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Many indigenes and residents alike, have had their fair share of experience in the hands of kidnappers.

Confirm News findings revealed that these kidnappers consist two major groups: criminals who masquerade as herdsmen. These herdsmen intercept vehicles on highway and whisk their victims into the forest, from where they contact their families for ransom. This group also attacks victims in their farmlands and take them into the forest reserve areas, from where negotiations for their release are made.

Another group of kidnappers in Ondo State are those suspected to be Militants , majority of who live In the riverine areas. For this group, its members operate both in and outside the state. On May 25, 2017, its members stormed Igbonla Model College in Epe, through the river, abducted Six students, all boys and ferried them back to their hideout at Aboto Creek, Ilaje Local Government Area of Ondo State. The students were kept in the creeks for 64-days, as their captors insisted on collecting ransom running into several millions of naira from the Lagos State Government under former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration, before releasing them. They were eventually released and reunited with their families, after Governor Akeredolu ‘s personal intervention. In fact the students’ stay in the kidnappers’ den was recorded as the longest in the South West.

While the Igbonla kidnap gang does its for business, investigation further revealed that some of these kidnappers who operate in Ondo State do so for money rituals purposes. They kidnap their victims, cut off parts of their bodies and abandon the rest. At times, their victims were never traced. An instance was the case of the abduction of a 13-day-old baby, in December 2018. Two armed men had storm Uro quarters in Ajowa Akoko, Akokho North West Local Government Area of Ondo state, about 1am and picked the baby who laid beside his sleeping mother . On their way out, a Septuagenarian whom they met at the veranda, was matcheted and abandoned in the pool of her blood .

But kidnapping by some herders has assumed horrible dimension owing to the mercilessness with which they operate. They kill their victims at will, without recourse to the sanctity of human life, or consideration for age, sex and status in the society.

Three years earlier, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Chief Olu Falae was a guest of the kidnappers for days . In his case, he was kidnapped right in his farmland at Ilado , Akure, the state capital, on his birthday. That fateful Monday, some armed herdsmen , as narrated by him, stormed his farmland, brushed him with a knife, as a warning for him to cooperate with them. Thereafter, they dragged him barefooted into the forest. The journey from his farmland started about 2.30pm , until they arrived at where he was kept by 2am.

Throughout the 12-hour journey, he was neither offered food nor water to drink. The herdsmen, six of them, who referred to him as baba ,threatened every 30 minute, to kill him if money for his ransom was not paid. Thursday morning was given as ultimatum for the ransom for his release to be paid ,failure of which life would be snuffed out of him. Luckily, ransom was paid 21 minutes before the ultimatum

One of the operations of the herdsmen turned kidnappers that shook Nigeria and beyond, was the killing of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, daughter of 95- year old Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the national leader of the Pan Yoruba Socio- Political group, Afenifere. She was shot dead by suspected Fulani herdsmen along the Benin/Ore expressway in 2019. Her vehicle and others , ran into the barricade mounted by the suspected herdsmen. In the kidnappers bid to do what they knew best, they fired indiscriminately in an apparent bid to bring the vehicle to a halt. Unfortunately, a bullet hit her, killing her on the spot, while other occupants were abducted. Four suspects were later arrested.

Irked by the brazen effrontery with which these herdsmen in the state, Governor Akeredolu issued a seven-day warning to herders to vacate government forest reserves and also banned night grazing and cattle movement by underage within cities and highways in Ondo State He stated emphatically that security reports and debriefings from victims of kidnap cases pointed in one direction traceable to some criminals masquerading as herdsmen. The Governor in an interactive meeting with the leadership of the Hausa/Fulani and Ebira Communities in Akure, decried activities of the criminal elements whom he said had turned forest reserves in the state and across the Southwest into hideouts for keeping victims of kidnapping, negotiating for ransom and carrying out other criminal activities. He however, gave one-week grace to those who wished to carry on with their cattle-rearing business to register with appropriate authorities.

The Presidency frowned at Akeredolu’s pronouncement , as it cautioned him that such statement could set off a chain of events which the constitution anticipated and tried to guard against. But some bodies also backed Akeredolu, alleging that the Presidency has failed to take actions against criminal herdsmen whose operations have caused pain and sorrow in many parts of Nigeria.

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