There is currently distress in Owukpa, a district located in the Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State, as it has transformed into a sanctuary for kidnappers.
Reports obtained by Naija News on Thursday morning revealed no fewer than ten communities are currently being held hostage, as a group of kidnappers unleash terror upon the innocent residents.
Once peaceful areas such as Ankpa, Odobe, Umufu, Ubafu, Atamaka, and Ai-Fam, along with their surrounding regions, are now engulfed in fear due to the relentless criminal activities.
Reports revealed that even commuters are not exempted from the horrifying situation.
Within the past five months, no fewer than 100 individuals have fallen victim to kidnappings, with certain routes proving to be particularly dangerous. The Aho-Ankpa Road and Atakama-Ugbugbu Road are said to have gained infamy as hotspots for criminal activities.
Furthermore, the Orokam-Owukpa road and Okpoga-Aifam road have witnessed numerous incidents.
The developments have since raised concerns about the safety of travellers along these routes.
Not long ago, a family of eight was kidnapped on Atamaka road and their abductors have been threatening to kill them over the family’s failure to provide the ransom they demanded on time.
The survivors, who were held captive for an extended period, shared their harrowing ordeal.
Daily Post quoted Daniel, one of the survivors, to have revealed that the abduction took place at approximately 2 pm, and they were taken to the kidnappers’ hideout by 10 pm.
According to Daniel, the criminals were fluent in both Hausa and Fulani languages, which they used to communicate amongst themselves.
As a result of these incidents, the residents of Owukpa have become fearful and now travel in convoys for their safety.
During the festive season, a community member named John was kidnapped on his wedding night while returning from Aho Ogbo market. His family had to pay a ransom for his release.
Similarly, one Engr Raymond and his wife, Mrs Cordelia Agada, were also abducted on the Owukpa-Aifam-Okpoga road recently.
In an attempt to combat the escalating threat, the women of Owukpa invoked the deity Ekwuanya in 2023, hoping to deter any sons of Owukpa involved in kidnapping activities. However, it seems that this spiritual intervention has had minimal or no effect on curbing the prevailing menace.
Despite the presence of local community guards, kidnappers continue to carry out their operations without fear of consequences.
Speaking to journalists earlier, the traditional ruler of Ogbadibo, HRH Emmanuel Odeh, expressed deep concern about the alarming security situation.
Owukpa’s vulnerability was recognized by him, attributing it to its close proximity to Enugu and Ebonyi, porous borders, and expansive forest areas.
The primary factors behind the chaos were identified by him. Odeh expressed his disapproval of the government’s insufficient reaction, highlighting the scarcity of law enforcement personnel in Owukpa and the prohibition on civilian gun ownership.
This left the residents defenceless against heavily armed kidnappers.
He said, “The insecurity issue in Owukpa is well beyond our control, primarily due to our proximity to two neighbouring states- Enugu and Ebonyi.
“This leaves us vulnerable to external attacks, compounded by the extensive forest areas that provide cover for kidnappers.
“The crux of the matter lies in the insufficient efforts from the government.
“For instance, Owukpa lacks even six policemen, and critical areas like Eke Akpa, Aho Ogbo, Ipole Owukpa or Ai Fam have no police presence whatsoever.
“I have been requesting this for over 10 years, but the government claims they lack a sufficient number of police officers.
“This is a serious concern for a community with a population of over 139,000.
“Compounding the problem is the fact that those attempting to confront the criminals are armed only with Dane guns, a stark mismatch against the sophisticated weapons wielded by the perpetrators.”
The Commander of Constabulary Police in Ehaje II, Amos Agada, expressed deep concern about the situation, describing it as disturbing.
“As we speak, nowhere is safe in Owukpa again. At the moment, they are seriously operating in Ipiga Ai-Odu.
“In fact, just yesterday, they hijacked a fully loaded bus and kidnapped all passengers. They have not even contacted the families yet.”
He also lamented the lack of essential weapons for the vigilante group in the village to confront the kidnappers.
However, he stressed the need for more support from the government, particularly in the provision of weapons to enhance their effectiveness in tackling security challenges.
“We are doing our best with the limited resources available, but additional support, especially in the form of weapons, is crucial to bolster our efforts against these criminals,” he told journalists.