BY EMMANUEL OBE, TUNDE ODESOLA, JUDE OWUAMANAM, SUNDAY ABORISADE, FEMI MAKINDE, AKINWALE ABOLUWADE, MUDIAGA AFFE, MIKE ODIEGWU, ETIM EKPIMAH AND SUCCESS NWOGU,
Boko Haram: Fear of kidnap grips governors – The fear of being kidnapped by the fundamentalist Boko Haram sect has gripped governors in some of the states across the federation forcing them to beef up security in government houses and their homes.
One of the governors, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, had on April 26, raised the alarm that state executives were not immune from kidnapping.
While reacting to the invitation to attend the Nigerian Guild of Editors’ conference coming up in Asaba, Delta State, Aregbesola said he was wary of being kidnapped.
“They kidnapped the chairman of a local council area authority, which is not even up to a council and they demanded $1m. How much would they demand if they kidnap a governor, $1bn? You might just stroll to stretch your legs and off you go – you get kidnapped. Where will Osun get that kind of money?”Aregbesola asked.
While some of the governors have set up anti-kidnap squads, others have ensured that all their vehicles and those used by members of their families now have tracking devices.
Some of the state executives, our correspondents learnt, had also reduced the number of visitors they attend to. In some states, only one of several gates in government houses is used.
Apart from governors, top politicians have also relocated their relatives from the villages to the city where they could be easily protected from kidnappers.
Parents and guardians of very important personals had been the target of kidnappers in the past few weeks and they were only released after millions of naira were paid to their abductors.
The Joint Task Force in Borno State, Operation Restore Order, had on April 28 raised the alarm that Boko Haram had a new kidnapping squad whose objective was to kidnap and demand ransom to finance its terror operations.
JTF in a statement by its spokesman, Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, said the sect resorted to kidnapping when it realised it was losing its members to the superior fire power of security agencies.
Musa said, “Intelligence available to the task force has indicated that Boko Haram terrorists have resolved to concentrate more on kidnapping than robbery since kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous and requires short time to plan and execute.
“Similarly, a special kidnapping squad has been earmarked and tasked by Boko Haram sect to kidnap persons who could have wealthy relatives, politicians, businessmen/women, traditional rulers, senior civil servants and foreigners alike.”
The sect reportedly received the sum of N500m from France and Cameroon as ransom for seven French hostages.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Ondo State Governor, Mr. Eni Akinsola, said on Friday apart the governor, other citizens of the state had to be protected from kidnappers.
According to him, a new strategy involving relevant security agencies in the state and residents of the various local communities led to the arrest of some kidnappers recently.
Akinsola, who said the security arrangements put in place to check activities of criminals in the state was yielding results.
He said, “We have our plans but we won’t disclose that on the pages of newspapers but I can assure you that we have ensured that there is no hiding place for kidnappers and other criminals in the state.”
The Senior Special Adviser to Kwara State Governor on Media and Communication, Dr. Muyideen Akorede, also confirmed that Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed had set up a Joint Task Force which conducts “stop and search” in the state’s entry and exit points.
Akorede said, “The governor has set up a Joint Task Force comprising the army, the police and civil defence who now conduct ‘stop and search’ at exit and entry points of the state capital, entry and exit points to all major towns in the state and entry and exit points from the state.
“All the borders are patrolled to stop people of questionable characters from entering the state and perpetuating crimes.”
Although security at the Ekiti State Government House was tight as usual on Friday, our correspondent in Ado-Ekiti observed that one lane of the dual carriage ways leading to the Governor’s Office was closed to motorists while the other one was manned by security agents.
Most vehicles with the pass issued by the government to allow them into the Governor’s Office were restricted to the car park before the office.
It was learnt the state government has set up a special anti-kidnapping squad made up of the police, State Security Service, army, navy, air force and local operatives as a proactive measure to forestall kidnapping.
The State Security Adviser, Mr. Rekpene Bassey, was however, silent on extra measures adopted to protect the governor, his deputy or high ranking officials, but stressed that the state was already “planning to procure a tracking device that would make it easy to track down kidnappers whenever they struck.”
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Mike Udah, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the state governor was not taking “his personal security for granted”
He added, “We are aware of what has been happening in other parts of the country, including the kidnap of a local council area authority in Lagos State, and even the kidnap and killing of a former deputy governor of Anambra State. But that incident happened in Delta State, not here. We are concerned but the situation in Anambra State is not out of control.”
Armoured Personnel Carriers were stationed at the Oyo State Secretariat and other strategic locations in Ibadan while a detachment of heavily armed mobile police was stationed at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan.
It was learnt that security of the state was reviewed recently and the state police command repaired some APCs and put them in strategic places in Ibadan.
The Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, said, “We are happy to say that there is peace in Oyo State since the advent of Governor Abiola Ajimobi administration. Government is not joking with the issue of security as it has continued to consolidate on the peace it bequeathed to the state.”
At the Akwa Ibom State Government House, a single gate is now being used as entrance into the house. APCs are stationed at both the Government House as well as the state secretariat, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo, while the number of heavily armed security personnel has been increased.
Although none of the government official was willing to speak on the new security measures in place, a civil servant, Francis Ekong, said, “With the huge security details built around political office holders and their families in the state, I don’t think any kidnapper or armed robber can go near them.”
Osun State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Sunday Akere, said the government had procured 130 patrol vehicles and a helicopter for security purposes.
“Osun is secure. The Federal Government should take a leaf from the employment of 20,000 youths by the Aregbesola administration to stem the tide of unemployment. The devil finds jobs for idle hands,” Akere said.
Politicians in Bayelsa State have taken measures to protect themselves and their family members from kidnapping.
Our correspondent gathered that political office holders had relocated their key family members especially their parents to Yenagoa, the state capital.
In a desperate measure to stop abduction in the state, the Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, had approved death sentence for kidnappers in the state.
The alarm raised by a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Bitrus Kaze, might have necessitated a reappraisal of the security arrangements in the state.
Kaze had said there was a plot to either assassinate or kidnap him and some prominent citizens of the state.
Although the Police Commissioner, Mr. Chris Olakpe, had said the command had yet to receive any report on the alarm raised by the lawmaker, it was learnt that the police command had placed its anti-terrorism squad on the alert to protect the governor and other political office holders.