Violent crimes seize Edo’s jugular
Penultimate week was that of horror in Edo State, with gruesome killings and violent kidnappings, which could adversely affect the business climate, as well as the psyche of the average resident of the state.
Within the week under review, a professor in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Benin, Prof. Paul Otasowie, was gunned down by gunmen, whose mission is yet to be ascertained, as they did not remove anything from him. Otasowie was said to have been shot around his house in the Siluko area of Oredo Local Council.
There are conflicting reports of how the university don was assassinated, but one of the versions has it that he was shot as he came down the staircase of his storey building, while another says he was killed shortly after he drove into the premises.The don’s murder came less than 24 hours after a music icon, Osayomore Joseph, was kidnapped and his wife shot, while the Managing Director of Ogba Zoo, Andy Ehanire, who was earlier kidnapped is still in the custody of his abductors.
Ehanire was whisked away by his abductors, who also killed three policemen that were on routine guard at the recreational facilities.Few days before Ehanire’s kidnap, the Parish Priest of St. Benedict Church, Iddo 2, Okpella, Auchi Diocese, Rev. Father Lawrence Adorolo, was abducted along Auchi-Okene Highway, at about 6pm while returning from Igarra, in Akoko-Edo Local Council, where he attended the “Month Mind” of the oldest priest of the Auchi Diocese, the late Rev. Father Lawrence Balogun, at St. John Apostolic Church, Igarra. He was later released.
At the time of this report, it was rumoured that Joseph’s abductors had opened negotiations with his family and were demanding for a ransom of N200m, while the police spokesperson in the state, Moses Nkombe, told The Guardian that Ehanire’s abductors have also opened talks with his wife. “We are closing in on them, but these suspects are also very sensitive to what is happening, so, we don’t talk much on what we are doing so that we will not jeopardise the lives of the victims. But I can assure you that we are working on them.”
Nkombe also told journalists that three suspects have been arrested in connection with the university teacher’s murder. He disclosed that it was a neighbour of the dead lecturer who alerted the police about the killing, adding that nothing was removed from him after the incident.Other than these abductions and killings, the state capital has become unsafe in recent times, with reported cases of robberies and other violent crimes including cult-related killings.
Robbery incidents have been reported in various parts of the state capital particularly, Ekenwan, Upper Sakpoba, Siluko and some parts of Airport Road, with some of these robberies happening by 6.30 pm when it is barely dark.Security agencies, particularly the police are yet to get answers to this negative development, even as various interest groups are calling on the state governor to step up efforts to secure the state.
As this ugly situation persists, various civil society groups, student bodies, traditional institutions and even politicians are expressing concerns over the development.This, perhaps, led to the protest embarked upon by indigenes of the state, resident in Abuja, last Monday, to express their sadness over increasing violent crimes in their home state.
The placards wielding protesters marched to the National Assembly, and the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters- Louis Edet House, where they demanded the immediate redeployment of the state Commissioner of Police, Haliru Gwandu.Leader of the protest, Henry Okpamen, told The Guardian on phone: “We gathered to share our pains on the worsening security situation in our state with Mr. President; President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
He said they demanded an apology from the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for not doing enough to address the worsening security situation in the state.
“In March this year, a former local government chairman, Mr. Suleiman Malik-Afegbua, and some persons were kidnapped by suspected herdsmen along the Benin-Ehor Road. He was later killed by the kidnappers.
“Strangely, while the family was still negotiating the release of the other persons, who were kidnapped alongside Malik-Afegbua, the commissioner announced to the whole world that the kidnapped victims have been released, which was not true,” Okpamen added.He recounted several other kidnap cases after the killing of Malik-Afegbua, especially the ones involving “farmers, women in Ewu, Uromi, Ubiaja and Egbigere communities of the state.”
The protest leader, who lamented the kidnap of Ehanire, Osayomore Joseph, and the killing of the university don added, “At a point, and on daily basis, the Okada Junction in Ovia North-East Local Council became a criminal hideout, with adverse implications for residents and travellers along the Lagos-Benin Expressway.”
He said even though the Police Service Commission (PSC) had redeployed the state Police Commissioner, through a letter dated July 5, the commissioner has remained in the state for undisclosed reasons. In July, the PSC announced the deployment of four commissioners of police in four states, including Edo State, who was replaced by Johnson Kokumo, the Commissioner of Police in charge of Armament.
He said the Abuja protest became necessary as the Edo people, who are suffering the violence unleashed at them by perpetrators of the heineous crimes were left with no other option.It would be recalled that the Network of Civil Society Organisations of Nigeria (NOCSON), the umbrella body of civil society organisations and others in the state recently complained about Gwandu.
While the PSC has promised to investigate the series of allegations levelled against Gwandu, some stakeholder are of the view that the take-off point in resolving the unfortunate security situation in the state, is for the commissioner to immediately honour the redeployment.Be that as it may, Gwandu has on several occasions reiterated his commitment towards fighting crime in the state, but it is obvious that with the current situation, his efforts are clearly not enough.
It would be recalled that shortly after the kidnap of Ehanire, Governor Godwin Obaseki, disclosed plans to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, to strengthen the security apparatus in the state to address the security challenges.
Many factors have been attributed to the resurgence of violent crimes in the state, including, but not limited to the recent legislation that banned the activities of Community Development Associations (CDAs), thereby forcing many of the now jobless youths to form armed gangs in the communities.
The ban on private persons collecting revenue, on behalf of the state government, has also been blamed for the surge in violent crimes, as the former revenue collectors are believed to have resorted to crime and criminality to make ends meet.
These factors, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Benin Chapter said were responsible for the increased crime rate. As the argument continues back and forth regarding the cause of increased crime rate, pro-government campaigners are quick to absolve the government of creating unemployment with issues like the ban on private persons collecting revenue for government, and the legislation banning the activities of CDAs.
According to them, the state government has initiated several schemes to engage young persons like the recently re-launched Edo State Traffic Management Agency (EDSTMA), and others recruited to collect revenue directly for the government, but these measures seem not enough, even as some critics are asking questions about the over N5b security vote alleged received by the state governor.