The Edo Government has confirmed the arrest of two village chiefs in connection with the January 7 train attack which resulted in the kidnap of 20 passengers at the Igueben train station.
The state Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Chris Nehikhare, disclosed that seven other suspects had also been arrested in connection with the incident, adding that two remaining passengers in captivity had also been rescued by security agents.
He revealed shortly after the state executive council meeting in Benin on Wednesday.
Nehikhare said, “The success story in the kidnapping is that five persons and two village chiefs have been arrested in connection with the incident and they are helping with investigations,” he said.
When asked to give the names of the village chiefs, he said further details should be sought from the police.
However, the state police spokesman, Chidi Nwabuzor could be reached for details as his phone was switched off.
But the Executive Director, Esan Youth for Good Governance and Social Justice, Benson Odia, told our correspondent that the chiefs were innocent, adding that their arrest had political undertone.
He said, “You see, the government is playing politics. The chiefs were never accused of being a perpetrator or whatever. The arrest of those chiefs and the traditional rulers has political undertone because these days they are now partisan. They are not supporting his political party that is why the governor is trying to use them as scapegoats.”
Odia said banditry was not only taking place in Igueben forest and Udo forest but “because there was a train attack, the governor is now trying to use some traditional rulers as scapegoats.’’
He added, “Even in Edo North in Akoko Edo, the local government of deputy governor, kidnappers are on rampage there and Fulani are also grazing cows. Those traditional rulers are not kidnappers. They were never involved in criminal activities. The governor just wants to embarrass them. We are aware that the traditional rulers have been remanded.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, resolved to observe a minute of silence in honour of a police officer, DSP Michael Adams, who died in an operation to rescue President of the Customary Court, Mrs Precious Aigbonog, from her abductors in Edo State.
The House also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to deploy more Mobile Police personnel in Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State, while urging the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General, Farouk Yahaya, and the IGP to set up a Nigeria Army barracks or a Forward Operating Base and a Police Mobile Force Base, respectively, within the district.
Reps demand security
The House further mandated the Committees on Army and Police Affairs to ensure compliance with the resolutions and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
The resolutions were sequel to the unanimous adoption of a motion moved by a member of the House from Edo, Sergius Ogun, titled ‘Need to Beef Up Security Formations in Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State.’
Moving the motion, Ogun noted that Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitutions provides that the security and welfare of the people of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of the government, adding that the National Assembly is empowered to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of the Federation or any part thereof, as enshrined in Section 4(2).
He said, “The House is worried about the spate of kidnappings, armed robbery attacks and insecurity generally in the country, especially in Edo Central Senatorial District of Edo State, thus leading to the loss of lives and properties, and is causing palpable fear and apprehension among residents.
“The House is informed that on Monday, January 9, 2023, Mrs Precious Aigbonog, the President of Customary Court was kidnapped on her way to court around Ugoneki Igueben Local Government Area of Edo State.
“The House is also informed that a former member of the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr Festus Edughele, was also kidnapped on January 9, 2023, at Ugoneki town on his way to board a flight to Abuja in Benin City.
“The House is disturbed that these sad incidents occurred two days after 20 train passengers were kidnapped at the Igueben Train Station while waiting to board a train to Warri, Delta State.”
The lawmaker said while the efforts by the team of Nigeria Army and Nigeria Police Force, which led to the rescue of Aigbonog, Edughele and 18 out of the 20 train passengers who were kidnapped, the House is “saddened by the death of DSP Michael Adams during the rescue operation” by the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police as a result of the gun duel with the kidnappers.
Ogun stressed the urgent need to beef up security formations in the entirety of the district to forestall kidnappings and eradicate other acts of criminality in Esanland and Edo State at large.
“The House is convinced that setting up of a Police Mobile Force Base and a Nigeria Army Barracks/Forward Operating Base within Edo Central Senatorial District will go a long way in wadding off perpetrators of crimes and criminality from Esanland and Edo State in general,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the House, also on Wednesday, urged the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing to “immediately” construct a pedestrian bridge at Okada Junction on the Benin-Ore-Lagos Road, Edo State, “to save the lives of Nigerians who are forced to run across the highway to go about their various daily activities.”
Another member of the House from Edo State, Dennis Idahosa, had moved a separate motion that was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers. It was titled ‘Need to Construct a Pedestrian Bridge on the Benin-Ore-Lagos Road by Okada Junction.’
Idahosa noted that the Benin-Ore-Lagos Expressway is one of the busiest highways in Nigeria, with the high volume of vehicles connecting the South-West to the South-East, North and the South-South geopolitical zones of the country.
The lawmaker added that the road hosts several communities and towns, among which is Okada in Edo State, stressing that the road connecting Okada town, Iguobazuwa communities and Benin City on the expressway has a popular Okada Junction which is a hub for commercial buses and traders.
He said, “The lives of Nigerians who go about their daily activities on the Okada Junction are endangered by the absence of a pedestrian flyover, thus resulting in the loss of lives. Residents have continually made a public outcry to the government to construct a pedestrian bridge at Okada Junction to avert accidents and loss of lives.
“The House is worried that apart from the dangers to which human lives are exposed, another challenge is that the non-availability of pedestrian bridges discourages residents from hustling for their daily economic activities.”