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How joint military, police, hunters’ operations are cleansing forests that border Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, Niger states

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Governors, ONSA, Karimi, Hunters named in efforts

Inch by inch, a large portion of forests around the borders of Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, and Niger States are being combed and kidnappers and other criminal are being neutralised and flushed out, an investigation has revealed.

And it is all thanks to the Federal Government, the state governors of Kogi and Kwara States, Senator Sunday Karimi, among other stakeholders.

In a combination of land and air operations, troops in the joint securty task force from Kogi and neighbouring states have raided the camps of kidnappers in the forests of Yagba West Local Government Area of Kogi State. Yagba West shares borders with Kwara, Ekiti and parts of Niger States.

The joint securty task force consisting the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), vigilanté and local hunters are in their second week of operation in the forests, it was gathered.

In the massive joint effort to hunt down and flush out the criminals from their various hideouts, eyewitnesses account spoke of sustained land and air offensives with daily helicopter patrols for aerial surveillance, amid heavy military personnel on ground.

While there are no official details yet, the operation has been acclaimed by the locals to be largely successful.

Following intelligence reports, forests in Kogi border towns with Kwara, Ekiti and Niger States, believed to have long served as the negotiation camps for kidnappers, had come under serious bombardment by the joint forces, while several arrests have reportedly been made since last week.

It was learnt that the decision to engage the criminals was not unconnected to serial cases of kidnapping, banditry and robberies across Kogi State. The already tense security atmosphere in the state was heightened by the May 9 invasion of Confluence University of Science and Technology (CUSTECH), Osara, in Kogi Central Senatorial District, by some gunmen, who abducted several students in the process.

Although security agencies had rescued 21 of the abducted students with the help of local hunters, it emerged on Sunday that eight more students of the school were rescued in a forest around Ifelodun Local Government Area, Kwara State, where their abductors were hiding them.

Eight days ago, lifeless bodies of two of the kidnapped students were dumped in a bush between Okunran and Okoloke in Yagba West, Kogi West Senatorial District, while negotiationsfor their release were on.

Their killers had left voice notes on the students’ phones for other parents, threatening to kill more of the hostages. The development sparked fresh outrage within and outside the state and prompted Governor Usman Ododo and the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State Command Bertrand Onuoha to vow to give everything to go after the perpetrators.

The governments of Kogi, Kwara, and Ekiti States, in conjunction with the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), reportedly mobilised joint troops consisting of conventional security agencies, vigilanté and local hunters from across the three neighbouring states for the “total clean up” of the forests.

The GOC, 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Major-General Bamidele Alabi, was also said to be on ground in Yagba West, during the second week of operation.

It is gathered that the Senator representing Kogi West , Sunday Karimi, joined in the efforts by making provisions for the supply of meals to the troops who continued to lay siege on the criminals in their fortresses.

“The meals were conveyed by helicopter to the troops in the forest”, revealed a source who did not want his name in print.

The kidnappers hideouts, most especially around River Oro/Baba Sango, all around Babanla axis were finely combed and criminals dealt with by a team of security operatives from Kogi and Kwara states.

According to sources, following the fierce gun duel, most of the marauders fled the area, but did a lot of havoc before they left by burning several houses that belong to innocent inhabitants in Baba Sango. Many residents fled Baba Sango for for refuge in Babanla.

One report credited the Governor AbdulRaham AbdulRazaq with providing logistics to move soldiers to the affected areas for reinforcement.

Meanwhile, Kogi State Security Adviser, Commodore Jerry Omodara, (rtd) last Thursday led a team of visiting representatives of Kogi State government, Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Army, Police, DSS, hunters and vigilantes to the site of a proposed military base in Egbe, Kogi State.

About six months ago, Senator Karimi had performed the ground breaking of the building of the facility in the Kogi and Kwara States’ border town of Egbe, along Kabba-Egbe-Omuaran-Ilorin federal highway.

The facility, which is nearing completion is designed to house and enhance the presence of military personnel in the area with a view to boosting national security efforts. When completed, the base will be handed over to the Nigerian Army, Senator Karimi noted then.

The facility consists of two blocks of 12-bedroom hostels, a mini office, officers’ mess, two blocks of three bedroom flats for officers and other ranks, and the armoury.

Omodara, during the inspection tour, expressed the appreciation of the state government to Senator Karimi for his efforts towards the building of the military base and the meal support for the joint troops in the forests.

Speaking on behalf of the Community, the Emla of Ilemla, Egbe, Oba Rotimi Victor Dada, said, “I can say it (deployment of joint troops) has been a successful operation, so far. Over the years we have been in a kind of dilemma, our farmers could not go to their farms, our wives could not go to the market to buy and sell their products. But with this intervention of the state government under His Excellency, Alhaji Usman Ododo and the Federal Government who brought in the military personnel to flush out the kidnappers who have turned our forests to their den, our people can now heave a sigh of relief.

“The military personnel have done very well engaging the bandits and kidnappers terrorising the neighbourhood. This development, however, has further justified the establishment of a military base in Egbe, being the border town of Kwara, Ekiti, Kogi and Niger States, a project initiated by the Distinguished Senator Sunday Karimi who has committed a lot of funds to the project.

“I was there in the company of the State Security Adviser, Commodore John Omodara, who led a team of representatives of government and security agencies to inspect the project. A Brigadier-General in the team who inspected the project commended the military base initiative”.

The monarch said the mini- base when completed, would not only boost security in the host community but also complement the efforts of the federal and Kogi State governments as well as neighburing as Kwara and Ekiti towards tackling insecurity in the region.

He noted with concern that the activities of bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers as well as armed Fulani herders have affected the flow of trade and economic growth in the entire Yagbaland for several years, including banking services as most of the banks were forced to close their branches in the area, due to incessant robbery.

“Due to the many cases of bank robberies, all banks, with the exception of one, have shut down operations in the entire Yagbaland for close to seven years now. We hope that the presence of a military formation base would lead to the increase in the number of personnel deployed to this area. We also hope that this will convince the banks to reopen their branches to customers in Yagba”, he said.

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