The Ondo State government in southwest Nigeria on Sunday evacuated 42 suspected invaders, who were arrested on Thursday by men of the Ondo State Security Network, Amotekun, at Okitipupa, the headquarters of Okitipupa Local Government Area.
The suspects, who were mainly from Jigawa and Kano States, said they were brought to Ondo State for training as security guards.
The suspects, who assembled in front of the Army Barracks, Okitipupa, before men of Amotekun were alerted, caused panic among the residents, who thought they came to attack the town.
Addressing journalists before the people were moved out of the state in buses, the state Commander of Amotekun, Chief Adetunji Adeleye, accompanied by the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Donald Ojogoh, said the state government, after profiling the suspects, was not satisfied with their mission to the state.
He said the state considered their presence in the state as a security risk, adding that the state government could not take chances.
Adeleye said: “In the last three days, there have been issues relating to the invasion of the state by alleged Fulani men in Okitipupa.
“We monitored and we found out that they converged on the front of the army barracks. They were there for a couple of hours and at that point, we tried to find out what their mission is, but because they couldn’t give satisfactory explanations we moved them to our local office first in Okitipupa to try to debrief them and from the debriefing at Okitipupa, we had to move them to the state headquarters for proper debriefing.
“We found out that they are primarily from two major states, that is Kano and Jigawa states. The mission that they claimed they came for we found out that is not too clear and upon profiling, we found out that the majority of them don’t even know how they got here.
“All they were told was that they were going for training. Training for who, by who, or whatsoever, they do not know.
“But from the detailed investigation, we were able to narrow it down to their sponsors. The sponsors happened to also claim that they belong to an NGO, that they contracted out the training to a consultant who was supposed to train their men. They said they were going to train them as security guards.
“Right now we look at them as a security risk to the state, and at this point, we invited the sponsors, the head of the NGO, and the chairman of the board. They’ve also offered an explanation. But we feel that we should let the people of Ondo State know that there is no crisis in Okitipupa Local Government Area.
“The way it was portrayed was as if some hoodlums or militants had taken over.
“We want to reassure the good people of Ondo State that we are firmly on the ground in conjunction with other security agencies that there is no problem.
“Having debriefed them, we intended to provide escort to lead them out of Ondo State back to wherever they came from.
“As part of our discreet investigation, we found out that the so-called consultant had been arrested in Delta State and I confirmed from the Delta State Police Command as of today that he’s still in their custody.
“So, why we intend to release them on bail, we will release all these ones and ensure that they are taken back to their states.”
Speaking on the matter, the state Governor, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, warned the people of the state against taking laws into their hands on any issues.
Akeredolu, represented by Ojogo, said the invaders would have been lynched, if not because it was professionally handled by the state, particularly.
“Ondo State led by Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is not one that intends to take law into its own hands. The security situation we found ourselves in the last three days was a very precarious one.
“If not that it was discreetly and professionally handled and well managed by officials of government, particularly Amotekun Commander and SSA on Security, the situation may have degenerated.
“As you also witnessed none of them was molested. The situation would have degenerated to the extent of lynching and jungle justice. It was almost getting to that point when they were seen in a suspicious manner in Okitipupa but the governor had to rise up to the occasion to ensure that they were given adequate protection so that jungle justice had to be avoided. That was one of the key points that was achieved in the last 72 hours. It was a very frightening situation.
“What government is trying to do today is to ensure that the way they came to the state, they will leave the state safely, peacefully and unhurt, so that when they get to their various state, they will also testify to their state government and their people that the movement that brought them to Ondo State was an unclear one and the state government had to protect them and move them back to their state,” Ojogoh said.
Ojogoh said Akeredolu had directed that no official of the state must issue a statement or comment on security issues in the state.
“The governor has directed that in any security situation we found ourselves, the first point of contact must be security agencies.
“They are the only points of contact. Even I as commissioner for information and spokesperson of government am not authorised to speak on issues related to insecurity, no matter how insensitive it is.
“As long as it is a security matter, we do not want anybody to speak without proper authorisation,” he added
James Sowole in Akure