Kidnapping and Banditry in Edo: Ize-Iyamu’s Blueprint to the rescue, By Tony Ikpasaja

As campaigns for the Edo State governorship election hots up, it is instructive that the security of life and property takes centre stage in the discourse of choosing the next governor of the state. The state has become one of the biggest theatres of kidnappings, armed robberies and violent attacks. Being a gateway to both southern and northern Nigeria has turned its uncertainties into apprehensions.
Too many untruths about the true situation, whipped up by political actors. Whereas government’s chief purpose is to protect people from crime and criminality, America’s founding father, Thomas Jefferson, noted that, “if you abandon that purpose, you have abandoned everything.”
Governor Godwin Obaseki is a frontline contender in the 2020 governorship race under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and has been the chief security officer of the state in the past four years. He has battled the security challenges without respite. Even as modest as it sounds, over 70 incidences of kidnapping have been recorded by the police between January 2016 and May 2020 under his watch.
Very important persons now travel to Edo State under tight cover of detachment of heavily armed police squad, because the bandits have a penchant to dare one or two police escorts. From Okene-Okpella Expressway to Akoko-Edo roads, Auchi-Benin Expressway and the Benin-Lagos Highway, the fears of kidnappers are high. Apart from budgetary allocations to security agencies, Governor Obaseki gets security votes of N650 million monthly amounting to over N7 billion annually. What difference has he made with all that in the past four years?
Family and friends no longer enjoy the privilege of traveling to see their loved ones in the villages like in the past. Kidnappers have left many
orphans,widows, widowers, single and childless parents behind in parts of the state. The managing director of God is Good Motors, Edwin Ajaere was killed after paying N4 million ransom to bandits who abducted him some years ago. The family of the managing director of Alpha Furniture Company, Osazee Evbuomwan paid N3.5million ransom yet their breadwinner was killed. A musician, Bayo Ade paid N500,000 to kidnappers but did not regain freedom. Dele Olagunju, the managing director of Dekit was kidnapped and killed in 2015 in Akoko Edo bushes after a N5 million ransom was paid.
In October 2017, Professor Paul Otasowie of the Engineering Department of the University of Benin was gruesomely killed in his house at Ekenwan Road, Benin City in a kidnap attempt. In September 2017, the younger brother of the Health Minister, Andy Ehanire, was kidnapped from his Ogba Zoo office with three policemen killed. His family paid N64 million ransom. Popular Benin musician, Joseph Osayomore was abducted in October 2017 and released one month after.
Igarra people will not forget how bandits unleashed mayhem on their community on 10th August, 2018, descending on the police station and the banks simultaneously to prevent any form of reinforcement. Ten persons were killed in that single attack. Kelvin Izevbekhai, a lecturer at Igbinedion University, Okada was killed in May 2019 in a kidnaped attempt at the notorious Okada junction near Benin City. The former chairman of Esan North East local government area, Sam Oboh, escaped being killed on 13th September, 2019 as he drove through a hail of bullets fired by kidnappers from the bushes in Obagie village, along Auchi-Benin Expressway.  Professor Sylvanus Okogbenin of Irrua Specialist Hospital was kidnapped in broad daylight in Benin City while his police escorts lost their lives. In May this year, a 41-year-old lawyer was abducted and killed by gunmen in Benin City. In the same month, a politician and former commissioner, Hon. Egbe Ediagbonya, was kidnapped and killed by gunmen in Utese village in Ovia North-East local government area despite paying N2 million ransom.
Governor Obaseki’s commissioner for Science and Technology, Emmanuel Agbale, was on 17th April, 2020 abducted around the same notorious Obagie areas, along Benin-Auchi Road, near Oil Palm Estate. In June 2019, bandits unleashed mayhem on motorists along Benin-Lagos Expressway, killing, maiming and abducting scores of travellers. Obaseki merely ordered the Commissioner of Police, Director of DSS and his Secretary to the State Government, to relocate to the scene at Okada junction.
These criminal gangs have perpetually adopted same modus operandi at same locations for many years now; at Okpella axis and Obagie bushes both along Benin-Auchi Road and Okada junction along Benin-Lagos Highway. Yet the governor has not blinked over this ineptitude for four years. If re-elected, Edo people may have to live with these insecurity situation and grief for another four years. But Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC ) says his security blueprint will come to the rescue if elected as governor. He plans to use local hunters and vigilantes to complement the police while reviving 911 emergency call centre, among others. “There were vigilantes across the state supported by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole. They naturally fizzled out as soon as he handed power to Obaseki in 2016,” he added.
It is no more news that businesses were closing up because of insecurity despite the glitz and razzmatazz.
Comrade Omobude Agho, coordinator-general of the Edo Civil Society Organisation (EDOCSO) early this year gave Obaseki a 14-day ultimatum to find urgent solution to the pervasive insecurity in the state while leading a protest across the streets of Benin City. Edo United for Homeland Empowerment also lamented that many indigenes of the state living abroad can no longer come home to fraternise with their loved ones because of the worsening security situation. With Obaseki failing the test to secure his people from criminality, Ize-Iyamu’s prognosis will come attractive in the September polls.
▪︎Ikpasaja (PhD) contributed this piece from Benin, Edo State.