The recent wave of abductions across the country is giving Nigerians real cause for concern. Also, kidnapping which has, more or less, been raised to the level of an industry is, without doubt, the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country as at now. Even more worrisome is the level of coordination involved in the act despite the presence of security agencies.
In recent weeks, it is estimated that over 70 persons may have been kidnapped nationwide, with states like Kaduna, Katsina, Cross River, Edo, Borno, Niger , Ogun, Ondo, Nasarawa, Taraba, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Kogi and the FCT, as epicentres of this nefarious act. It is alleged that Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rate of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Other countries high up on the list are Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
The seemingly entrenched lawlessness and moral degeneracy demonstrated by these kidnappers are no longer shocking. What is lamentable is that the crime persists because of the unquenchable desire for easy money made worse by the willingness of relatives of the kidnap victims to succumb to pressure to pay the ransom. What is even more sickening is the palpable kid glove treatment meted out to the criminals when apprehended. All these seem to reinforce the argument of conspiracy theorists that it is all a syndicate with tentacles spread across the broad spectrum of the nation’s economic and security apparatus.
This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective. Kidnapping has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and huge sums of money in Nigeria. Many of the victims of the crime have been killed in the process either while in custody or during the course of their release. Many more have been injured. This is in addition to huge amounts of money lost to ransom takers.
Only recently, the decomposing body of a United States-based Etsako Prince, Eloniyo Dennis Abuda, was found by the police in a forest in Edo State, four days after he was abducted by criminals posing as herdsmen.
A Police team found Abuda’s corpse – with deep injuries – days after his family paid N10 million ransom. Other hostages, who were freed after the ransom was paid, led security officials to the scene. Also, gunmen had stormed Rachael Orphanage in Abaji Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and abducted several orphans and three other persons. It was reported that the kidnappers demanded N10 million as ransom
Similarly, a Punch reporter, Mr Nnodim Okechukwu who was kidnapped last Wednesday in Kubwa regained freedom after his family members allegedly paid a ransom. Similar incidents are being recorded in virtually all parts of the country, and we are not counting the mayhem being perpetrated by insurgents in parts of the country.
Prior to this disturbing wave, only foreigners were prime targets by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, by militants in the oil patch, and by common criminals elsewhere. But now, almost anybody who appears to have the most minimal of resources, or access to resources, can be a victim. The outcome of this disturbing scenario is a demoralised psyche which has gripped the country, with many Nigerians living in fear of being kidnapped.
In the opinion of this newspaper, the existing legal framework is probably not effective enough to rein in this reign of terror. We, therefore, suggest that stricter measures, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty, may not be completely out of place in dealing with the kidnappers. After all, the crime of kidnapping is a maximum threat that requires an equally maximum deterrence.
The Police are constitutionally responsible for fighting domestic crime, including kidnapping, and the current crime wave undermines public confidence in the law enforcement agency’s capacity to act in the public interest.
We feel it is high time the callous drift was decisively halted. But flinging them off the way may prove impossible until these criminals face the punishment they rightly deserve- like public execution. This is because, without an effective security apparatus that can quash the kidnapping epidemic, economic development becomes intractably difficult.
We are also disturbed that, with the culture of random payment, poor and compromised handling of the investigation and prosecution of kidnap cases, especially by security agencies as well as complicity by powerful vested interest and powers from above, the course of justice is not only perverted but also rendered inactive if not impotent. In our considered view, until the application of criminal justice is strengthened in a way that will be a sufficient deterrent, the hoopla about kidnap menace in the land will remain what it presently is all sound and fury signifying nothing.