By Suleiman Umaru
Samuel Ortom, governor of Benue state is not a happy person. This is because the whereabouts of Ekpe Ogbu, the state Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development, who was among the eight that were appointed and sworn in last January is still unknown.
The Commissioner was said to have been kidnapped by armed Fulani herdsmen with their Bandits collaborators operating at the Adakanri junction along the Otukpo junction on Sunday, December 4, 2022, thus putting fear on top government functionaries in the north central state.
Residents of Makurdi the state Capital say high profile politicians seeking elective office office and serving Commissioners under the Ortom government no longer move freely, let alone travel to their hometowns to participate in the people’s Democratic party, PDP, electioneering Campaigns. This may have informed why many believe kidnap of the newly appointed Commissioner of Housing and Urban Development in Benue state was political motivated.
Note that the Commissioner was kidnapped on his way to his village in Ndekma in Utokon District, after the a Church programme alongside three others,:Hon. Agbo Ode, an In-Law who were said to be on the vehicle with him and the driver.
The kidnappers who were armed to the teeth were said to have forced off the Commissioner’s vehicle off the road at the notorious Adankari junction, on the Ado-Otukpo road and whisked away to an nnknown location with little or no resistance.
There are conflicting accounts about the kidnapped Benue state Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development. One account has it that the Commissioner and the two other victims and the driver were kidnapped around 4 pm while another account said they were kidnaped around 8.45 pm, around the Adakanri junction, described as a ‘’black spot in the state’’.
The Commissioner and the two passengers with him in the vehicle were said to have attended a Church programme, on the invitation of Abba Moro, a former minister of Interior, during former President Goodluck Administration and now a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Benue south Senatorial district , where the later had dedicated his newly inaugurated Campaign council to God at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Otukpo.
Informed sources told The Value News that for months, armed herdsmen and their Bandits group collaborators have been terrorising Local Communities and travelers plying the route. The online Magazine learnt that a Catholic Reverend Father, a Professor in the state University and a local Politician from Otobi Community have been kidnapped at the junction at different times.
Given that the Adankari junction has become a notorious kidnapper’s spot for armed herdsmen, may have encouraged the security agencies Patrol teams to step up their activities in the area. Although, the security agencies Patrol teams may not have succeeded in stopping the criminal activities at the notorious Adakanri junction this may not be unconnected to the new tactics that may have been employed by the herdsmen to carry out their nefarious activities in the state.
. More worrisome was the reports making the rounds that moles within the local Communities, and security agencies including political thugs who have taken advantage of the heightened insecurity in the state to make money out of the crisis situation are not helping matters as they were said to have become informant to the Criminal elements on the movement of high flying politicians, top government officials that are targeted and the movement of Patrol teams in the state to escape arrest,
The kidnap of the Benue state Commissioner for Housing and Urban Development may have forced the governor and Heads of the security agencies in state including Paul Hemba, a retired Army Colonel and Adviser to the governor on security matters, to go back to the drawing board to restrategise on how ‘‘to track the kidnappers’’.
Col.Hemba, rtd, the governor’s security Adviser, may have dampened the enthusiasm of many Nigerians when he said that the kidnappers have not established contact with the family, let alone the state government. The good news was that the Hilux van, the Commissioner was travelling with to his home town was said to have been recovered by the police in Otukpo where it was said to have been abandoned by the kidnappers who may have jumped into the bush on sighting security agencies policemen on the road for fear being arrested,
The recovery of the Commissioner’s Jeep, may have sent a message to the security Operatives that the Kidnappers are still within Otukpo and its environs. This may have informed why they have stepped up their manhunt for the kidnappers, even in uncompleted buildings.
Given the embarrassment the kidnap of the Commissioner may have caused the state and the country in general, that its security architecture is took weak to protect lives and property , in the state, may have informed why Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, was said to have given a matching order to Wale Abass the state Commissioner of Police and his tactical men to intensify their effort to rescue the victim and the three other others still in the armed herdsmen turned kidnappers custody in the state.
James Oche, Chairman of Ado LGA, where the Commissioner hails from may have stepped into the matter as he was said to be working closely with the state Commissioner for Local government and Col. Hemba, rtd, the Special Adviser to the governor on security matters and Heads of the security agencies to rescue the victims.
Prior to the kidnap of the Commissioner by the armed herdsmen, Oche , the Ado, LGA, Chairman, was said to have written to the state government on the increasing activities of the armed herdsmen who are terrorising the Communities in the LGA, in the recent time. The governor, and who in turn was said to have intimated the Heads of the security agencies in the state on the need to do something urgent to arrest the situation before it gets out of hand.
Recall that prior to the kidnap of the Commissioner, the Benue state government had recently demolished a building at the BIPCQuarter, Nyinma Layout, Makurdi, he state Capital where the Operation Zenda security outfit had killed three suspected kidnappers and rescued the wife of the thenstate Commissioner for Land and Survey, Mrs. AnnUnenge. Note that that the Bernard Unenge, was among the eight Commissioners that were dropped by the governor last January in his Cabinet shake-up.
The governor had said that the uncompleted structure had been used by the kidnappers in the state to keep their victims and negotiate for ransoms, meaning that it is not today that kidnappers operating the state have been targeting top government officials and their family members, to embarrass Ortom, the state governor, who is seen as a thorn in their flesh.
The kidnap of the Benue state top government official, may have thrown a big challenge to the Benue Volunteer Guards, VGs, trained at the military shooting range, near Iikpayongo, Gwer East, LGA, to protect Local Communities from the attack of the armed herdsmen in the state since the police have failed to do so.
Gov. Ortom, had said that ‘‘the recruitment, training and eventual inauguration of the VGs, were properly backed by Law , passed by the state House of Assembly and assented by the former state governor, Gabriel Suswam, noting that the present Administration under his Leadership only amended the Law’ ‘to make it more effective in line with present challenges of the state’’.
The governor may have gladdened the heart of the VGs when he disclosed that due to the rising insecurity in the country, the governors met and resolved ‘‘to strongly advocate for the establishment of state Police’’, stating that once it was approved, ‘‘the VGs will be the first to be recruited in the state.
Over 30 persons within the Apa Ward and the neighbouring Communities in the Ado LGA, were said to have killed in the renewed Effum and Ezza crisis, that was said to hae been aggravated by the armed herdsmen involvement.