The recent media report that kidnappers within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and possibly elsewhere, are beginning to collect ransom through banks, though shocking, ought not to come to many as a surprise. This is so for the simple fact that the criminal activity has developed into an industry and operates like a syndicate in which all sections of the society including the security agencies are alleged to be collaborators. So, why not the banks? They surely need the deposits in these lean times.
The daring resort to the use of banks for the collection of ransom is proof enough about the level of sophistication of those behind the dastardly act besides being an affront, under normal circumstances, to the security agencies. And the banks hiding behind the vale of customer confidentiality make themselves complicit in this crime. Before this time, there were also reports that the godfathers of the street urchins we are meant to believe are the criminals, who actually plan and map out the strategies that are seemingly foolproof and who also take delivery of the ransom money, drive all the way from the pick-up point to the bureaux de change in Abuja and other major cities to convert those huge sums into dollars and other foreign currencies. They carry out this nefarious acts without being caught. Is it, then, a surprise that the infusion of unaccounted naira into the system can be partly responsible for the crisis the nation’s currency is experiencing in spite of the best efforts of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) management?
But even more disturbing, in the opinion of this newspaper, is the involvement of officialdom in this saga that is threatening to turn the country on its head. No too long ago, the Governor of Niger State complained openly that bandits and kidnappers had infiltrated the Government House making it difficult for him to confide in anybody. He came to this conclusion following incidences of leakage of discussions at the State Executive Council to the criminals. Niger State is certainly not an exception. As if that was not bad enough, marked ransom money have been severally traced back to some security agents as compensation from the kidnappers for ‘favours’ received.
Recently, also, there was a social media report of someone who narrated a personal experience he encountered with men in mufti who claimed to be ‘policemen’. Their modus operandi, according to this report, is to arrest innocent citizens, particularly at night, on trumped up charges of one traffic offence or the other. The victims will be told that they were been taken to the ‘station’ only to be handed over to kidnappers.
That kidnappers get details of all discussions between the families of kidnap victims and the security agencies is evidence that, truly, the criminals have penetrated even the security agencies who seem to be willing to collaborate for the gains they expect to muster.
We have gone this far to point out what is going on in the country just to let Nigerians be aware of the dangers they face. Experts on crime and criminal activities are of the view that the security agencies can, with the appropriate will power, end kidnapping. The problem is that the security agencies on their part, have their own challenges especially in the recruitment process. Candidates of questionable backgrounds who have the right connections, political and so on, are the ones who get enlisted. Often due diligence is not carried out and criminals get to join the forces ostensibly to catch criminals. An irony.
This is worse in the Police force. We had argued on this page in the past that the Police high command must be allowed to choose who they want and not the Police Service Commission. The commission can carry out the documentation of the candidates screened and found fit by the Command. That is one way of checking the madness going on. The Police must understand that we are using them as illustration. The problem is certainly not peculiar to them. The rot, indeed, is all-pervasive and includes all the security agencies. The rigorous standards usually adopted while recruiting have long been abandoned to political expediency and the nation is paying dearly for it.
The situation has reached a crisis point because national security is overly endangered. This is not adding the international and economic implication of the country being regarded as unsafe. This demands that the security agencies must urgently be introspective, search themselves and summon the courage to admit that some of their agents have gone rogue and deserve to be punished.
Now, to the main subject of this editorial. The CBN and the Department of State Services (DSS) owe this nation a duty to verify the allegation that the banks are benefitting from the kidnapping business. The banks involved, if any, must be named and shamed. If necessary, their licenses should be cancelled and the promoters given the same treatment as kidnappers. In African culture, he who accepts stolen property for safe keeping is much as guilty as the thief himself if not more.