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, SUNDAY PUNCH reports.
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.”