Owukpa, a district in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State, has become a safe haven for kidnappers.
At the last count, over ten communities are under siege, with kidnappers unleashing terror on the populace.
Residents of the once serene communities of Ankpa, Odobe, Umufu, Ubafu, Atamaka, Ai-Fam and their surrounding areas are now gripped with fear, as criminal elements terrorise them with impunity.
Commuters are not spared.
Skyblast tv observed that over the past five months, more than 100 persons have fallen victim to kidnappings, with certain routes proving more deadly.
The Aho-Ankpa road and Atakama-Ugbugbu road have gained notoriety as hotspots for the criminal activities.
Also, the Orokam-Owukpa road and Okpoga-Aifam road have witnessed several incidents.
This has raised concerns about the safety of travelers along these routes.
skyblast tv learnt that recently, a family of eight was kidnapped on Atamaka road.
The kidnappers threatened to kill them over the family’s failure to provide the ransom they demanded on time.
The victims, who were held captive for days, recounted their traumatic experience.
Daniel, one of the survivors, disclosed that the abduction occurred around 2 pm but they reached the kidnappers’ camp by 10 pm.
He told our reporter that the criminals communicated in both Hausa and Fulani languages fluently.
This development has instilled fear in Owukpa residents, prompting them to move in convoys for safety.
A native of the community, simply identified as John, was during the yuletide kidnapped on his wedding night while returning from Aho Ogbo market. The family had to pay a ransom for his release.
Similarly, one Engr Raymond and his wife, Mrs Cordelia Agada were also abducted along the Owukpa-Aifam-Okpoga road in recent times.
Frustrated by the escalating threats, the women of Owukpa in 2023 invoked the deity Ekwuanya against any son of Owukpa involved in kidnapping activities.
However, this spiritual intervention appeared to have minimal or no effect on curbing the prevailing menace.
Despite the presence of local community guards, kidnappers carry out their operations with impunity.
HRH Emmanuel Odeh, the traditional ruler of Ogbadibo, in an interview with DAILY POST, expressed deep concern about the alarming security situation.
He identified the vulnerability of Owukpa due to its proximity to neighbouring states Enugu and Ebonyi, porous borders, and vast forest areas as the major reasons behind the mayhem.
Odeh criticised the government’s inadequate response, pointing out the shortage of law enforcement personnel in Owukpa and the ban on civilian gun ownership, leaving residents defenseless against well-armed kidnappers.
He said, “The insecurity issue in Owukpa is well beyond our control, primarily due to our proximity to two neighbouring states- Enugu and Ebonyi.
“This leaves us vulnerable to external attacks, compounded by the extensive forest areas that provide cover for kidnappers.
“The crux of the matter lies in the insufficient efforts from the government.
“For instance, Owukpa lacks even six policemen and critical areas like Eke Akpa, Aho Ogbo, Ipole Owukpa or Ai Fam have no police presence whatsoever.
“I have been requesting this for over 10 years, but the government claims they lack a sufficient number of police officers.
“This is a serious concern for a community with a population of over 139,000.
“Compounding the problem is the fact that those attempting to confront the criminals are armed only with dane guns, a stark mismatch against the sophisticated weapons wielded by the perpetrators.”
Amos Agada, the Commander of Constabulary Police in Ehaje II, expressed deep concern about the situation, describing it as disturbing.
He told skyblast tv, “As we speak, nowhere is safe in Owukpa again. At the moment, they are seriously operating in Ipiga Ai-Odu.
“In fact, just yesterday, they hijacked a fully-loaded bus and kidnapped all passengers. They have not even contacted the families yet.”
He also lamented the lack of essential weapons for the vigilante group in the village to confront the kidnappers.
However, he stressed the need for more support from the government, particularly in the provision of weapons to enhance their effectiveness in tackling the security challenges.
“We are doing our best with the limited resources available, but additional support, especially in the form of weapons, is crucial to bolster our efforts against these criminals,” he said.