Tuesday, February 21, 2017 9:06 am
By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Hundred of Epe farmers on Monday stormed the office of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos to protest incessant abduction of their members by kidnappers.
The farmers lamented that over 50 farmers had so far been kidnapped, with severally millions of naira paid as ransom before the victims were freed.
The protesters were armed with placards, some of which read: “Governor Ambode, help; President Buhari, help; Acting President, Osibanjo, help Igbodu farmers,” “Please, flush out the creeks,” “Save our lives and our investment,” “Kidnapping in Governor Ambode’s backyard,” among others.
The protesters expressed sadness that the state government had not taken decisive action to stem the growing tide of kidnapping in the axis, lamenting that the armed abductors frequently storm their farms located on Igbodu-Ishiwo Road and kidnapped their colleagues at will.
The protested appealed to the state government to mobilise the joint task force to dislodge kidnappers from the creek surrounding the Igbodu farm settlements where the kidnappers were believed to be operating from.
They called on Ambode to immediately take decisive action against kidnapping of farmers, which, they said was discouraging entrepreneurs from farming and economic diversification which the All Progressive Congress-led federal government is preaching.
The protesters, who converged at the Shoprite and marched to the State House, Ikeja said that five of their members and two Oodua People’s Congress, OPC members were abducted by the the kidnappers on 14 February and were still being held hostage by the abductors.
Ayokunle Ore, spokesperson of the group, said with continued kidnapping of their members, over N20bn investments were being threatened, saying that many of them no longer go to the farms to feed their birds or irrigate their farms for the fear of kidnappers, who according to them, now operate at will on the axis.
According to him, since September, 2016, farmers in Igbodu/Isiwo had been under sustained attacks from the kidnappers who stormed the farms, abducted their members and demanded huge ransom.
“On 16th of September, three female farm workers and a six-month-old baby were kidnapped. On 16th of November, four farmers were kidnapped from Farmville. Also, November 21st of the same year, five workers were kidnapped from Kodjo Farms. On the 19th of January, 2017, we also recorded another incident when two farm workers, one of them a female, were kidnapped from Tanda Farms.
“The kidnappers also visited Elysian Farm, the farm managers and a customer were kidnapped on the same day. Just last month, February 14, the kidnappers returned to Elysian farms and kidnapped four workers, a casual worker, two vigilante group members. As at the last count, kidnappers were demanding N5 million for each of the kidnapped seven people who are still in their captivity.
“As criminals continue to ravage our communities and our farms, we have met with the Commissioner of Police, unfortunately whatever efforts the police must have made so far could not yield any result as the spate of kidnapping is on the increase. Even our private efforts in engaging community vigilantes, and supporting the police in limited patrol that invariably limited our costs, have also not yielded any reprieve. Sometimes, we have had to pay heavily for police efforts to get to our farms.”
Ore stated that most of their members no longer go to their farms because of the fear off kidnappers while their multi-billion naira investments were going down the drain with many of them gradually being turned to job seekers.
“While kidnappers are amassing huge sums in millions, paid to them as ransom, the investment made by the farmers are rapidly going down the drain. Except something is done urgently, the current investment will disappear and the hope of any farmer is in doubt. The consequential impact will be heavy on the communities and employment generation. Thousands of young men currently employed will be jobless, thus further worsening employment situation in the country,” he said.
Narrating his ordeal in kidnappers’ den, one of the survivors, Mr. Kazeem Adejare said: “The kidnappers surrounded me in the farm and took me away. Early in the morning that fateful day. It was a bitter experience. I went to check the crops of our farm when someone tapped me from behind, when I looked back, they told me to cooperate with them. Two of them were holding cutlass while others were fully armed with guns.
“Initially I thought they were armed robbers, I tried to run, one of them threw stick at me and I fell down, they grabbed and took me away. I was begging them when they were taking me away. They asked for the manager of the farm, but I told them I am the supervisor of the farm. They dragged me on the floor to the riverside; to my surprise when I got to the river, I met four of our workers already in their boat. When we got to the creek, they beat us with cutlass and we were also given another cloth to wear.”
According to him, “the following day, they took us to another creek where we were forced to drink from the river where we defecate; we were also blindfolded throughout our stay in the creek. Sometime, if the kidnappers liked, they would give us one meal a day and most of the food they gave us don’t have salt and some other ingredients. We went through a lot in the creek, before the ransom was paid the seventh day.When they finally released us, we worked for about five hours in the forest before linking the main road.”