Residents of communities in Ogbia, an area in Bayelsa, South-South Nigeria, say there have been notable reductions in the rate of kidnapping for ransom since HumAngle published a report a year ago exposing a pattern in the crime.
In an investigation released on Sept. 16, 2022, HumAngle shed light on the impact the series of abductions had on residents, including leading to mass relocations to safer places such as the state capital, Yenagoa. The report noted shortcomings in the local security architecture, which the criminal groups exploited.
We learnt from residents that things have gotten better since the publication.
Omekwe Isukul Franklin, the former Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman of Otuogidi, said the last kidnapped victim from his community got his freedom last year. “After Chief Ogiasa was released last year,” he said, “we are yet to record another kidnapping case.”
He, however, added that the person who went to negotiate for Ogiasa’s release has been missing.
King Amangala Moses Opokeno, Obanade III, the Paramount Ruler of Ogbia-Town; his cabinet members; and the former Youth President of Opume, Esther Okoloba, corroborated Franklin’s observation about a sharp reduction in abductions.
“I’m glad to receive you here again. As my spokesman earlier informed you, the kidnapping rate has reduced,” King Amangala told this reporter.
Elder Daniel Dio, the CDC chairman of Ogbia Town, credited HumAngle’s report for the improved conditions, explaining that security agencies “are now trying their possible best to calm the situation”.
The community leaders urged the government to establish joint security posts at strategic locations in the area, including the Oloibiri Court Beach, to keep the area safe from criminals.
The state police spokesperson, Superintendent Asinim Buswat, told us that crime is not static.
“On our own part, we have continued to work hard to ensure that our communities are safe, not only in that area alone but the entire state,” he said. “From time to time, as the criminals evolved their strategies, we also reviewed our operational capacity to ensure that there is safety in those communities.”
Days after the investigation was published, the police in Bayelsa announced the arrest of John Lyon, said to be a kidnap kingpin, and other members of his group. According to the law enforcement agency, the group had been operating since 2015.
“They kidnapped some bankers and demanded for ransom. We painstakingly carried out some investigation that led to their arrest, and they have been charged to court,” Buswat said.
HumAngle also noted the establishment of a new military post in Otakime, a community close to Ogbia Town, which locals said was due to an invitation from a company trying to keep its workers safe.
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