By OUR CORRESPONDENTs
The spate of kidnappings across Nigeria has become very worrisome. It seems to have assumed a life of its own since the beginning of this year. Hardly a day passes without the report of somebody or some people being abducted in one place or another. The crooks have spread pain, sorrow, misery and poverty across many families.
At the last count, over 769 students had so far be abducted as well as 202 other Nigerians. Some have lost their lives in the process, while hundreds of millions in ransom have exchanged hands.
This report captures the gamut of the problem
A total of 21 person were kidnapped in parts of Rivers State between January 2021 and April 18, 2021.
According to police breakdown of the evil act in the state 11 persons were kidnapped along Bonny River on February 20, by suspected sea pirates.
The victims were said to be travelling to Bonny Island in Rivers State from the Bonny-Bille Jetty in a boat when the sad incident occurred.
On February 22, a first class traditional ruler in the state, King Aaron Ikuru was also kidnapped from his palace at Ikuru town in Andoni local government area.
Also, on February 20, a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Communications Studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Dr. Jones Ayuwo, was also kidnapped by unknown gunmen while returning to the state capital when was ambushed near Bori, the headquarters of Khana local government area of the state.
On April 7, 2021, the chairman of Okrika local government area of the state, Hon. Philemon Kingoli, was kidnapped while returning from a political meeting.On April 18, seven passengers were kidnapped by unknown gunmen who hijacked the commercial bus they were traveling in near Omoku in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni local government area of the state around 8pm.
The police spokesperson, SP Nnamdi Omoni, revealed that nine arrest have so far been made.
He said, “Five suspected kidnappers were arrested on January 31, 2021 by operatives of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Team while four others were picked up on February 21, and March 29 respectively by operatives of the Rivers State Police Command.
A source at the Legal Department of the Rivers State Police Command told LEADERSHIP Sunday that all the suspects are currently standing trial in various High Courts in the state.
In Gombe, the case is not different as the state recorded 15 kidnap cases. A total of N19.8 million ransom has been paid. This revelation was contained in a document released by the state police command.
The statement listed Billiri, Kalmai Billiri, Tal Via Billiri, Dadinkowa/Yamaltu Deba, Shomgom, Pindiga, Bajoga and Fully, Dukku as flashpoints in the state
In Kogi State, available records show that only four persons were kidnapped within the period under review.
Statistics released by the state police command through its image maker, Mr William Aya, said the trade is no longer lucrative in the state due to strategies put in place by the security agencies to contain the crime.
The FPRO said, “Puff Adder operations on Okene-Lokoja expressway has overwhelmed the kidnapping business and they have relocated to God knows where. So far only four persons are known to be in the hands of abductors in Kogi State.
In Ekiti State, 13 persons were kidnapped within the said period.
Reports from security agencies in Abia State say that unlike 10 years ago when the state was one of the epicentres of kidnapping, the present record of foiled and successful kidnappings in the state is fewer than 20.
They said the state attained the feat due to its campaign/ measures against kidnapping – avoidance of: ostentatious lifestyle, late-night gatherings and movement, unguarded disclosure of personal or family achievements and boarding of vehicles at unauthorised motorparks, in addition to personal security consciousness
No fewer than 33 residents of Oyo State were kidnapped by suspected gunmen and ransom worth millions of naira paid to secure the release of some of the victims.
A majority of those kidnapped were abducted in Oluyole local government area in Ibadan, which falls under the Oyo Central District.
Just few days ago, 18 passengers were kidnapped along Igboora-Eruwa Road in Ibarapa area of Oyo State on Thursday night. This is beside the initial record of 15, putting the total figure at 33.
Among those who were kidnapped in the last one month were bankers, security personnel, a palm taper and travellers.
LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation revealed that most of the kidnappings occurred in the month of March.
In Jigawa State, kidnapping incidences seem to be relatively low as only three cases were reported between January till date.
The cases were reported from three different senatorial zone and with this there is no specific flash point of kidnapping in the state.
Police spokesperson in the state, SP Zubairu Nureddeen said the latest incident was reported in Kirikasamma LGA, where gunmen invaded Saleri village and kidnapped one Alhaji Kuloma Abubakar.
The PPRO described community policing as a major strategy through which effective security can thrive.
A Jigawa-based public analyst, Comrade Ibrahim Musa said the deployment of technology was key to winning the fight against the dastardly act.
Kaduna State commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, who announced that the list for Kidnapped victims in 2022 were still being compiled identified Kaduna Central as a zone with highest number of kidnap cases in the state.
Aruwan had at apublic hearing on the firearms Act CAP.F17, LFN 2004 Amendment bill 202, which held at the Senate conference Hall National Assembly, Abuja, disclosed that “1,972 people were kidnapped in 2020, with Kaduna Central Senatorial District accounting for 1,561 of these. Similarly, 7,195 heads of cattle were rustled across the state. Kaduna Central Senatorial District was also hardest hit with 5,557 animals stolen.
“The figures disclosed are disturbing, but highly instructive. In 2020, 937 citizens died as a direct result of banditry and communal violence, and 617 of these deaths, (two-thirds of the total) were within the Kaduna Central Senatorial District.
In Benue State, the police public relations officer, DSP Catherine Anene in an interview with our correspondent said that though kidnapping is highly controlled at the moment, it is more prevalent in Sankara axis which is comprised of Katsina-Ala, Logo and Ukum local government areas due to activities of banditry.
Interestingly, about 73 persons have so far been arrested over their involvement in 39 kidnapping incidents in Katsina State between January and now.
The Katsina State Police command, through its spokesperson, SP Gambo Isah, said the state had been experiencing incidences of kidnapping, banditry, rapes and cattle rustling especially in the eight front line areas of Batsari, Faskari, Safana, Dandume, Sabuwa, Jibia, Kankara and Dutsinma.
In Imo State, over 50 cases have been recorded within the said period.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that hardly a day passes without news of the kidnap of some prominent individuals mainly politicians, traditional rulers, clerics and those who belong to the top echelon of the society.
Notorious spots where these dare devil criminals mostly strike are the Owerri/Onitsha road particularly at Ukwuorji and Oguta road junction, the Mgbirichi/Umuagwo axis on the Owerri Port Harcourt road, parts of Ehime and Isiala Mbano council areas as well as the Obowo and Ihitte/Uboma LGAs.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that although the security agencies in the state are doing their best to contain the worrisome trend, the prospect of halting it appears bleak following the sophisticated arms and ammunition these criminals operate with.
An impeccable police source who craved anonymity said over 50 kidnap cases had been recorded in the state from January till date.
Records in Akwa Ibom State, for instance, indicate that the rate of kidnapping and other violent crime had reduced drastically. The state police public relations officer (PPRO), SP Odilko MacDon, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that there were only three incidences of kidnapping in the state within the period under review.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that six cases of kidnapping were recorded in Kwara State between January and now.
Efforts by our correspondent to get the official number from both the state police command and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were futile. Only six cases were announced prior to this report.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that while two travellers were kidnapped at Obbo-Ayegunle, three farm managers were also abducted in Asa local government area, while a butcher was kidnapped at Ogundele village in Ilorin West local government area.
Kidnapping Of Students
In recent times, as the kidnapping business took hold in northern Nigeria and the number of casualties associated with it grew, the bandits have turned their attention elsewhere such as learning institutions located outside of cities and town where security is often lacking.
Schools are soft targets as the kidnappers target school children as well as women because the incentives behind securing their release are much higher.
The latest bout of kidnappings began in December with the seizure of more than 300 boys from their boarding school in the town of Kankara, in northwestern Katsina state.
A total of 769 students have been reportedly kidnapped between December 2020 and March, 2021.
According to a report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm, bandits have kidnapped a total of 769 students from their boarding schools and other educational facilities across northern Nigeria in at least five separate incidents.
Timeline for some of the kidnappings
On Friday 11 December 2020, at about 9:30pm, gunshots were heard within the premises of Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Kastina state, northwest Nigeria. About 300 students were taken away and held in captivity for six nights until their release on December 17, 2020.
Months later, on February 17, 2021, 27 students from the Government Science Secondary School in Kagara, Niger state, were abducted by gunmen from their dormitory. The students were released on February 27, 2021
In another raid on February 26, 2021, hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state.
After four days in captivity, 279 of the students were released on March 2, 2021.
In March 2021, two different schools were attacked in Kaduna state, including the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation where 30 students were seized on March 11, 2021.
The latest attack on Greenfield University, Kaduna, on Tuesday, April 20, 2021 is the first attack on a university. A number undergraduates, said to be 23, were taken away at night. Sadly, the corpses of three of them were found on Friday, April 23.
VICTIMS GIVE ACCOUNT…
A victim, who was kidnapped in Lamingo but pleaded not to named said,”I was so traumatised because I was pregnant. Although I was released (after negotiations with my abductors) I was again abducted. I almost died of high blood pressure. It wasn’t easy for both my family and I. It is a bitter experience which I don’t pray any pregnant woman should have.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that some of the hot spots for kidnappers include Dong village in Jos North LGA, Du in Jos South LGA, Rayfield, Zarmaganda road and Shendam and Qua’anpan LGA of the State – all in Plateau State.
Another victim, Mr. William Uche, told our correspondent in Jos that his abductors broke into his apartment, pointed a gun and threatened to shoot his daughter if he didn’t cooperate with them
He said, “They fired shots at my plasma TV in my sitting room to show me they weren’t joking, after which they left with my daughter. To the glory of God, two days later, they opened their phone line and negotiation for the release of my daughter started. I paid N500,000 to secure her release.”
A victim, Barrister Chukwudi Odunna who narrated his ordeal in the hands of the kidnappers said, “On my way travelling along Ehime Mbano Aba branch highway for the traditional marriage of my niece, our vehicle was intercepted at Aba branch junction. They blindfolded me and handcuffed my hands and took me into the bush. The abductors, who spoke English fluently, ordered me to cooperate with them and give out my identity for them to contact my family.
“They started asking me questions in respect of my family background and the appropriate persons to call for ransom. They assured me of my safety if I cooperated with them .
“They succeeded in contacting members of my family who cooperated with them and released some amount of money which led to my release,” Odunna said.
Death Sentence for Kidnappers
Meanwhile, in a bid to protect the lives and property of his citizens, Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong has signed into law the anti-kidnapping and other anti-violence-related matters bill passed by the House of Assembly.
According to the state commissioner for information and communication, Hon. Dan Manjang, the law provides death sentence for those convicted for kidnapping while those found guilty for cultism shall be jailed for a minimum of seven years.
According to the founder of Sharing Life Africa, a nonprofit organisation that supports quality education and women empowerment in low-income communities, Henry Anumudu
“These abductions will affect school enrollment in the coming months,”
He also called school kidnappings an attack on the fragile education system in the country’s north.
“If we can’t solve the problem of insecurity and safety, ensuring that children will go to school and get back home there’s going to be a big problem,”
Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM said “The motivation of these groups appears to be purely economic.”
A public and private security analyst/ trainer, Major Banjo Daniel (retired) said the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) have a key role in ensuring safety of commuters on the nation’s highway.
He said safety measures taken by commuters alone won’t make any significant effect on the rising spate of insecurity on the roads.
“Whatever steps the commuters take will have insignificant effect on a well planned bandit operation. However, drivers could be more careful while sojourning. The NURTW can support government with own community policing team – by way of engaging locals.”
“For private commuters, information on route to be plied must be gotten ahead and immediate to time of travel. Where possible, they should liaise with people ahead on such journeys. 100 per cent concentration, distant front observation is a necessity.
Driving in the early hours and after last light should be discouraged.”
He, however, expressed worry at the National Security Adviser’s inability to address the spate of criminality and unprovoked killing of Nigerians in their sleep across the country.
He said he was baffled at the NSA’s inability to proffer feasible solutions to curb the unrelenting activities of criminal groups.
“He is originally expected to be impregnated with new ideas, formulate strategies and subsequently develop new plans and tactics for execution by an ad hoc, quickly trained or retrained detachments of joint security forces,” he said.
Iwumba Nwadike Njoku, a retired superintendent of police and MD/CEO Igwebuike security ventures, argued that unbridled quest for materialism, consumption and assimilation of western cultures, values and traditions by the youths to the utter neglect of our tradition is the reason for the rising wave of immorality in the society.
“Unless we engage the youths in meaningful ventures, subject them to avid orientation and also get our leaders to shun primitive accumulation of wealth belonging to all of us, we cannot make any headway,” Njoku said.
On his part, a former Intelligence and community policing officer, Metropolitan Police, United Kingdom, Alhaji Hanbali AbdulRaheem, said without credible intelligence as regards the operations and mode of attacks of the kidnappers, the nation will not achieve anything.
“There are various intelligence agencies and departments in this country but it seems they are not doing their best in that aspect,” he said
Where Traumatised Victims Should Go:
Immediate past president of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), FCT chapter, Dr Roland Aigbovo, said trauma victims need psychological evaluation and support.
“They are to see a psychologist or a psychiatrist but if there is bodily injury, it has to be treated first. But if not, they need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist to handle the traumatic disorder.”
In the FCT, for instance, they can go to Karu General Hospital, Federal Medical Centre, Jabi, and National Hospital.