In the days of yore nothing much was heard about Ahor, a community situated in Uhunmwode Local Government Area of Edo State. But all that changed about five years ago when kidnapping became a daily word in Nigeria’s lexicon.
Within a space of two months in recent time the airwaves has been awash with stories of kidnappings carried out in the Ahor – Oluku – Auchi byepass area of Edo State. The sad news that first emanated from the axis is the kidnap and eventual murder of a US based indigene of Edo North senatorial District, Prince Dennis Eloniyo Abudah. Barely a few days later came the sad story of how a burial party conveying the body of a dead man to the Eastern part of the country was shot at and the brother of the man who was travelling in the vehicle was kidnapped and the journey was thus disrupted.
Going to Ahor to get an inside story of the activities of killer herdsmen in the locality and its environs on Tuesday morning was another experience for Popular News. A colleague who was asked about the easiest and safest route to the community gave a look like “whatever are you up to” while responding. Transportation to Auchi byepass from the Benin City centre on a normal day is N250 per head of six passengers. But the cab driver this morning had other price tag. He insisted he would take N350 from Popular News as there is a terrific hold up on the road ahead. Having gone through that from the Auchi byepass to Ahor via motorcycle became another experience as the motorcycle operator seeing my handbag was asking in low tones if I was going to pay ransome money. When I answered in the negative. He decided to charge me a N100 extra.
Inquiries made by Popular News at Ahor came up with the following revelations.
Osaigbokhan Omokaro, Vice Chairman Ahor Community Youth Association
Those who keep mentioning Ahor as a den of killer herdsmen are totally wrong. Ahor is a peaceful community. It is one of the 30 communities in Uhunmwode Local Government Area of Edo State that are within the Ahor – Oluku Road byepass axis.
The real area where the killer herdsmen cum kidnappers have their camp is Ikoken, a community close to a river. People should stop destroying the image of Ahor should please stop doing that.
Anderson Yakubu leader of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria squad in Ahor
The stories of criminalities that you must have been hearing is happening in Ahor is totally wrong. Ahor is a peaceful community. It is one of the 30 communities along the byepass. The real crime spot is at Ikoken. The herdsmen occupy an expansive area of the forest in Ikoken which they have turned into an impregnable camp.
We of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) work in collaboration with the security agents to flush-out these killer herdsmen turned kidnappers. Whenever we arrest any criminal the instruction is that we hand them over to the security agencies which we have been doing.
Our prayer is that peace should return to our communities. As it is presently we cannot go to farm any longer because we get killed, our daughters and wives getting raped and killed on our farmland. Our children no longer attend school because of the fear of attack/kidnap by herdsmen. Our farm produce is now food for herdsmen and their cattle. When we collaborated with the security agents recently to comb the forest we discovered a lot of bodies of dead people, some injured and others burnt.
The herders have sophisticated weapons which we don’t have. Kidnapping is more lucrative than cattle rearing and grazing. So, they have enough money to stock their armoury. We buy our uniforms. We also buy bullet for our guns. There is no motivation whatsoever for us. Our men are on duty from 6 – 7pm but the kidnappers are on the road between 8pm and the wee hours of the next day.
If the criminal activities of the herders is not checked now we may end up having to face the kind of situation that is happening in the northern part of the country.
Ero Osemwengie Isaac(retired Superintendent of Police), Commandant of the Vigilante Group of Nigeria
If not for our presence here nobody would have been passing through this road any longer. Most of my men have received gunshots. Not too long ago one of my men was killed in the course of operation. The herders have stationed themselves at a point along the road that is bad. Any vehicle passing through the spot must slow down and that is the moment the kidnappers who lay ambush come out of their hiding and unleash gunshots to kill the driver and move the passengers into the forest from where negotiations for ransome commence.
They know the road and the adjoining forest better than we do. Whenever we are pursuing them they abandon some of their victims or kill them. They are nomadic people who move around with their cattle using that as a decoy to survey a locality.
Our membership strength is about 300 with each of the 30 communities here having 10 members. Our service is voluntary. Only a few of our members get N10,000 monthly as salary from the management of Uhunmwode Local Government Council. We need vehicles for our operation. We also need money to fuel the vehicles. We sew our uniforms and also buy bullets for our guns. Whenever we go to the Government House to lay our complain of poor remuneration we are accused of playing politics.
At night only about four policemen are on duty at the nearby Ahor Police Station and they are never at their duty post because of the fear of the herders attacking their station. The police often talk about community policing. They should know that community policing is different from vigilante service. How do you operate in an area that you do not know. The vigilantes know the communities much better than the police does. The other time they brought in some people in the guise of community police. These are people not given full police training. They don’t know how to handle arms. They were not taught how to record incidents. What they are taught is to report any stranger they see to the police.
Edo Commissioner of Police keeps mum
Philip Aliyu Ogbaudu, Edo State Commissioner of Police refused to give Popular News audience so that he can respond to some issues highlighted by the Vigilante Group of Nigeria. For about six hours at the state Command Headquarters on Wednesday despite being formally informed of the visit a day earlier when he was on a familiarisation visit to the Edo NUJ complex coupled with intermittent phone calls, Ogbaudu kept mum.