- Barely a week ago, precisely on Sunday, 04 November 2018, hoodlums rained bullet shots at the car of the past Chairman of Auchi Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (“NBA”), Mr. A A Atemoagbo, along Auchi-Benin Road, near Ehor, in Edo State, in an attempt to halt him. Mr. Atemoagbo survived the attack, albeit with injuries and greatly traumatized, but not so, his wife, Joan, who was killed by the assassins’ bullets. Mr. Atemoagbo was returning from a Convention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that held in Benin and, in his Honda CRV car were his wife, their young child and one other passenger. Mr. Atemoagbo’s car was indeed stopped by the hoodlums and he was kidnapped and only released days later after the payment of the specified ransom amount.
- This very unfortunate and depressing incident which, sadly, is not isolated, highlights two critical issues, both related to security of lives and property in our land. First, how come criminals find it so easy to acquire firearms and ammunition in our country? What happened to the enforcement of the law prohibiting unlicensed possession of firearms? How come we’ve not heard of any crackdown by the security agencies on illegal ownership and/or possession of firearms or isn’t it obvious that there’s unbridled ownership and possession of guns by all shades of criminals, giving rise to the runaway insecurity to lives and property in Nigeria? How come governments, at the different levels, are not carrying out consistent and concerted campaigns against illegal ownership and possession of firearms? Why is there no concerted effort at stemming this unseemly situation?
- It needs be mentioned that the proliferation of firearms and ammunition in Nigeria gives the impression that governments and their security agencies are very complacent in their approach to these security and safety challenges. What would it take to wake up governments at all levels and the security agencies to their respective responsibilities in this regard? Perhaps, Joan Atemoagbo would’ve been alive and with us today if governments and their security agencies had taken their respective responsibilities seriously and cracked down on proliferation of arms and ammunitions. It’s not too late to start that crackdown now and we urge the various governments to do so before another life is lost.
- Second and on a related note, we understand that the location where the Atemoagbos were attacked, along Benin-Auchi Road, close to Ehor, in Edo State, is notorious for such criminal and deadly attacks. Indeed, we understand that an Edo State Local Government Chairman was attacked and killed at that same spot in 2017. Mr. Atemoagbo also tells us that, while in captivity, he noticed that the kidnappers’ business was truly booming. Indeed, as he was entering his captivity, some others were being released from the den upon the payment of the demanded ransom and he was replacing them. As he was also being released, after payment of the ransom amount, some other victims were replacing and taking his place.
- How come such organized criminal rings and gangs operate brazenly without hindrance and with such freedom and effrontery? What happened to the intelligence capabilities of our security agencies? Have the criminals developed strategies and operating modus that are seemingly superior to those of our intelligence and security agencies, thereby making the criminals invincible and, perhaps, untouchable?
- We deeply mourn the untimely death of Joan Atemoagbo and condole with the Atemoagbos and indeed, the executive and members of our Auchi Branch. We sincerely hope and pray that the gruesome murder of this innocent woman who was returning from a place of worship, would not go unpunished. We pray that Joan’s death pricks the conscience of our various governments and their law enforcement and security agencies sufficient to galvanize them into actions that would secure lives and property in the land. In particular, we call on the security agencies to bring to book the murderers of Joan Atemoagbo while also rounding up and bringing to justice the criminal gang(s) of kidnappers and murderers that operate along the Benin-Auchi Road.
Paul Usoro, SAN