running to a nearby town called Aiye-labour to secure one.
“Upon reaching the vicinity of the community, we parked our bike, attempting to approach cautiously. However, the kidnappers spotted the bike’s light and reacted quickly by splitting into smaller groups and opening fire on us. In the ensuing firefight, we exchanged gunfire, and fortunately, we managed to neutralize one of the kidnappers.”
Challenges Faced by Vigilantes
Mr AbdulRazaq Agbayi, the state commandant for Focus Security in Kwara State, shed light on the daily challenges his team encounters while confronting criminals in remote areas. He emphasized the difficulties they face and how they have managed to address some of the criminal groups that have been causing distress in Moro Local Government.
“We earnestly call upon the state government to mobilize and equip our personnel with advanced weaponry that can match the sophistication of the weapons carried by these criminals. This is crucial in our efforts to effectively combat insecurity in the state, as the weapons at our disposal are currently outmatched by those used by the criminal elements.”
Mr Salihu Murtala, the commandant of Focus Security for Moro Local Government in Kwara State, was part of the team that successfully rescued Mr Sikiru Kola and Philemon Jiya, who had been kidnapped from SK’s residence in Jebba around 10 pm.
“When we arrived at the victim’s house, we observed bullet traces on the walls and inquired about the direction the kidnappers had taken. We later located and rescued one of the victims in the vicinity of Basite, where he provided information about the whereabouts of his boss.
Mr Murtala mentioned that they were able to track SK’s communication lines, which enabled them to pinpoint the victims’ location, ultimately leading to the rescue of one victim and the apprehension of three kidnappers.”
Kwara State Police Command’s Response to Insecurity
SP Okasanmi Ajayi, the spokesperson for the Kwara State Police, shared insights with Afrika Eyes regarding the security situation in the state and the progress made, particularly in addressing kidnapping and other crimes.
Ajayi emphasized that Kwara is traditionally known as the “State of Harmony,” and while challenges related to kidnapping and other crimes exist, they are not unique to Kwara alone. The police, as an institution, have been making concerted efforts to minimize these issues and maintain a secure environment.
He acknowledged that kidnapping cases, particularly in Kwara South, have been a concern. “This region shares borders with neighbouring states like Kogi, Ekiti, and Osun, and it features expansive forests that extend from Ifelodun to Zamfara and Kebbi states. These geographical factors facilitate the movement of kidnappers across state lines,” he said.
Ajayi highlighted that their investigations have revealed instances of collaboration between some local community members and criminals, who work together to carry out acts of terror and kidnapping, often taking victims into remote areas, which poses significant challenges for law enforcement.
To combat this, he explained that the police command has been collaborating with various stakeholders, including local vigilante groups and experienced hunters who possess intimate knowledge of the terrain.
Challenges Faced by the Police Force
Mr. Ajayi stressed that the complete eradication of crime is a challenging goal, especially when the police are operating with limited resources and equipment.
He noted that law enforcement officers are doing their best with the available resources to combat criminals.
He acknowledged the efforts made by both the state and federal governments, as well as the contributions of the local community, in supporting the police force.
However, he emphasized that there is a significant need for additional logistics to enhance their ability to carry out their duties effectively. One of the pressing issues he pointed out was the need for more police personnel.
According to him, the last recruitment of new officers took place almost 2 to 3 years ago, and since then, many police officers have retired, some have lost their lives in the line of duty, and others have become incapacitated due to the hazardous nature of their work.
Mr. Ajayi explained that these factors have impacted their ability to perform optimally. Despite these challenges, he said that the police command is making significant efforts with the resources at their disposal to arrest kidnappers and rescue victims, contributing to the maintenance of law and order in the state.
Response to Kidnapping and Ransom Payments
Mr Ajayi acknowledged that some families of kidnap victims, despite police advice to the contrary, have chosen to pay ransom money to secure the release of their loved ones. He recognized that these families are often motivated by fear for the safety of their abducted relatives.
Despite this, he said that law enforcement authorities do everything within their power to rescue all kidnap victims.
He shared a recent success story in which they rescued two abducted victims in Jebba and, with the assistance of other security agencies, intercepted three of the kidnappers. “These suspects are now in custody for further investigation.”
Mr Ajayi reiterated that the issue of kidnapping is not unique to Kwara State alone. However, he acknowledged that the cases in Kwara have gained attention because the type of crime was relatively uncommon in the state until recently. He attributed the increase in such incidents to the rapid development and evolution of Kwara State over the past decade or so.
“As the state continues to progress and attract diverse populations, security measures must be strengthened to ensure the safety of its residents. “
Mr Ajayi said the commitment of the police force to identify and apprehend criminals, stating that anyone involved in criminal activities would be arrested and prosecuted to maintain the security of the state.
Alalubosa Incident Response
Mr Ajayi provided insights into the incident that occurred in Alalubosa, where one person was killed and three were injured during a foiled attack by vigilantes.
He addressed the allegations made by Isiak Abdullahi that the Nigerian police failed to respond promptly when they called for assistance after the incident.
He explained that the proximity of Alalubosa to the police division was not well-known to them, and it took some time for them to pinpoint the location. When they received the report of the kidnapping, they immediately contacted all the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) in the area.
However, it was only in the early morning that they were able to ascertain the exact location of Alalubosa, which is situated between Alapa and Alapa Division. The distance and terrain played a role in the response time, as it took some time to reach the community.
Mr. Ajayi acknowledged that there might have been delays in police response due to the unfamiliarity of some DPOs with the location. Nevertheless, the Commissioner of Police issued a directive to locate the area and ensure that the kidnappers were apprehended. By the time they arrived at the scene, it was already in the early morning.
He further explained that besides the terrain, road conditions and logistics also posed challenges for a swift police response. Some of the vehicles used by the DPOs were not in good condition, affecting their ability to quickly reach the location.
Regarding the absence of comprehensive community data in their system, Mr. Ajayi noted that Nigeria has not reached the point where all data is centralized in one place.
However, he mentioned that the government is working on adopting a system that can provide such information at the touch of a button. He assured that the new Inspector General of Police is actively working to digitize the Nigerian Police and implement systems that can improve response times and information availability.
Mr. Ajayi highlighted the positive relationship between the Kwara State Police and local vigilantes and hunters.
He stressed that the success of many rescue operations and counter-kidnapping efforts relies on the support of these groups, as they have intimate knowledge of the terrain. He said the police actively encourage and work alongside them.
He also mentioned that the state government has provided vehicles to local vigilantes in different local government areas to assist them in their assignments, reflecting the collaborative efforts to enhance security in the state.
Analysis Of Data By SBM
SB Morgan, also known as SBM Intelligence, has provided alarming statistics revealing a distressing situation in Nigeria between July 2022 and June 2023. During this period, there were 582 kidnap-related incidents, resulting in the abduction of 3,620 victims. Kidnappers demanded a reported ransom of at least ₦5 billion, but the actual ransom payments amounted to ₦302 million.
However, this figure could be higher due to underreporting.
The mention of kidnappers opting for non-monetary ransoms, such as foodstuff, sheds light on the complex dynamics surrounding kidnappings in Nigeria. This practice reflects the multifaceted nature of ransom demands, which can go beyond traditional monetary payments.
In some regions, particularly the Northwest and Northcentral areas, there is a higher prevalence of in-kind ransom demands. This phenomenon may be influenced by several factors, including the widespread poverty in these regions. In areas where monetary resources are scarce, kidnappers may accept alternative forms of payment, such as food items, in exchange for the release of captives.
Furthermore, the mention of kidnappers requesting motorcycles as part of ransom payments underscores the adaptability of criminal groups in seeking valuable assets. Motorcycles are versatile and can be used for various purposes, including transportation and mobility. By demanding motorcycles, kidnappers may be aiming to secure assets that can enhance their operations or serve as valuable commodities.
These developments highlight the need for a multifaceted approach to addressing kidnapping issues in Nigeria, encompassing not only law enforcement and security measures but also broader socio-economic strategies to alleviate poverty and promote stability in affected regions.
This report is sponsored by Diaspora Radio International, in partnership with Civic Media Lab and Afrika Eyes.