"Come to Our Rescue": Inside Benue Community Where Kidnappers Run Rampant, Abduct Villagers at Will
- Ugbugbu is a small farming community in Benue state, Nigeria, primarily focused on subsistence farming
- The community has recently experienced a wave of kidnappings, with several attacks on villagers
- The incidents have led to the shutdown of the only government-owned school in the community, with calls for more police presence and government intervention
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Ugbugbu, Benue state - They are mainly farmers whose farm products are insufficient to care for their family needs. They farm primarily for subsistence and not commercial.
Ugbugbu is a small community in Owukpa, Ogbadibo local government area of Benue state. It has eight clan heads and villages.
The small community is located between Enugu state and Orokam. Only Ukwo and Ekere separate the village from Orokam, and only Ahor-Ogbo and Ukalegu separate the community from Obollo Eke in Isi Uzo local government Area of Enugu state. Ugbugbu shares direct boundaries with Ichama in Okpokwu local government area.
Ugbugbu community under heavy attack
The once-peaceful community has recently come under heavy attacks by kidnappers. An unconfirmed report has it that the dear-devil abductors of villagers have camps deep into the forest between Ichama and Owukpa and another camp around Ankpa-Owukpa.
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Between 2022 and 2023, the community spent millions as ransom due to the incessant kidnapping activities in the community.
In June 2022, the Catholic parish house in Aho-Ogbo was attacked, leaving the windows shattered. This was in an attempt to abduct the Reverend Father.
The kidnappers, however, succeeded in snatching away a 30-year-old lady, Mary, a cook in the parish house. The kidnappers got their ransom from the parish before their victim was released close to Eha-Amufu.
Also, in the same month, some traders were attacked inside the Aho-Ogbo market and taken away by suspected kidnappers. A huge ransom was also paid before the victims regained their freedom.
The same market was attacked multiple times in 2023 by kidnappers. Many were abducted, while some sustained injuries in the process. A young man was shot in the stomach by some kidnappers, while another was axed. The injured, however, survived after medical treatments in Makurdi, the Benue state capital.
Locals said no fewer than 10 kidnapping incidents happened in the small community only in 2022.
New wave of kidnapping in Ugbugbu community
A fresh wave of kidnapping began in 2023 when suspected kidnappers stormed the home of a popular businessman in Anumachogwu-Ugbugbu and left with the security guard. After almost two weeks, the abductors released their victim. N500,000 ransom was paid.
Also, on Atamaka-Ugbugbu road, seven persons were abducted by the kidnappers, leaving the entire community in fear. The victims, who were returning from a wedding ceremony and their local market, were ambushed and taken into the forest. One of them was later released on health grounds.
Efforts by the local vigilantes to rescue the victims failed as they only succeeded in recovering some of the motorcycles they were riding before they were abducted.
After several efforts by both the police and the local vigilantes, the families were pushed to pay for ransom before the victims were released.
Government-owned school shut down
Since the incident, several other kidnap attempts have happened. On Thursday, April 20, the only government-owned secondary school in the community was shut down over an attempt by kidnappers to abduct some women close to the school premises.
While the victims escaped unhurt, the principal of the school opted for a shutdown in order to secure the lives of his students.
Ugbugbu leaders lament
Lamenting the development, the National Chairman of Ugbugbu, Comrade Igoche Anthony, said there is no reason why kidnappers should disturb people who are not financially okay.
"Our people are just farmers. I can count only a few of them who are into other businesses. They are only able to feed themselves and their families from their farms. So what are kidnappers looking for in our village? How much do they think they can make?
"Something has to be done urgently. While we appreciate the effort of the police, they should do more. We need more police presence. The Benue State Joint Task Force should come to our rescue. We cannot continue like this."
Igoche confirmed that the police had intervened in the last two kidnappings but could not confront the kidnappers down into the forest until ransoms were paid.
Urging the villagers to remain calm, Igoche called on the Benue state government to rescue the community. He believes the kidnappers are still within certain nearby locations and can easily be tracked if the government is committed to the task of freeing the community from the stronghold of the "evil men."
Three suspects in custody
Meanwhile, a police source told Legit.ng that about three suspects have been arrested in relation to the incident.
The source could not confirm if the suspects have been directly linked to any of the kidnappings in the area. He could not also confirm if they had made any confessional statement.
Ortom says 134 people killed within five days in Benue
In another report, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has said that at least 134 people were killed by armed invaders within five days in separate attacks on villages in Otukpo, Apa, and Guma local government areas of the state.
Ortom, who spoke to journalists when he visited over 36 injured victims of the Ngban attack at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH), described the attacks as “heinous and cowardly."
He appealed to the community and its leaders to continue to be law-abiding and vigilant at all times to be able to wade off the assailants.