Kidnapping: Imo communities hire Aguleri Boys, hunters for protection

* We now live in fear of kidnappers —Residents

* My subjects no longer go to farm for fear of being kidnapped — Monarch

Following the rising wave of kidnapping in some communities in Imo State, the affected communities have resolved to hire the services of local hunters and Aguleri Boys, a vigilante group, to flush out the bandits from their forest.

This decision was reached after last Thursday’s meeting which the traditional rulers of the affected communities held with the representatives of Governor Hope Uzodinmma. At the meeting, the monarchs were advised to make their own private arrangements on how to deal with the situation before it gets out of hands.

It will be recalled that five decomposing bodies, including that of a woman were discovered in a forest opposite the Federal University of Technology Owerri, FUTO, last week by Nigeria Hunters and Forest Security Service, NHFSS. A voice in an online video by the NHFSS which went viral last weekend said; “inside the bush linking the Federal University Technology Owerri, FUTO, Avu, Obinze and Ihiagwa, we saw lifeless bodies, we saw human skulls and slippers of victims of kidnappers. We saw five dead bodies, kidnappers killed their victims. Some of the victims died while they were tied to trees. We are exposing them so that every criminal will be on the run and we must defeat them.”

The decomposing bodies, which appeared to be victims of kidnappers were hurriedly buried in shallow graves and dumped in unsuspecting circumstances. The discovery raised serious concerns in Owerri- West LGA and its environs and has created fear in these communities.

The kidnappers, suspected to be Fulani herdsmen ambushed the villagers and abducted them while they were either going to their farms or returning from neighbouring communities. The affected communities include, Oforola/Olaukwu autonomous communities, Obinze, which houses the 34 Artillery Bridge of the Nigerian Army, Avu, Ihiagwa, Nekede, all in Owerri-West Local Government Area of the state as well as Umukanne and Obosima in Ohaji Local local council.

Some days ago, a land buyer was abducted along Oforola/ Umuokanne road. Gunmen also attacked a boy in Umuezorokam village in Nekede and left him with deep cuts when their attempt to kidnap him failed. In a viral voice note, a kidnapper was overheard negotiating with a staff of Imo State Broadcasting Service, after kidnapping his son, demanding N5 million ransom or the son would be killed after 11 am the next day.

A traditional ruler in Orodo, in Owerri-West Local Government Area, Eze Samuel Agunwa Ohiri was also abducted but later released by his abductors. Arriving his palace amid a rousing welcome by his subjects, the monarch broke down in tears while expressing gratitude to God for regaining his freedom.

* We now live in fear —Residents

The deadly activities of the kidnappers are becoming worrisome. The residents of the affected communities now live in fear as they go about their activities. Some of the residents who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on condition of anonymity, said they now live in fear of the unknown. One of the residents who introduced himself as Mr. Jude, called for “increase in patrol of security personnel to rural areas, where criminality is on the increase”. He, however, thanked the hunters who discovered the decomposing bodies and pleaded with the police and other security agencies to work together in order to flush out the criminals from the state.

Speaking in the same vein, an Estate developer, who wouldn’t want his name in print, expressed sadness over the disturbing development, saying the activities of the kidnappers in these communities scare away land buyers. According to him, “our business is experiencing low patronage, we have stopped going to the site. One of our customers was kidnappers while he was on his way to inspect the land that he wanted to buy but we were lucky that he had been freed. I was told they paid a ransom of N2 million before he was released”.

* Fear-gripped communities opt for Aguleri Boys, hunters

Following the meeting which the traditional rulers of the affected communities held with the representatives of the state government, the paramount ruler of Olakwu/Oforola autonomous communities, Eze Apollo Ekeocha said they have opted to hire the services of local hunters and Aguleri Boys to flush out the bandits from their forest. “I am going home to meet with my people to see how we can hire the services of local hunters and Aguleri Boys to end this menace,” Eze Ekeocha said. Eze Ekeocha lamented the increasing hardship in his kingdom as his subjects hardly go to their farms again for fear of being kidnapped. He narrated a sad situation where four people from his kingdom were kidnapped last week and held in the forest for four days before they were released after a ransom had been paid to their abductors. Eze Ekeocha then called on the security operatives to come to the rescue of his people as life was becoming unbearable for them.

Saturday Vanguard gathered that the Police alongside community hunters are currently spreading the scope of security surveillance to locate the hideouts of the bandits linked to the discovery of the decomposing corpses, human skulls and motorcycles which were uncovered in Imo forest.

It was gathered that the search for the bandits and their hideouts has been extended to communities in Ohaji/Egbema council area of the state.

* Police raid criminals’ hideouts

Following this distress situation, the Imo State Police Commissioner, CP, Aboki Danjuma was said to have swung into action, raiding all suspected criminals’ hideouts in the state.

CP Danjuma said, “the Command under my watch will continue the raid across all suspected criminals’ hideouts in the state until the men of the underworld are completely wiped out from the state. We want to reassure Imo residents at large of their safety, the command will never relent on its commitment to guarantee adequate security in the state.

“There was information that men of the underworld kidnap from the town, bring their victims to this forest, demand for ransom after which the victims are killed whether ransom was paid or not. We have recovered four unidentified corpses as well as other items.

We are going to dominate our operations in this forest and by His grace, all the hoodlums, all the kidnappers will be flushed out. As you have seen, we have arrested seven persons this morning and they are going to face the full wrath of the law.”

The state Police Command also confirmed that five suspected kidnappers have been arrested during a raid in the Owerri-West forest.

According to the Imo State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Henry Okoye, “Acting on credible intelligence, operatives of the Imo State Police Command Special Tactical Unit led by the Commissioner of Police, CP Aboki Danjuma in synergy with some local hunters stormed a suspected kidnappers’ hideout in a forest between Avu and Ihiagwa last Monday, and arrested five suspected kidnappers namely; Muazu Awuta, ‘m’ 30 yrs; Abdullahi Abubakar, ‘m’ 32yrs; Ozeru Sabo ‘m’ 25yrs; Saddam Suleiman, ‘m’ 27yrs; Bashir Yahaya; ‘m’, 28yrs all of Jau LGA of Jigawa State. The suspects are currently undergoing investigation and have provided useful information to the Police that will lead to the arrest of other syndicates at large.”

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