Kogi State, once reputed as a peaceful state, has suddenly become a den of criminals, but the state government and security agents have launched a deleterious war to flush out the criminals from the state, writes IBRAHIM OBANSA.
Kogi state has experienced series of crimes ranging from armed robbery, assassination, ritual killings and kidnapping for ransom in the past two years or thereabout.
In fact, it is not an overstatement to say that the state Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who assumed office on January 27, 2016, inherited anything but a state brimming with criminal elements who were bent on holding the state hostage.
Though security agents were posted to the state to protect lives and property, they seem to be ill-equipped and not enough to keep the criminal elements at bay.
However, conscious of the fact that no meaningful development can take place in an environment hijacked by armed robbers, kidnappers, and other criminal elements, Governor Bello quickly went to work to ensure the safety of lives and property in the state.
And working with security agents, especially the army and police, the state seems to be winning the war against criminal elements that hitherto had held the state captive.
A major breakthrough was recorded recently, when the Nigerian Army apprehended 18 suspected kidnappers and two Boko-Haram members in Okene, Kogi central senatorial district with explosive devices and other dangerous weapons.
The suspects were paraded before journalists at the Command Army Record Lokoja clutching various dangerous weapons such as 10 AK 47 riffles, locally made guns, 12 masks of different sizes, ammunitions, daggers, pump action guns, grenade and 5 explosive devises.
The Commander, army records, Brig-Gen, Henry Ayamasaowea, while parading the suspects said the army alongside other security agencies in the state, had been working round the clock to put an end to the incessant kidnappings as well as invasion of the state by insurgents.
According to him, all the 18 suspects, including the Fulani bandits were arrested in Okene, for terrorizing the district and its environs.
He said that as a result of the successes recorded by the military at the Sambisa forest against the Boko-Haram insurgents, many of the fleeing insurgents have found a safe heaven in Kogi state.
“Boko-Haram members have scattered, and many of them have made their way into Kogi state. We took the security situation very seriously and that’s why we went after them,” he said.
Apparently disturbed by this development, Governor Bello who witnessed the parading of the suspected criminals, said they (criminals) can only run but cannot hide in Kogi State any longer.
“We are after them, and we have started getting them. We will not condone any act of criminality whether politically motivated or criminally motivated.
“We will never relent in our efforts to get to them wherever they are hiding, and parents should call their wards to order. “If you born a child, ensure you train that child in a civilized way. This state has suffered a lot and we are ready to arrest and prosecute anybody who indulges in crimi
nal activities in the state,” he warned.
The governor, however, appealed to the people of the state to volunteer useful information to security agents performing their legitimate functions.
According to the governor, “we have law against terrorism and kidnapping in Kogi state and we must enforce it. The houses where the criminals were arrested will be demolished,”
Against the backdrop of this threat, the governor, recently led an enforcement team made up of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Wilson Inalegwu, and heads of other security agencies in the state to Okene in the Central Senatorial District of the state, where some buildings used by suspected kidnappers, terrorists and armed robbers to plan and execute their dastardly acts were pulled down.
For instance, the building belonging to a suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Tijanni Bakare, located at Onyukoko ward in Okene LGA, was the first to be pulled down.
The enforcement team also demolished the notorious Ahlul-Sunnah Mosque in Inike, Okene LGA which was reportedly seized in 2015 by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group, and has since served as an operational base for the suspected criminals.
Speaking during the demolition exercise, Governor Bello reiterated his determination to implement the extant Anti-kidnapping, Robbery and Terrorism law in the state to the letter, warning people who are in the habit of harbouring criminals in their homes to repent or have their structures pulled down forthwith.
Also speaking, Mr. Inalegwu, said it will no longer be business as usual for criminal elements operating in any part of the state.
“This is a strong message to kidnappers and hoodlums that they must change their ways. They should work hard and earn a decent living. We want to make Kogi safe so that those living here or travelling through Kogi will not have fear of being kidnapped”, warned the police boss.
In carrying out this task, the Kogi state security Adviser, Navy Commodore Jerry Omodara, (rtd) explained that the on-going demolition of the houses of suspected kidnappers and armed robbers in the state is an effort put in place by the state government to rid the state of criminals, adding that no innocent citizen will be affected in the process.
He told journalists covering the demolition exercise that already no fewer than 13 identified houses of suspected hoodlums at Okene, Adavi and Ihima LGA’s of the Central Senatorial District of the state have been pulled down.
The security adviser said the on-going demolition of houses of suspected criminals would be a continuous exercise, adding that any identified house belonging to bandits across the state would not escape demolition.
“The Kogi state government will not relent in its efforts to flush out criminal elements from their hide-outs,” Omodara assured.
He warned that anybody caught in the act of aiding and abetting crimes in the state would also not be spared irrespective of his or her status in the society.
The security adviser, however, noted that the security agents in the state had already gotten accurate information on the identity of the houses of the suspected kidnappers and armed robbers assuring that no innocent citizen would be mistaken to be affected in the demolition exercise.
He said the state government had no choice than to take the drastic action in view of the havoc meted out on the good people of the state as a result of the incessant activities of the hoodlums in recent times.
Omodara also noted that the state government’s action on the demolition of the houses of suspected criminals in the state will serve as a deterrent to those who may wish to take to the wicked business.
The demolition exercise which started in the central senatorial district of the state would be carried out in the remaining two senatorial districts during its second phase of the exercise.
Commending the government on its resolve to flush out suspected criminals from the state, a middle aged man who would not want his name in print said government must sustain the tempo so as to rid the state of criminal elements; advising the government not to demolish houses belonging to innocent citizens.
There is a groundswell of opinion that the renewed onslaught against the suspected criminals will yield positive results.