In recent times, prominent Nigerians like Senator Walid Jibrin; Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, Dr Emmanuel Akabe; traditional leaders, businessmen, civil servants, petty traders, artisans, and even poor rural dwellers have all fallen victims of bandits’ attacks and nefarious activities of the once peaceful Nasarawa State. Daily Trust Saturday takes a look at the tension created in the state by bandits and how security operatives are battling to save the state.
Senator Walid Jibrin is the Sarkin Fulani of Nasarawa Emirate and the Chairman Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Not too long ago, one of his family members was kidnapped. He exclusively told Daily Trust Saturday that, “I don’t want to talk much about it, but the truth is that my extended family member was kidnapped in Nasarawa Local Government, and the family contributed money and paid a ransom to secure his release.”
Suspected armed robbers on Tuesday August 20, 2019 attacked the convoy of the Nasarawa State Deputy Governor, Dr Emmanuel Akabe, killing three policemen and a civilian.
Akabe was on his way to Abuja on an official assignment when the convoy ran into the robbers who were operating few kilometres away from Akwanga.
Many sources said the attackers who blocked the expressway for over two hours, operating and robbing motorists and passengers alike, were about 40 in number.
It was learnt that after the attack on the convoy, 12 people were kidnapped, and a ransom of N15m demanded.
Among the kidnapped victims was Mr. Gwanjere Simeon Yakubu, Revenue Officer Nasarawa Eggon Local Government.
A family member, Nuhu Oshafu, who confirmed the abduction of his brother, Moyi Oshafu, said the kidnappers contacted them, demanding for N15m as ransom.
Similarly, traditional leaders have been victims of kidnapping in Nasarawa. When the district head of Hunki, Malam Muhammad Sarkin Hunki, was kidnapped, the kidnappers demanded for a ransom of N4m, but later accepted N600,000 before he was released.
The following day, the alleged kidnapper who was a Fulani youth went to a restaurant in town and met his former victim, he attempted to run away but was arrested by the youth of the town and handed over to the police.
Police went to their den, arrested two of the five gang members while two escaped.
A businessman in Garuku Town of Kokona Local Government Area of the state, popularly called Jasper, was also said to have been kidnapped and later released after a ransom was paid.
Civil servants have not been spared, as clerk of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly (NSHA) was also kidnapped recently.
Petty traders like a lady called Maman Adamu who deals in stockfish and rubber products was kidnapped in Toto Local Government, likewise a patent medicine store owner. They all paid ransom to regain their freedom.
Artisans have also been victims of armed robbery, kidnapping among many other crimes in the state.
A family member of one of the kidnapped victims said, “They have contacted us, demanding for N15m. My brother was driving a Toyota Picnic bus when he was kidnapped.”
Apart from kidnapping, cultism is another crime that has been on the rise in the state.
Fourteen-year-old Christopher Anthony, a Junior Secondary School student, admitted joining a cult group for self-defense and to fight perceived enemies and bullies in school.
The young suspect, a resident of One-Man Village in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, confessed to the crime when he was paraded by the Police in Lafia.
Last week, security personnel arrested some informants of kidnappers in Toto Local Government of Nasarawa and some in neighbouring Abaji Area Council of the FCT. They confessed to having a den inside Narati bush.
One of the arrested informants said, “A guy called Danladi approached me, Surajo, Bashar and Yusuf. He said we have been trading for long in the market and yet have nothing to show for our effort. He told us that kidnapping is the modern way of making money.
“Danladi said he usually gets a reward of between N50,000 and N100,000 for the information he passes to kidnappers. The kidnappers’ hide out is in Narati bush and the other close to Abaji, but the kingpins live in Abaji. I just spent two months as an informant before I was arrested. We gave the information that led to the kidnap of a woman who deals in fish and rubber items behind the abattoir.
Another informant said, “My name is Bature, and we are three in the group. I learnt that there are Fulani in the ring, but I have never met them. We operate in Narati bush behind Abaji Local Government Secretariat.”
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp (NSCDC) rescued seven kidnap victims comprising of five men and two women in the state.
Nasarawa State Commander of the corps, Muhammad Fari, who confirmed they were kidnapped along the Nasarawa-Eggon to Akwanga Road, said they trailed and rescued the victims at a mountain near Wulko Village near Akwanga.
One of the kidnap victims, Yakubu Gumjere, said they trekked for seven hours inside the bush, and it took them three hours to climb a mountain to the kidnappers’ den.
Gumjere said they were fed a few spoonfuls of garri once daily during their eight days in captivity. They were hidden deep inside the mountain by their captors when a chopper hovered over the area.
He said six people paid ransom while one was set free without any ransom received.
Meanwhile, 37 different kinds of weapons were recovered and 11 suspects arrested in Nasarawa State, according to Major General Adeyemi Yekini who is the Commander of Operation Whirl Stroke (OPWS), a combination of Army, Air Force, Navy, Police and DSS personnel.
He said “OPWS undertook nine operations in five weeks, covering four local government areas of Doma, Toto, Obi and Awe.”
The weapons recovered include four AK47 rifles, two G3 rifles, one Clarion 5.56 Israeli Commando Assault Rifle, one Sub Machine Gun (SMG), three pistols, 20 locally made pistols, 389 rounds of ammunition and one grenade.
General Yekini said, “Eleven suspects were arrested and an undisclosed number of bandits lost their lives in the course of this operation, a number of them were neutralized, some of them fled from their camps and hide out during these operations and our men are still on their trail.”
The Sector-3 Commander of OPWS in-charge of Nasarawa State, Navy Lt. Emmanuel Igwe, said: “The first operation of the troops was in Tunga area of Awe Local Government of the state where one AK47 rifle, one magazine and 15 rounds of ammunition were recovered.
“In Toto Local Government, the troop intercepted a vehicle conveying four suspected Egbura militias and recovered three different weapons with 144 rounds of ammunition, one grenade and some locally made charms from them.
“In Doma Local Government, our troops intercepted three armed militias and recovered a magazine and 58 rounds of ammunition. In Abuja-Ago village, we recovered two AK47 rifles and one Clarion 5.56 weapon. In Ondori village, we recovered two AK47 rifles and 126 rounds of ammunitions.
“In Doma Local Government, the troops recovered two AK-47 rifles in a grave yard.”
“In Obi Local Government, we recovered weapons that were buried which include one FM rifle, one AK47 and one locally made revolver. We raided a house and recovered two locally made Dane guns and the suspects arrested,” Igwe concluded.
Residents say Nasarawa needs enhanced and sustained security as it shares borders with the FCT, Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, and Kogi states. It is the link between the northern and south eastern parts of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the police have increased surveillance in the state, with its personnel seen on duty at different strategic locations.