By Francis Ogbuagu
Three persons on Thursday died in Benin City, the Edo State capital, as the ever busy Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Road, came under heavy attack by gunmen suspected to be kidnappers.
According to information made available to newsmen, the gunmen were said to have first attacked a commercial bus at the Urhokosa/Obagie end of the road and took a number of the passengers into custody.
The suspected kidnappers who were said to be in groups, got a group to lead the first set of the victims to the bush, en route the kidnappers’ den, while a second group caused the driver of the bus to use the vehicle to block the road.
A trailer driver, who saw the blockade and suspected that it might be for the sinister operation of the men of the underworld, was said to have refused to stop and rammed his articulated vehicle into the bus, killing two of the passengers.
Other vehicles which ran into the traffic jam, occasioned by the blockade, were attacked by another group of the kidnappers, who selected victims and marched them to join the earlier captured passengers.
A member of a vigilante group in the area, who acted bravely by confronting the gunmen, was shot dead by the kidnappers, according to a witness, who narrowly escaped into the bush while the confusion reigned on the road as the gunmen operated without any challenge.
The escaped victim, who claimed that he had to abandon his vehicle to run into the bush, added that he met some other persons who also escaped in the bush, just as he said that the gunmen were shooting sporadically for a long time without any resistance from the security agents.
Benin-Ekpoma-Auchi Road, from time immemorial, had been a den of robbers, kidnappers and other criminal elements. A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and constitutional lawyer cum human rights, Chief Mike Ozekhomhe, was some years kidnapped on that same route.
Flashpoints for robbery and kidnapping on the axis have over the years been Urhokosa, Obagie, Ogbemudia Farm, Agbede, Aviele and the boundary between Edo State and Kogi State at Okepella and beyond.
Efforts to reach the Edo Police Command authorities of the incident proved abortive as neither the Command’s spokesman, Chidi Nwabuzor, nor his boss, the Commissioner of Police, Mr Johnson Kokumo, answered to the calls to his mobile phone.