Removal of Military Checkpoints In Ondo: The Fact And The Murmuring of Residents

November 10, 2021

10.4 min readCategories: Starnews Editorial

The citizens of Ondo State, commuters, and traditional rulers are not comfortable with the withdrawal of soldiers from various strategic places and checkpoints mounted at interstate borders in the state.

Starnews Nigeria gathered that some motorists and commuters are currently mounting pressure on some influential traditional rulers to talk to the government and the army commander to put their differences aside, amidst the ominous signs of dangers such rift is posing to the state and her citizens.

Our correspondent who traveled to Abuja last weekend said the withdrawal of the military personnel from strategic areas of the state was the topic of discussion till their bus entered Kogi State. It was a similar scenario when our editor traveled to Lagos from Akure by road on Monday morning.

From what we gathered, many of the drivers and commuters want the State Governor to settle whatever rift with the military command in Akure and return the Soldiers to the road instead of replacing them with men of the Nigerian Police. The majority of them are not comfortable with the replacement of the army with the police.

“The soldiers are always on the road; day and night, during the rain and the scorching sun, they already built houses on the road, sleep and wake up on the road, and they exchange duty on the road. You can’t compare them with police that come in the morning and leave by evening, while at the blast of rock, they flee into the bush,” one of the commuters from Akure to Lagos, told our Editor on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Military Command in Ondo State has refused to speak on the matter, probably refraining from engaging the government in the media – an action which made it impossible for the press to know what’s truly happening and why it is happening.

The military action, whether professional or not, has given room for the state government to dish out whatever information pleasing to the ears of the unsuspecting public, regardless of whether such information is true or false.

While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), through its State Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kennedy Peretei, said that the withdrawal of army personnel from checkpoints was due to the refusal of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to pay allowances due to the soldiers.

The PDP described the excuse given by the State government for the withdrawal of soldiers from checkpoints as laughable.

The PDP said: “Soldiers that man security checkpoints in Ondo State, especially at the inter-State boundaries have abandoned the checkpoints. This is as a result of the refusal of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu to pay allowances due to this personnel.”

“Over the years, the Army high command approved the mobilization of soldiers to thirty-two (32) strategic locations in the state to stem the activities of kidnappers and other criminals on the condition that the State Government pays a token as allowances to the soldiers. This arrangement preceded the incumbent administration under Akeredolu.

“But unfortunately, in the last four months, these allowances have not been paid. All efforts to appeal to the Governor fell on deaf ears. Also, efforts by Traditional Rulers to plead with the Governor did not yield any results,”

But responding to the allegation, the State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, said the PDP was making spurious efforts to weaponise a seeming situation of near sabotage.

Ojogo affirmed that the state government desires not to go into non-payment of allowances, saying: “It deserves no such efforts more so that the concerned arm of the military was yet to issue any statement in that regard, therefore, accusing the PDP of politicising the removal of military checkpoints in the state.

Ojogo partly wrote: “The Ondo State Government desires not to go into the merits of the flying story about non-payment of allowances to any arm of the military. It deserves no such efforts more so, that, the concerned arm of the military has yet to issue any statement in that regard.”

“It must be noted that notwithstanding the politicisation of any situation, the Ondo State Government ably led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN shall not, under whatever circumstances, succumb to blackmail and allow any puerile allegation wrapped under ethnicity platforms to wrought further violence on our people.”

“It must clear to all, including the PDP, that, the target is AMOTEKUN. Unfortunately for whoever, whose motive is to perpetrate violence under any guise, our resolve to sustain AMOTEKUN remains unwavering. We won’t be deterred in any form. Our time-tested character and attitude toward tackling insecurity even at odd times, shall not be compromised.”

But the PDP fired back at the government by saying: “we find it expedient to respond to the state government’s flat and clueless statement. This would not have been necessary due to the laughable explanation given by the Ondo State Government for the withdrawal of soldiers from the checkpoints. We feel it is necessary to put the record straight.”

“Is there no Amotekun in Ekiti State, a jurisdiction covered by 32 Artillery Brigade, stationed in Akure? Are soldiers not at the checkpoints in Ekiti State? Why do they think that it is the Ondo Amotekun that would be sabotaged of all the States in the South West?”

“Of the whooping one billion naira of taxpayers money taken by the Governor monthly as security vote, we want Akeredolu to explain how much money is spent to secure the lives of people of Ondo State. The money is simply shared by members of Akeredolu’s immediate family to the detriment of the people.”

“At this time of the year, every serious-minded government that has the genuine interest of its subjects at heart is expected to beef up security ahead of the festive season. But what we have seen is a lackadaisical attitude of the Governor, leading to the withdrawal of the soldiers from the checkpoints.”

“We expect him, instead of churning out meaningless Press Statements, to attend to the security needs of the people. He cannot be playing politics with the security of lives of people of the state,” the PDP added:

The Fact

Starnews Nigeria’s investigation revealed that all the military barricades/checkpoints in Ekiti State and Osun State respectively are intact. And these two states are also under the control of the Ondo state army command. It is fact that Amotekun is also in operation in Ekiti and Osun. If soldiers at the checkpoints in the two states were not withdrawn from the roads to frustrate the operation of Amotekun, why is the government of Ondo State accusing the army of withdrawing soldiers from the road in Ondo State to frustrate the operation of Amotekun?

Can we also know how the military is fighting Amotekun in Ondo and how they are frustrating them? Can we also know why are they embracing the same Amotekun in Ekiti and Osun? Are the soldiers and the Amotekun’s personnel in Ondo State manning the same checkpoints? How can the army be frustrating Amotekun which led to their withdrawal in Ondo State from checkpoints when those in Ekiti and Osun State remain on the roads under the control of the same commander in Ondo State?

Fact check revealed that on November 4, 2021, the Local hunters, vigilantes, Amotekun Corps, police, and men of the Nigerian Army came together in a joint operation to kill one of the gunmen who kidnapped two persons at Itapaji in the Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State.

Police Public Relations Officer, Ekiti State Command, Sunday Abutu, said the joint security operatives also rescued the two kidnapped victims who were abducted from their residence penultimate Sunday night.

Starnews Nigeria reports that the kidnapper that was killed in the joint operation led by the military was a Fulani man while other gang members are still at large. So, how can the same army who led a joint operation with Amotekun corps, police, and others in Ekiti against Fulani kidnappers be frustrating the operation of Amotekun in neighbouring Ondo State?

It is our “Editorial Opinion” that the allegation raised by the PDP over unpaid four months allowances of the affected soldiers is weighty enough and should have been debunked by the State Government, through Mr. Donald Ojogo, the Ondo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, who desired to ignore the merit of the allegation but rather danced around it to churn out diversionary allegations against the PDP and at the same time indicting the army of sabotage.

Starnews Nigeria wishes to ask the government why it refused to talk about the alleged payment of outstanding salaries as raised by the PDP? Why did they refuse to deny the allegations of unpaid salaries?

While Governor Akeredolu and his team continue to mute over allegations of non-payment of allowances to the affected soldiers as raised by the PDP, there is every reason for the citizens of Ondo State to believe that the non-payment of allowances is the major cause why the army withdrew soldiers from the checkpoints.

Some civil servants in Ondo State were of the view that the state government under Arakunrin Akeredolu has a penchant for owing workers. About four weeks ago, workers of the Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, RUGIPO, embarked on an indefinite strike over the non-payment of their salaries by the institution’s management.

They accused the state government and management of the school of being insensitive to their plight. Starnews Nigeria gathered that the workers were being owed 12 months salary arrears which had spanned between December 2016, January 2017, and January – October 2021.

Starnews Nigeria learnt that workers of other tertiary institutions in the state are also being owed with many of them groaning over unpaid salaries and arrears. This might not be unconnected with the reason some traditional rulers and the PDP said the government was being economical with the truth over the withdrawal of soldiers from military checkpoints in the State.

The Murmuring

The murmuring is that drivers and travelers are complaining about this dangerous scenario being played out in Ondo State. Our investigation shows that some of the traditional rulers in the state are also not comfortable with the removal of soldiers from the roads.

Some of them are murmuring against the government but cannot speak out. One of them told Starnews Nigeria that they did not believe the excuse given by the state government over the withdrawal of soldiers from the checkpoints and strategic places in Ondo State when such never happen in the neighborhood under the control of the same army commander.

One of the traditional rulers who spoke on the condition of anonymity said:” How can the government say the army left the road because they are trying to sabotage Amotekun? Do they stop the Amotekun from operating? Or how are they sabotaging them? How can anyone believe such? These people said that the state government is owing them four months of unpaid salaries. Even though the government does not want us to believe the army, what about the unpaid salaries of workers especially in the state-owned higher institutions? You can see that something is wrong somewhere but we are doing our best to resolve the issue”, the traditional ruler said.

Our Take!

While we commend governor Rotimi Akeredolu’s efforts in the formation of the South-West Security Network, code-named, “Amotekun,” Starnews Nigeria wishes to call on him to invite the military for dialogue and address the issues surrounding the withdrawal of the soldiers from Ondo State roads immediately. The security needs of Ondo State people should be prioritized at all times. At this time of the year, it is dangerous to expose the state to security risks.

Starnews Nigeria also commends the Amotekun for their operations, but they can’t do it alone. Together with other security agents, Ondo State would be rid of crimes.

It is also our view that Gov. Akeredolu has the responsibility to reconcile the Ondo State Amotekun Commander and the Army Commander if they truly have differences. He is the Chief Security Officer of the state. The conflict between the heads of two security agencies, if any, should not linger under his watch, let alone expose the state to security risks.

We also appeal to the Governor to return the army to the road. THE GOVERNOR should heed the calls of his subjects by returning the army to the roads, while the joint operation in Ondo State by security agencies against kidnapping and other crimes should continue, Starnews Nigeria reports.

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