NOTWITHSTANDING the security seal in Delta State, where Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, introduced a dusk-to-dawn curfew, Tuesday, to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, some suspected armed herdsmen have flagrantly undermined the security measures and unleashed a reign of terror on residents at Ibusa and Okpanam communities in Oshimili North Local Government Area of the oil-rich state.
The armed herders between the ages of 18 to 28 years not only intimidate and overawe their victims, who they usually take unawares, they command them when they invade their homes to prepare meals for them (kidnappers). They also demand additional foodstuff and drinks when their families and friends later negotiate ransom to secure freedom for the hostages READ ALSO:Internet fraudster confesses on how he defrauded Cambodian woman $75,000 At Okpanam, a source revealed that occupants, near the Asaba Airport, have fled their houses, following the siege by kidnappers, who act as if they are above the laws of the land.
”Even when the owners of the homes have fled, they impudently break into their abandoned apartments in search of food items, money and other valuables,” the source added. The lawlessness of the herders is without restraint at the moment in the state, but effrontery at the Admiralty Neighbourhood Estate, Ibusa is unbelievable.
The estate is named after a former Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, under the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan government, Admiral Dele Ezeoba, who owns a sprawling mansion in the under-attack developing area on Ibusa bypass, Asaba-Ibusa-Ogwashi-Uku Expressway.
More than 20 residents of the area that spoke to Saturday Vanguard in separate interviews during the week at Ibusa, said they were living with their hearts in the mouths. “They do not come through the entrance to the estate, they sneak in through the farmlands behind the developing neighbourhood.
Those committing this havoc are in their teens and twenties,” one of them said. A worried contractor, Mr Lawrence Ojeashi, abducted about 9.00 pm , April 8, told our reporter: “I was outside in my compound playing with some of my children when we heard our dog barking uncontrollably. As I moved to check what was going on, two of them, Fulani, by the language they spoke, intercepted me.” “They marched me into my house, locked my son and I in one of the rooms and asked my family to prepare them food to eat. It was rice that my wife cooked for them , after eating rice, they asked her to make eba for them.
“After eating, they took me with them, nobody had the guts to raise alarm. They were taking me to the bush when they saw a generator that was on in another compound, they pulled out the wire to make the owner come out, but his family raised alarm when they saw them, which made them to move away faster with me into the bush. “The way they meandered the bushes, it is like they have a map of the area. We first stopped at a farm hut and stayed there for over three hours. In fact, they used me as pillow to sleep so that I will not run away. “They woke up to continue the journey, manoeuvring through different routes in the forest. They clearly knew where they were going.
When they got to the point where they knew it was safe to talk to me, they asked me how much I wanted to pay them. “Really, I had no money and a bank alert of N1,000 just came to my phone, which they had confiscated. I told them that they just saw the alert on my phone, that I had only N1,000. They slapped me, asking me if I thought they were joking. “They threatened to kill me if I joked with them. I said I could call some friends and relatives. They became interested and inquired how much they would pay.
I said I did not know, but they might raise up to N100,000. They pounced on me again like wounded lions, shouting angrily if I thought they took me hostage for mere N100,000. “My abductors subsequently took me to a valley, brought out sticks and started whipping me on my head and other parts of the body as if they were flogging an animal. They kept asking about how much I would pay as they flogged me.
“I insisted that they should allow me call my friends and relatives, but one of them said they should cut off my head and the other brought a sharp cutlass, placed it on my throat and made moves as if he actually wanted to slice off my head. I pleaded with them that money would come before they left me that period and went to sleep. “About 6.00 am the next day, they took me further into the bush, deeper into the valley and they allowed me to make phone call. “They first placed the ransom for my release at N10 million and later came down to N3 million when they saw from my calls that such amount would not come.
I knew that pastors and many others were interceding at that point. “At about 3.00 pm, they said they were giving me and my people a deadline of 5.00 pm to bring ransom. By 5.00 pm when they called, it was N150,000 that they raised. “The kidnappers said they would tell them where to bring the ransom, but they should buy food, drinks, Suya, water as they come with the ransom. “They were giving them directives on phone on where to pass as they drove. When they arrived with a car, they searched each of the person that brought the ransom and the car for money. They also checked the food and drinks they brought.
“They brought me out from where they hid me and joined us in the car to be dropped off at another exit. We saw some herders on the way and they exchanged pleasantries , showing that they knew themselves. “They took us through a different route entirely to leave the place so that we would not recognise the place,” Ojeashi told us. He was still in fears when he spoke. A resident of the estate, Emmanuel Ironbar, abducted with four others, March 30, said he was returning home with his Supervisor and another worker, all working for their boss , Frank Nwabudike, when the incident occurred.
“We saw a vehicle facing the bush and a boy lying face down and we thought he was hurt. As we stopped to find out what was wrong, the kidnappers lurking around pointed gun at us , along the farm road. Two of them wore mask , they seized me, my supervisor, Victor and two others. We were five. “They took the five of us into the bush, we were seeing the zincs of some buildings at Okpanam and the Navy School in Ibusa from where they kept us. They asked all of us to lie down when we got there and used my phone to call my director in Lagos.
“They were the ones telling me after they called my director that he said there was no money. They beat Victor and one other hostage before Victor people brought N100,000 ransom. They searched my supervisor and took the N30,000 in his possession. “When they brought the N100,000 ransom for them, it was with plates of rice, meat and ‘pure’ water. They later took us to a cassava farm, they saw a motorcycle rider, bailed him up and collected N5,000 from him.
“They ran into a Benin man and his wife, who they kidnapped and left us that night. They seized my phone and since then, I have not been able to buy a new phone,” he added. His words: “We are living in fear in this estate, we are not secure, police come in the night since abduction escalated in this estate, they blow horn when they pass from one end to the other, reverse their car, come back to where they started and depart.” “As I speak to you, I hardly sleep in my house for fear of abduction by Fulani herdsmen, we know they are Fulani because that is the language they speak,” he added. Another resident, Ebenezer Ejimogha, a timber dealer, who escaped abduction after armed herdsmen pulled the wire off his generator, April 8, asserted:
“As they removed the wire, I came out from inside my room and asked one of my sons to put off the generator since it could not supply light anymore. But one of my daughters ran inside to alert me that they were intruders in our compound.” “I want out to peep, they saw me and ordered me to open the door and let them in. Already, my wife was shouting and my family was making phone calls. I used force to close and lock my door and started making calls myself. While they were threatening and went to the back of my house, trying to force the door open, I told them Army and Police would soon arrive to catch them.
“I got my son in Asaba on phone , who drove down and went to the Police Station at Ibusa for policemen to come to rescue us. They asked him to make entry, after he made entry, they told him that they would not be able to come that night. He contacted one of the local vigilance groups, which told him that the members would not intervene since police refused to move. “We were in the house frightened to our pants for five hours when my son, tired of the antics of the police, finally drove to the house to discover that the marauding Fulani herdsmen had left. It was when we heard his voice asking us to come out that the abductors were gone that we came out,” Ejimogha said.
A community leader in the area, Mr Joseph Okonmah told our reporter: “Life here has been very miserable for us because of Fulani herdsmen. We know they are Fulani herdsmen from the narratives of the victims they have kidnapped, people from at least five households. Really, we feel frightened, we do not sleep with our two eyes closed.” Okonmah stated, “We have reported our plight to the the police in Ibusa and alerted some of the vigilance groups, but there is no good response from the police.” “We plead with the the appropriate authorities and government to disarm the herdsmen and disperse them from the illegal locations they are occupying in the bush and inside the town from where they launch attacks on us every now and then,” the community leader asserted.