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Iwo-Osogbo Highway Raises Fear Of Kidnapping.

Mr Clement Adeniyi is a Lagos-based businessman who had an appointment in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, penultimate Monday. On his way from Lagos, he ran into a traffic gridlock at Iwo road interchange in Ibadan. The gridlock stretched to the old Ife road, putting his timely arrival at Osogbo in danger. However, the 52-year-old found alternative in Ibadan-Iwo-Osogbo road and did not hesitate to follow his instinct.

About 20 kilometres from Iwo-Osogbo section of the road, he had a flat tyre and pulled over to change it. No sooner had he brought out the extra tyre from the booth than three young men appeared from the bush and offered to help him. He obliged them and gave them N500 after they had fixed the tyre. To his charging, the trio declined the amount and demanded N1000 in a tone that contrasted that of the men who earlier approached him.

They threatened that if he refused to meet their N1000 demand, they would teach him a lesson. At that point, he sensed what they meant, quickly complied and rushed out of that spot. 'There is no doubt that I was in the zone of kidnappers only that God just saved me from that situation,' Adeniyi said.

Whether you enter the road from Iwo or Osogbo end at the Oba Adesoji Aderemi newly-opened highway, your next one hour on the road is a punishment to you behind the wheel, your passengers at your back and your vehicle in which you travel. The countless failed portions of the 55-kilometre highway have turned it to a black spot and source of worry to the people of Iwo, Telemu, Asamu, Osuntedo, Ile Afa, Orita Baba Abiye, Orita Awo and Orita Ara.

Though there has not been a reported incidence of abduction on Osogbo-Iwo highway since 2017 when motorists returned to the road after they had abandoned it for about 15 years, the rate at which kidnappers operate in the South-West is provoking unprecedented apprehension among drivers, passengers and other users of the road.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that commercials drivers scarcely put their vehicles on that road when the sun begins to set on the grounds that the hour is unsafe in the hands of suspected Fulani herdsmen who allegedly assault stranded drivers and passengers with the latter losing their valuables during the operations.

Constructed in the 70s during the military regime in the former Oyo State, the Iwo-Osogbo road is a section of the highway that connects Ibadan and Osogbo.

It was learnt that only a few highways in the entire South-West can boast of its construction design which features minimal bends, making it motorists friendly, in terms of smooth driving experience during journey. The asphaltic surface offered travellers opportunity to reach their destinations on time.

Conversely, that beautiful story belongs to the archive as commercial and private drivers pass through pains occasioned by the ugly state of the road and regular attacks by suspected herdsmen.

This situation was further confirmed by the Chairman of Iwo-Osogbo Unit of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Mr Moshood Ajadi, who told the Nigerian Tribune in his office that every trip from Iwo to Osogbo comes with risk. In unambiguous language, the chairman recalled incidents in which some of his members ran into the Fulani herdsmen and returned home with a tale of woes following loss suffered from their hands.

Ajadi has even lost count of such incidents which he blamed on the deplorable state of the road. Having occupied the office of the unit chairman for eight years, the man disclosed that whatever he says about the road represents what his members pass through on a daily basis, lamenting that the road is killing drivers gradually.

'There is no way you pass the road once a day and not spend the other day at home to recover from body pains. I am not yet talking about how much we spend at mechanic workshop after every journey. We are here on the job because this is the only job we know how to do. We don't have another job. That is why we endure it. But what is most painful is that successive government in the state would always use the state of the road to campaign before elections. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Mr Rauf Aregbesola and the new Governor Oyetola promised to repair the road. But we are only hoping that Governor Oyetola would not go the way of his predecessors who left office without fulfilling their promises,' he said.

Alhaji Babade Raheem, a retiree, who claimed to have regularly plied the road during his service year in Osogbo, and attested to the purposes which the road had served long before it became impassable, expressed his fear on the condition of the road bearing in mind that deserted roads have always served asa safe haven for sundry criminals. The ex-civil servant said that whenever he had any reason to visit Osogbo, he did so on faith in God.

'It has got to that point because of the activities of the herdsmen who have turned themselves to the lords on that road. When I heard that kidnappers abducted a university lecturer on Ibadan-Ife highway, my mind went to Iwo-Osogbo road that if it could happen in a road which is busy, how much more on a deserted road as this? I just hope that this new government in Osun State would do something this time as we see some people already taking measurement. Maybe, they are making efforts to repair it,' he said.

Chairman of Osun State Harmonised Vigilance Group, Alhaji Ridwan Hussein, said no preventive measure is too much in combating the danger hovering on the South-West. Fixing of the road is one of his recommendations, adding that if the road is good and motorable, it will be difficult for criminals to operate there. Famously called Ya-salam, the vigilance boss said about two weeks ago, he attended a stakeholders meeting called by Osun State government where he told the gathering, which included the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and the Owa Obokun of Ilesa, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, his perspective of the insecurity in the state.

'There is nothing we can do at our level without the approval of the government. The little law we understand teaches us of the implication of doing law-enforcement job without the approval of the government. But I am saying it again here that we have done it in the past, we can still do it if we are given conducive work atmosphere. We should not run away from the fact that criminals have migrated down here. Our traditional rulers should be directed to keep eagle eyes on their communities. It is unfortunate that some of them see crime but chose to keep quiet because of their interest. Yet when the crisis comes in full scale, it won't spare anybody,' he said.

The Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, however, dismissed fear of criminal acts on the road despite its poor state. Oba Akanbi acknowledged the past crime activities but said those have been taken care of by the police. In order to ensure a tight security on the road and other areas in his domain, he donated his patrol vehicle to the area command; a step which he confirmed has helped the police.

'There are no more cases of herdsmen attacks on that road. I have a good work relationship with the area commander who updates me from time to time on the security situation. Since I opened up the road in 2017, vehicles have returned there but the more vehicles on the road, the more pressure on it. It has shown that the problem is beyond an individual. Only government can put the road back to shape,' he said.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Jun 4, 2019
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