Otukpo-Eke-Ugbokolo-Otukpa Road: Benue’s axis of evil where kidnappers are king

WHEN the late Vicar General of the Catholic Dioceses of Otukpo, Rev. Fr. John Adeyi, was abducted and murdered in April 26, 2016 by armed men, no one imagined that that odious act would become a normal practice with serious implications for the state and its people. Over time, that evil has gained notoriety and stamped its feet on the ground as a monster that is difficult to defeat.

The late Fr. Adeyi, who until his kidnap and eventual murder was the Parish Priest of St. Bernard Catholic Church Okpoga, was abducted while travelling to Ugbokolo for an official engagement when his abductors waylaid and whisked him to an unknown destination.

Otukpo-Eke-Ugbokolo-Otukpa Road: Benue’s axis of evil where kidnappers are king

He never made it back alive even after his family members raised and paid about N2 million ransom to his abductors to secure his release. The decomposing remains of the cleric were later found by the Ogbadibo Local Government Secretariat after two months of search for him. His abductors, two men of Fulani descent, were eventually apprehended and sentenced to death by hanging in July 2018.

Regrettably that maximum penalty imposed on his abductors did not deter hordes of criminals from building nests of kidnap gangs along the busy Otukpo-Eke-Ugbokolo-Otukpa Road, which is the main axis through which Benue State can be accessed from the South-Eastern part of the country.

With the success recorded by these criminals without any serious challenge from the security agencies, their atrocities have grown in size and frequency, threatening to overwhelm the people in the communities and the road users. These days, attacks and abductions of unsuspecting road users in that axis of the state have become almost a daily affair.

Several families have had to pay ransom for the release of family members and loved ones who fell victim to these dangerous gangs after visiting home for weddings, burial or other ceremonies and festivities in that part of the state.

Just few days ago, some couples who were guests at the wedding ceremony of the children of dear family friends in Makurdi, were forced to stop at one of the lonely portions on that stretch of road and whisked into a nearby bush.

They were only released after about N3 million ransom was paid to their abductors. In fact, there have been several accounts of similar incidents on that stretch of road where business men and family members travelling from either the Otukpo end or Obollo Afor end of the road ran into armed gangs who whisked them into nearby bushes for ransom. Only mid last month a councillor-elect, Paul Ojile and his sibling, were caught and beheaded in Orokam community of Ogbadibo LGA by armed herdsmen who had earlier kidnapped a businessman in the community.

The then Chairman of the council, Prince Samuel Onu, had disclosed that the victims were on a rescue mission in the forests when they were caught and killed by the armed herders who had earlier kidnapped a member of the community.

Onu said: “Herdsmen have been troubling the area and there have been incessant kidnappings in the LGA. There was a recent kidnap by the herders after which they left one community in Owukpa and went towards Orokam. On their way to Orokam, they kidnapped another man. So, the Councillor-elect, since he lived in the village, was a hunter too. He and his cousin, with other hunters and the vigilante alongside Operation Zenda security team entered the forest to see if they could rescue the man that was kidnapped. It was when they were to return that they noticed that two of them were missing. But they (security personnel) were able to arrest two of the Fulani men. In the morning when they went to check again, they saw the lifeless beheaded bodies of the Councillor-elect and his cousin,” he said.

Besides, just few days ago the Parish Priest of Holy Ghost Parish, Eke-Olengbeche, Rev. Fr. Peter Amodu, was also abducted by unknown armed men along the Otukpo – Ugbokolo road, in Okpokwu LGA, while on his way to celebrate Holy Mass in Okwungaga Community.

Unlike the late Rev. Fr. Adeyi, he has since regained his freedom from his abductors. The news of his release was contained in a statement by the Catholic Diocese of Otukpo signed by the Diocesan Chancellor, Rev. Fr. Joseph Aboyi Itodo who confirmed that the Priest was released unharmed.

“It is with grateful hearts that we announce the safe release of our Priest, Rev. Fr. Peter Amodu from abduction. Fr. Peter who was kidnapped on July 6, 2022 at about 4.00pm along Otukpo – Ugbokolo Highway, Benue State, was released unharmed today July 8, 2022 at about 8.30pm,” the statement read. And just before the dust on the kidnap and release of the cleric could settle down, the marauders again stormed Ugbokolo community and whisked away a businessman.

Though they are yet to open any channel of discussion with his family members, but in their usual modus operandi, after playing the kind game with the victim and his family members they would eventually make their demands on his family. This is what has become of the busy Otukpo-Eke-Ugbokolo-Otukpa road of Benue State. An axis of evil where anyone plying that route must be prepared for all eventualities.

Acknowledging the terrifying development, the Chairman of Okpokwu LGA, Mrs. Amina Audu, said she was already collaborating with the military and the police to nip it in the bud. “We are also putting measures in place in collaboration with the newly trained Community Volunteer Guards, CVGs, which is made up of youths from our communities who would work closely with the conventional security personnel to track and apprehend the criminals behind the series of attacks and kidnappings on that axis.

For security reasons I cannot tell you all that we are doing presently to get to the people behind the evil act, but I can assure you that in no time we will get them,” the Chairman said.

Though the police could not be reached on the matter as calls and messages sent to the Police Public Relations Officer, Superintendent, Catherine Anene, were not responded to, not a few believe that the police have not done enough to reassure road users and the locals of their determination to ensure the safety of the lives and property of the people who ply that route daily.

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