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Friday, December 2, 2022

Insecurity: Akeredolu’s warning to Ebiras

THE recent announcement by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor, in relation to the arrests of suspects linked to the terrorist attack on St Francis Catholic Church, Owo, on June 5, 2022, was a notable addition to the narratives around the dastardly act. These suspects who were arrested through the combined efforts of security agencies at Kogi and Ondo States locations were listed as; Idris Abdulmalik Omeiza, Momoh Otohu Abubakar, Aliyu Yusuf Itopa, Auwal Ishaq Onimisi, Al-Qasim Idris and Abdulhaleem Idris. The latter was alleged to have collaborated with other Islamic State’s West Africa Province, ISWAP, commanders on previously coordinated attacks on military formations in Okene, Kogi State, in the past. It is worth noting that the Ondo Amotekun Corps had earlier confirmed the arrest of some suspects connected to the Owo attack as well.

CURIOUSLY and frighteningly, these suspects are all of Ebira extraction, suggestive of a new group  coordinated  attack worsening insecurity in the country, particularly Ondo State. The Hope had in its previous editorials harped on the need for Ondo State to synergise with neighbouring states of Kogi and Edo, in the northern axis, to mitigate the new waves of insecurity in the northern zone of the state, specifically in Akoko, Ose and Owo areas.

KOGI State has recently been a major redline zone because of the intelligence reports that ISWAP members, bandits, and Boko Haram terrorists have migrated to the north central, where they have set up cells. After the killing of the Olufon of Ifon, Oba Israel Adewusi, Omolege Camp has been repeatedly and viciously attacked, a priest and his son kidnapped, while Owo township  experienced attacks on Craneburg Construction Company working in the town, with reported killings of security guards, leading to the kidnap of an expatriate in one of the two occasions.

THE avalanche of security reports available to the Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, linking some bad Ebira elements to kidnapping, must have informed the warning the governor handed down to leaders of the Ebira community in the state warning  their young ones against venturing into the nefarious act of kidnapping and other criminal activities.

The governor unequivocally opined that recent reports from victims of kidnap indicated that some Ebira indigenes are now involved in the unwholesome act, with claims that they were taken to Ebira farmsteads during their captivity. While acknowledging that the Ebiras have lived in the state peacefully for years, the governor similarly cautioned Ebira traders selling by the road side not to become informants to criminals.                

THE Hope views these dangerous developments linking contemporary security challenges in the state to the Ebiras with great worries. While noting the fact that the Ebiras started migrating to Ondo state (Owo in particular) in the early 1950s as farm-labourers, with Ebira settlements and farming communities established by full-time food crops cultivating Ebira farmers, the people of Owo have shown uncommon love, tolerance and hospitality towards them in a desirable productive beneficial relationship and conviviality that should not be recompensed with espionage, betrayal as well as cold-blooded murders, resulting in sorrows, tears and blood. 

THE Hope is awed that past criminal suspicions about people of Ebira stock could so murderously degenerate. As we commend the governor for the follow-up closed-door engagement he had with Ebira leaders in the wake of these manifestations, we join him to appeal to Ebira stakeholders to rein in their people to stop collaborating with criminals to decimate the people that willingly accommodated them and gave them existential fillip.

WITH  this sad development, we have also been reminded of how despicably redundant it could be to be fixated on a particular ethnic group like Fulani bandits in profiling criminality, without also giving due attention to possible cascaded and localised collaboration and collaborators. We hold that criminality has no ethnic coloration or caste, and people must be conversant with their environment, and be ready to provide needed intelligent reports on even people from their ethnic extractions, as everybody is a potential victim of insecurity. This is more so as cases of kidnapping have been linked to various suspects; from the fake prophet in Lagos to Ayo Samuel who joined a church member to abduct his pastor in Akure, Ondo State in late 2021, and several others yet to be tracked. Limiting the sphere of surveillance would undoubtedly be counter-productive.  

AS we call on residents to apply themselves to collaborative engagements with security agencies by giving useful information, The Hope appeals to security agents to ensure the protection of the identities of such informants, so that it will not discourage others with relevant information useful to combat crime. House owners must also take due diligence to appropriately profile their tenants and obtain adequate information on them, to ensure that they do not inadvertently harbour criminals, while government must take decisive steps to sanction culpable lessors.

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