Unknown gunmen on Tuesday, kidnapped all the passengers in an Abuja-bound commercial bus along Benin-Auchi road in Edo State.
The incident reportedly happened around 11am between the Ehor and Iruekpen axis of the busy highway.
A commuter, who identified himself as Idris Audu, said the kidnappers struck at a failed portion of the road and abducted all the passengers in the commercial bus owned by a transport firm, Big Joe.
“The kidnappers struck again on the Benin-Auchi road and abducted an unspecified number of passengers. The incident just happened when I passed the spot. All the passengers were forcefully taken into the bush,” Mr Audu said.
“It is not the first time this is happening. We have cried many times that the security agencies should increase surveillance along the road this season, but they’re slow in arresting this ugly situation.”
A driver of the transport company, who requested not to be named, confirmed the incident.
“Yes, it happened earlier today,” he simply said.
The transport firm is yet to speak officially on the kidnap.
Chidi Nwabuzor, the state Police Public Relations Officer, said he had not been briefed of the development.
“I am not aware of it. Some incidents are not reported and even when they are because they are from local government divisions, they do not get to us immediately. So, give us some time for us to get in touch with the officers and men in the affected area,” Mr Nwabuzor said.
He, however, did not get back as of the time of filing this report.
On December 3, a member of a vigilante group in the Urhokosa/Obagie area of the Benin-Auchi highway was killed by kidnappers after several passengers were kidnapped.
Several cases of kidnapping have been reported in the last few weeks along the road and many parts of the nation.
Following the escalating rate of kidnapping and armed robbery incidents along the busy road, Johnson Kokumo, the state Commissioner of Police, on December 13, said more policemen had been posted from the force headquarters in Abuja ”to dominate the troubled highway and scare hoodlums”.
But the rate of kidnapping and robbery along the road, which leads to Abuja, has remained unabated.
Flashpoints for robbery and kidnapping on the axis over the years are Urhokosa, Obagie, Ogbemudia Farm, Agbede, Aviele, and the boundary between Edo and Kogi states at Okepella.
Tuesday’s kidnap in the state adds to the worsening insecurity across Nigeria.
At least 349 people were killed and 290 others kidnapped in November in violent attacks across Nigeria, a report by a non-governmental organisation, Nigeria Mourn, shows. At least 57 of those killed were in Edo State.