BY MURITALA AYINLA AND TAIWO JIMOH ||
Drama ensued at Lagos state Governor’s office yesterday as the wife of one of the abducted farm workers at Epe axis of Lagos state suddenly collapsed at the governor’s office during an anti-kidnap protest.
Hundreds of Epe farmers yesterday stormed the office of the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode to protest continued abduction of their members, saying that over 50 farmers have so far been kidnapped and several millions of Naira paid has been ransom before the victims were freed.
They expressed their 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, kidnapping their colleagues at will.
The protesters, who converged at the Ikeja City Mall and marched to the Governor’s office and State House of Assembly, noted that five of their members and two members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) abducted by the the kidnappers on February 14 are still being held in captivity.
Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Mr. Ayokunle Ore, 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 armed kidnappers, who now ‘operate at will’ on the axis.
Ore added that since September, 2016, farmers in Igbodu/Isiwo had been under sustained attacks by the kidnappers who stormed the farms, abduct their members and demand huge ransom.
Explaining the series of successful attack by the abductor, Ore said: “On 16th of September, 3 female farm workers and six-month-old baby were abducted. Two months later, precisely, 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 2 farm workers one of them a female were kidnapped from Tanda Farms. The kidnappers also visited Elysian Farm, the farm managers and a customer was kidnapped on the same day. Just last month, February 14, the kidnappers returned to Elysian farms and kidnapped 4 workers, a casual worker, 2 vigilante group members. As at the last count, kidnappers were demanding N5million for each of the kidnapped 7 people who are still in their captivity.
“As criminal 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. Sometime, we have had to pay heavily for police efforts to get to our farms,” the farmer added.
The protesters however called on the state government to mobilise the joint task force to dislodge kidnapers from the creek surrounding the Igbodu farm settlements where the kidnappers are believed to be operating from. They also called on Governor Ambode to immediately take decisive action against kidnapping of farmers, which, they said is discouraging entrepreneurs from farming and economic diversification that the All Progressive Congress-led federal government is preaching.