Date Published: 07/01/10
Cross-Border Crimes come alive again in Ogun State By Joe Igbokwe
Remember that few years back the former President Obasanjo daughter Senator Iyabo was attacked by hoodlums in Ogun State, and some people were killed including two young promising children of the Senator’s friend. Shocked and provoked, the president ordered special investigations into the unfortunate incident. The result of that investigation which took Nigeria’s International Police to Benin-Togo axis and beyond led to arrest and the extradition of the man behind the cross-border crimes, Alhaji Tijani Ahmed. Prior to the arrest SUVs and flashy cars were stolen in Lagos and it’s environ with reckless abandon and the destination had been Benin-Togo axis. After the arrest and prosecution, the business died down and we had respite for few years.
Today, the cross-border crimes have returned in full scale and in full swing. And the notorious axis is Otta-Idiroko road. Commuters especially parents of students of Babcock, Ogun State, Bells, and Covenant Universities, and factory workers in Otta and Shagamu have been unreported victims. Lives have been lost, vehicles and cash stolen by the hoodlums. Of all the troubled spots, Otta is the most notorious and dangerous as the escape route.
There are factors that help to facilitate cross-border crimes in Otta:
- All the roads in Otta are in ruins. The criminals capitalize on this waylay unsuspected commuters.
- There are two universities along Otta-Idiroko road. The hoodlums wait for parents and relations of the students to collect their cars and other belongings.
- Police in Otta are ill-prepared, ill-equipped and totally weak to fight cross-border crimes in Otta.
- The proximity of Otta to Idiroko is another advantage to the robbers.
- The proximity of Lagos to Otta. Any flashy car or SUV passing through Otta from Lagos becomes an easy target.
My family was a victim on Sunday June 20 2010. It was fathers’ Sunday and I, my wife, two daughters and son were heading to Covenant University to see our people. We made a U-turn at Gateway Hotel Otta to access a short-cut road to Idiroko road. Otta under bridge is always impassable. It has been the shame of Ogun State and Nigeria. Few meters into the bad road we were overtaken by one rickety car and before we knew what was happening 3 fierce looking men armed to the teeth came out of car and fired several shots into the air. We were ordered out of our vehicle and we obeyed. Soon they sandwiched us into the back seat of the Toyota PRADO and zoomed off. One of them was on the driver’s seat, the other on the passenger’s seat and one with us at the back.
The moment we entered Otta-road the driver increased the speed. We never saw any police post on our way. Finally we ended up in a thick bush towards the border area. We were ordered out of the car and all the remaining things collected. After, we were asked to run into the bush. As we made our way they drove off. Our ordeal that started around 4.30 pm ended around 7.00pm without any of us sustaining any physical injury. It was when we were coming back that we saw a police check-point. We stopped and I went to the Inspector and narrated what happened to us, and asked whether he has any means to contact his colleagues at the border area to give information to them. He said there is none. It is a long story but the truth is that I got to my house in Lagos at something after 12 midnight with my family intact except the vehicle, and other valuables. And we have been thanking God for his intervention. It could have been worse.
Now, my main aim of calling this press conference is to alert Lagos, Ogun State, and Nigeria that the cross-border crimes along Otta-Idiroko has returned in full swing and the victims are increasing everyday and they are licking their wounds. All the roads in Otta are in bad shape and it helps the criminals to attack their victims. Police in Otta are weak, ill-equipped, ill-prepared, and helplessly and hopelessly corrupt to deal with the challenges. All the criminals chased out of Lagos are now in Otta, Ogun State waiting for Lagosians to visit the area. We need effective policing of our border areas to deal with this problem. The cross-border crimes in Ogun State is a huge network involving people living close to the border, the police and even ordinary Nigerians living in Otta. We need to protect the law abiding Nigerians using that axis on a daily basis. We need to invest in security.
Lagos has been getting it right but the gains would be affected if Ogun State does not come on board. Lagos and Ogun State need to dialogue, network, engage, interface, and exchange ideas on how to fight cross-boarder crimes in Otta-Idiroko axis. Lagosians have been the targets and the victims. Hundreds of Nigerians that have suffered over the years may choose to remain silent but I cannot. If a writer is silent, he is lying. We need to invest in security because security is a serious issue in Nigeria. No serious foreign investor will come here if there is no plan for security. Ogun State, Lagos and Nigeria can synergize to save lives and property.