“He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” – Exodus 21:16
The rate of kidnapping in Nigeria has risen considerably higher in the last five years. Nigeria it over 200 million people, with the high rate of missing people in the country, it could be said that no fewer than 1,000 people are kidnapped on daily basis in the country, thus making kidnapping more or less a new “milking industry” for the perpetrators.
Despite the abrogation and high resistance by the laws of the land, especially as entrenched in the Criminal Act (CAP 38, FN 2004) which established kidnapping as an offence and an act of felony, accompanied with a conviction of ten years imprisonment. Isn’t it reasonable to desist from the act with this kind of harsh judgment? Rather, the reverse is the case for these unrepentant evildoers.
Without mincing words, let me say emphatically that Lagos, especially the Lagos-Badagry Expressway has become a fortress and the den of kidnappers. The highway is now fearful than it should be, to the extent that extra vigilance needs to be embraced before vehicles are boarded towards this fearful axis. Not forgetting that the state of the road over the past few years has become an eyesore that one would even be forced to reckon with the derogatory rumour that Badagry is not in Lagos map.
So saddening as it may be, the road has gone so badly that during the former Akinwunmi Ambode-led government, the residents of this road announced their plans to stage peaceful protests to Alausa Ikeja, the seat of the Lagos government to express their grievances on the state of the road, extortion from the drivers of the buses plying this route, cases of kidnaps, among several others but it was stopped for a reason that wasn’t made known.
Perhaps, one reason is to desist from exposing the frolic of the then administration or because of the political undertone. But does that stop the innumerable scenarios of people being stripped of their hard earn belongings and dropped by the roadside after the evils have been perpetrated on them? Worst still, some of the victims are even carted away to the neighbouring countries where the culprits demand ransom from the victims’ families through an international line when kidnapped.
In all sincerity, Lagos-Badagry Expressway is one of the routes that embrace human trafficking or kidnapping, as the case may be because of the porousness of the road, the only security agent on patrol has always been the customs officials and they are less concerned about what is going out of the country but only what comes in with the sole aim of collecting bribes from the smugglers with pardonable contraband goods. One reason they don’t stay in the lane that leads out of Nigeria.
Just mid last year, my mother fell prey of these evil doers (Kidnappers), she was just returning from the Agbara market, though in Ogun State it shares a boundary with Lagos State, in fact, the place is mostly understood to be part of Lagos because of the near distance. It was on a Friday, she couldn’t wait further in the market to get some other things because she needed to catch up with the Jum’at prayer at home.
On getting to the bus stop where she will board, she came by a cab calling for passengers, with two men already seated inside it, in hastiness, she joined to complete them three excluding the driver. After the driver had moved a few kilometres away from where she boarded, the two men wearing ‘head warmer’ drew it to cover their faces with holes made on them to match up to their respective organs like eyes and mouths.
They brought out guns to scare my mother, threatened her to remain calm while the vehicle was still in motion, by that time, she explained that she had already started confessing her sins innately like a prisoner besieged to say his last word before death. Her valuables were collected including the money she had on her. Even when the thought of escaping crossed her heart, would she have done that in a fast moving vehicle? She cooperated like a kindergarten showed a cane to keep mum.
They had time to even ask for her ATM card and the pin too, in fret, she summoned courage to tell them a wrong pin which she was forced to say repeatedly to authenticate her claim, they even threatened to drive her to the nearest banking hall for withdrawal with the threat that if it reads the wrong pin, she would be killed at the spot, she didn’t kowtow rather played along that she had given them the right pin.
Without piety, one of them suggested that she be pushed on motion after their operation, she pleaded on hearing that and the other beckon the driver to find somewhere to park so she could be dropped, the driver did and he zoomed off leaving my mother helpless in broad daylight.
For hours, my mother was fidgeting and bedraggled with variety of thoughts in her head, she managed to get home through a biker she narrated her ordeal to, the tumultuous experience my mother had still frightened her whenever she sees anybody wearing the ‘head warmer’ for months.
That aside, about ten days ago came another unpleasant occurrence by this “never do-gooders” to my sister, Oluwakemi Soyebo, a sales representative with Friestland Campina (the producer of Three Crowns Milk and Peak Milk) who works in Agbara.
According to her, she had boarded a bus from Agbara after the days work only for some men and women alike to start shouting cooperate in the bus she hasn’t even seated well, they brought out tablets from their pouches and forced them, the passengers to take it by opening their mouths and forcing them to swallow it at gunpoint.
That was all she could remember, she was stripped of her belongings including three phones and the sales money she got from her customers that day totalling about N521,000.
Scary, very scary what the route has become. We waited for her to come back home the second day after placing calls to her friend who dismisses seeing her, this which prompted my declaring her missing on my social media platforms and reported same to several media houses. Then, I headed to the police station with my sister’s boss to report the incidence so as to corroborate her search.
Immediately, I filed her name with the female police officer on duty, her response was really bemusing coupled with her uncontrollably manner of chewing gum, I was disgust and more disgust when she said “shebi your sister na 22 years? No wori, she go come back home jare, na fuck she go fuck, find me something abeg. She retorted. I wasn’t disappointed anyways because the rot in Nigeria police system is known to even the unborn child, but the statement, haba…
Need I mention the multitudinous calls I was receiving from fraudsters on the whereabouts of my sister and the urgent transfer of monies to their account numbers so that we can reunite with her anon. I already envisaged this, the main reason I didn’t accompany any of my parents’ numbers in the missing messages written on social media platforms but mine.
After about three days of her missing declaration, she was dropped off by a cab whom eyewitnesses reported zoomed off immediately. Nobody was interested in the cab that dropped her, the joy was that she came back home alive but she couldn’t speak for another two days, continually throwing up and ceaselessly crying too.
Interestingly, the hospital tested her positive to drug substance when admitted and had been diagnosed with a mere shock to the incident.
The dangers on this highway have made people chickened out of coming to even pay their close relatives to visit as life and livelihood might be on risk. The route has been paid less attention to despite claims that it is a federal road and that its repair has been awarded a grant to the FG by ECOWAS. There isn’t any plausible progress to it, instead, it is even getting worse daily.
Let the Lagos government be on trial! Those familiar with my trajectories will attest to the fact that I am not going this whole hog simply because I am related with these victims but because several other families have been affected and the sore might still remain in their hearts if their own stories never go well as ours. Many have lost their loved ones to the insecurity in this highway or because of its desolate state.
The Lagos State government should not play ostrich on this issue. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu should rather deploy security operatives to this route and its environs. He should also seize the bull by the horns on the repair of the roads or the quick facilitation by any agency involved.