There have been startling revelations on how armed kidnappers found their way into the Tom Ikimi train station in Igueben, Edo State, on January 7, 2023, abducting some passengers and two members of staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation.
This followed allegations that some youths in Esan land were paid N20,000 each and given cows to allow the kidnappers who posed as herders, access into their forests.
Also, some traditional rulers in the area were alleged to be aware of the operation of the kidnappers before they struck.
Already, the Police in Edo State have swung into action, with the arrest of some traditional rulers and youths in communities around the railway.
Crime Guard reliably gathered that some members of Vigilante groups and hunters are also informants to these kidnappers. This was confirmed by some of the rescued victims who spoke to Crime Guard on the condition of anonymity.
One of the 12 victims earlier rescued said, “They were six armed men. They announced their presence with sporadic shootings. I was to travel by train to Warri, Delta State to see my ailing father.
Immediately they came, they started firing. The Abuja- Kaduna train attack incident came to my memory and I concluded that my end had come.
“When they kidnapped us, we walked about six hours into the forest before arriving at one of the camps, which they (kidnappers) referred to as a cell.
“While we were there, we were moved to different places because our captors were informed that the Police and Army were combing the forest for us. I understand the Hausa dialect very well and I overheard them saying one of the vigilantes told them that the Special Force would strike very early in the morning.
“The second time they said the (Special Force) were in the forest and that they had identified one of the camps. This second information was brought by a vigilante, while the third informant was a hunter.
“I also heard them say they would ask one of their informants to escort them to the Delta State side of the forest where they would keep us if security agents disturbed them further”.
Change of plan
When it became obvious that there was a mole among the rescue operators, Crime Guard reliably gathered that operatives of the Edo State Intelligence Surveillance Team with other security agencies embarked on a rescue mission on January 14,2023, without hunters and members of the vigilante group who were assumed to be conversant with the forest terrain. It was 9 pm.
Coincidentally, the kidnappers were taking four victims whose families had paid for ransom, to a designated point, from where their relatives would pick them.
Meanwhile, Crime Guard gathered that relatives of the victims were directed by the kidnappers to wait far away from where they would drop the freed persons: a male and two females.
Then, all of a sudden, the operatives opened fire from their General Multipurpose Machine Guns, jolting the kidnappers. One of the rescued victims said, a voice, supposedly from the leader of the Police team, was heard shouting “move to the road side and lie flat, else, you will be killed”.
However, the operatives were careful not to fire at them in order not to shoot at the kidnapped victims. The kidnappers were said to have run to the Igueben Amodekian Uromi on the Ugboha Uromi road, only to discover that they were surrounded
In the confusion, Crime Guard gathered that the kidnappers used the Railway Station Manager and another victim as shield and fled into the forest, while others were forced to leave the rest victims, from where they were picked by the operatives and taken to the Police Hospital Cottage in the Government Reserved Area, Benin City, for medical attention and rehabilitation.
The twelve rescued captives who hail from Edo, Delta, Imo and Kogi states, comprised seven females and five males among who was a teenager. They were: Julius Iyore, 25; Mowoe Marian, 42; Egwuje Precious, 28; Ann Benson, 42; Emmanuel Esieba, 67; Favour Ulugo, 18; Obehi Enaibre, 39; Christian Iyere, 33; Awolotu- Smart Faith, 23; Eunice’ Esiabe, 56; Ehimena Akhere and Aguilera Beatrice.
One of the rescued victims, Julius Iyore, was discovered to have earlier been kidnapped by the same gang. He was released after 15 days in the kidnappers den, after an unspecified amount was paid as ransom
Back in their safe haven in the forest, the kidnappers put a call to families of the remaining two victims with them, accusing them of alerting the oolice.
A relative of one of them said, “They told us we would pay for the ransom they did not get from those rescued by the police. We were negotiating for N2 million, initially. But they increased it to N20 million”.
Not done, the operatives were said to have further combed the vast forest which was discovered to link communities like Amudokhuen, Ugboha, Ilushu, Udo and Ekpoma, all in Edo State, as well as Delta and Kogi states.
Unable to withstand the heat of the operatives, the kidnappers were said to have released the railway station manager and another passenger a few days after the 12 others were released.
One of them was reportedly found in Ewu area of the state.
Governor Obaseki blows hot
During his visit to the Police Cottage hospital in Benin City where the rescued victims were receiving treatment, Governor Godwin Obaseki said, “We have information that some traditional rulers in that area do not obey and respect government decision to discourage open grazing by herders in their forests.
“I have instructed that those traditional rulers should be investigated and anyone found to be harbouring the criminal herders will have questions to answer because that was what led to this incident. Communities that obeyed don’t have such incidents in their domain”.
While he applauded the security agents in the state for proving themselves to be formidable, he however, frowned at the deployment of only one policeman at the train station, considering the Abuja-Kaduna train attack last year.