There is a security alert in Lagos State following the abduction of six residents within 24 hours. Lagos Island is particularly witnessing a flurry of upgraded security measures where most of the victims were kidnapped.
Beyond the neighbourhoods of wealthy residents of the state, there is a general sense of apprehension among residents after a security company, Eons Intelligence, released another advisory asking the residents to look out for the red flags in their daily interactions.
The unit, known as Inspector General of Police Intelligence Response Team, is headed by Mr Tunji Disu, an assistant commissioner of police, who replaced celebrity cop, Abba Kyari, who has been suspended following his indictment for money laundering in the United States.
An officer on the team confirmed the development to Saturday Tribune, although he said he was not authorised to speak about it publicly.
Lagos State may not be new to kidnapping occasional cases incidents but happenings in the last one week have given many residents a cause to worry.
The height of the kidnapping incidents was the abduction of a retired Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Sikiru Smith, cousin to a former Inspector General of Police, Musiliu Smith, who currently heads the Police Service Commission.
Smith, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Double Wealth Ventures Limited, had on Monday gone to supervise dredging activities of the financial institution in the Ajah area of the state when hooded gunmen invaded the area and abducted him.
The driver to the abducted military top brass, Corporal Odiji, who revealed the incident in a Save-Our-Soul message, said that the masked men arrived at the scene of the abduction in a speed boat and fired sporadic gunshots to scare workers at the site before going for their target.
Odiji said: “This is an emergency. I am Corporal Odiji attached to Air Vice Marshal Smith. They just abducted him from the site where we were working. Some gunmen who were wearing masks just came and snatched my boss.
“They shot everywhere. I was near where I was fixing my boss’s vehicle. As I was coming, I saw them leaving in a boat but I wasn’t armed. So, I just ran to his site. I saw his glasses and where he struggled with them. Please, pass on the information. It is an emergency.”
The abduction of the retired AVM occurred less than 24 hours after a man, Ogbuagu Kingsley, was abducted in the auditorium of a church in the FESTAC Town area of the state.
The armed abductors were said to have arrived in a Lexus Sports Utility vehicle, forced their way into the church and abducted their target.
Kingsley’s friends quickly launched a viral online search for him with celebrities like popular END SARS campaigner, Rinu Oduala and others retweeting the report of his abduction. Days after, the state police command said he had been rescued and reunited with his family.
There were no details of his rescue and no words on whether ransom was paid.
Also about the same time, Kingsley was picked up, a yet-tobe identified man was also reportedly abducted, by another gang of masked men along Admiralty Way in the Lekki area of the state.
Worried about the spike in the kidnapping rate in the state, Eons Intelligence released some security tips for residents of the state in an attempt to guard against kidnapping and other forms of crime.
The company stated that apart from AVM Smith, Lekki and FESTAC abductions, there was another incident where a pastor, his wife and their driver were abducted by some hooded gunmen in the Dopemu area of the state. It was gathered that the gunmen later abandoned the driver and took the pastor and his wife away, demanding N100 million.
They were said to have later released the wife and reduced the ransom to N50 million. The released wife was to go and coordinate the ransom payment.
Still smarting from the loss of one of its officers to a recent mob attack, the state police command has gone all out to battle the uptick in kidnapping in the state, leading to the killing of two suspected kidnappers during a raid in Ikorodu early Thursday.
The police said it was a burst operation that resulted in an exchange of gunfire. While another member of the said gang, Peter Thomas, 25, was arrested, the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said some suspects were equally arrested in connection with Smith’s abduction. Their identities remained under wraps.
Odumosu said: “The long arm of the law has caught up with a notorious kidnap gang as operatives of the Lagos State police command smashed the gang in its criminal hideout in the deep forest in Imota/Emuren area of Lagos State.
“The forest has been notorious for keeping their victims and collection of ransom for which one Lukmon Onabanjo, alias Bugon, was a victim in recent past. The successful operation started at about 23:30 hrs on 29th September 2021 after days of intelligence monitoring on the gang.
“The recent kidnapping incident in the state further invigorated the determination of the command not to allow the criminals turn the state to a theatre of kidnapping. On sighting the police operatives, the daredevil armed kidnappers engaged them in a shootout that lasted for some hours.
“In a determined and courageous spirit, the operatives returned the heavy fire. In the ensuing gun battle, two of the suspected armed kidnappers were fatally injured but later gave up the ghost, while being conveyed to the hospital for medical attention.
“One was arrested alive. Other members of the gang escaped with bullet wounds. Manhunt and security onslaught has been emplaced for their arrest.”
Living in denial?
But the command won’t agree to the conclusion that kidnapping is on the rise in the state. Earlier, the spokesperson, Adekunle Ajisebutu, had said: “The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, wishes to assure residents that Lagos State is safe and that they should not panic on account of the viral post or the recent security infringement in Ajah where AVM Sikiru Smith (rtd) was abducted on 27th September 2021.
“The assurance becomes imperative given the unnecessary alarm and concerns being raised on the social media about isolated security infractions in some parts of the state.
“The victim, who was kidnapped in FESTAC on Sunday, 26th September 2021, has been rescued and reunited with his family. Operatives of the command are being tactical so as not to jeopardise the lives of the AVM and the pastor. Concerted efforts are ongoing to rescue them and arrest their abductors in due course.
“The Commissioner of Police wishes to state that the isolated incidents notwithstanding, Lagos State is, and will remain, one of the safest states in Nigeria. To allay the fear of the people, therefore, the command has re-strategised to provide watertight security for all law-abiding residents of the State.”
He added: “The Commissioner of Police has given a standing order to all field commanders, tactical unit commanders and other uniformed and plain-clothed police officers to intensify visibility policing, vehicular patrol as well as an intelligence-driven raid of all flashpoints/black spots and identified criminal hideouts to smoke out men of the underworld hibernating in them.
“The CP also wishes to state that the police command is conscious of its statutory duties of protecting lives and property among other duties, and would not for any reason or at any time abdicate these important duties.
“While still pleading with members of the public to believe in police’s ability to protect them at all times, the Commissioner of Police once again solicits the support of the public, sister agencies and other strategic partners by giving prompt but actionable intelligence that would further decimate criminal elements and their nefarious activities in the state.”