Despite various measures by security agencies, governments and communities, kidnapping is still a long way from being checked.
The abduction of the Magajin Garin Daura in Katsina State, Alhaji Musa Umar Uba, on Wednesday opened a new chapter in kidnapping in Nigeria as high profile personalities are now being targeted.
The traditional title holder was kidnapped from his house in Daura shortly after Maghrib prayers. A former Customs Controller and a cousin of the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Uba is married to Hajiya Bilki, a niece to President Muhammadu Buhari. He is also the father of Fatima, who is married to President Buhari’s Aide De Camp (ADC), Col. Mohammed Abubakar.
Two days earlier, the chairman, Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar and his daughter were kidnapped at Kurmin Kare Village along Kaduna-Abuja road at about 3pm. His driver was killed in the process of the abduction. Dr. Abubakar and his daughter were freed in less than 48 hours.
The Abuja-Kaduna expressway has witnessed a lot of kidnappings with the actual number of victims still unknown as many cases go unreported. But kidnappings have spread to many parts of the country. Recently, the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammad Adamu, said 685 Nigerians were abducted between January and April 2019.
Twenty-five states have come under the grip of kidnappers from January to April this year alone with Zamfara State having the highest number of 83 followed by Rivers with 74, Katsina 49, Kaduna 23 and Taraba 14.
Others are; FCT 12, Edo 11, Niger 9, Delta 8, Kogi 7, Ondo and Nasarawa 5 each, Ekiti 4, Adamawa and Ogun 3 each while Cross-River, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi and Plateau recorded two cases each. Bayelsa, Abia, Akwa-Ibom and Kano have a case each.
The kidnappings cut across persons from all walks of life. On January 6, in the village of Zandam in Zamfara State, Babangida Lawal and a businessman, Murtala Rabe, were abducted, so were two Chinese, Mr. Sun Shicin and Mr Wang Quing Hu on April 24 at Ivo River in Ebonyi State.
Journalists also got a taste of the abductions as Ahmed Mohammed Garba, a journalist with the Abuja office of Daily Trust was abducted with others along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway on March 7. He spent seven days in the kidnappers’ enclave. Mr. Friday Okeregbe, journalist with Channels Television was also abducted in Abuja on March 22.
A Public Relations officer at the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Muntari Ibrahim, was also kidnapped on April 3 along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.
Rev. Fr. Clement Rapuluchukwu Ugwu was abducted on March 20 in Enugu and was later found dead but Sheikh Ahmad Suleiman and five others were lucky. They were abducted along Sheme-Kankara road in Katsina State on March 15 but were later freed.
In fact, the Acting Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu on April 4, launched “Operation Puff Adder” against kidnappers and bandits in order to curb criminalities threatening internal security. The operation is being carried out in collaboration with the Nigerian Armed Forces and the Department of State Services (DSS). Officials say it involves large deployments of well-trained, well-equipped and well-motivated personnel and combined operational assets from the various security agencies and is tailored towards ridding the country, especially the Kaduna-Abuja Expressway, Kogi, Katsina, Niger and Zamfara states of all forms of crimes and criminality.
At the launch at Katari along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, the IGP noted that no police anywhere in the world, no matter how well-trained, equipped or motivated, can solely achieve its community security and safety mandate without the support of the community. He called for the full support and cooperation of the civil populace, particularly traditional rulers, religious leaders, youth associations, market bodies, cultural associations and professionals among others in the fight.
Forests, mountains, valleys provide cover for kidnappers
Many residents of villages along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway say forests, mountains and valleys along the highway give cover to criminals to carry out their acts.
A resident of Rijanna, Alhaji Abdullahi, said the terrain is what makes it conducive for crime to thrive as the thick forests and mountains and their distances from the road make it difficult to be accessed.
“When they strike, they withdraw into the bushes knowing that only a few can follow them there,” he said.
A retired Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Ibrahim Garba, said the problem is partly because governments give more priority to the military than the police.
“You see, the truth is that there are crimes happening in the country which are supposed to be handled by the police but previous governments neglected the police by giving priority to the military and things continue to deteriorate.
“So far, I can tell you that no serious measures have been taken by the authorities to tackle this problem because as we speak, the police force lacks adequate experts on fighting kidnapping.
“Policemen today are hardly sent for training. In fact, the sad thing is that some officers will finish their service of 35 years without going for any special training within or outside the country. No promotion, no refresher course which a policeman is entitled to after three years of joining the service.
“The conditions of service are not there because government now gives attention only to soldiers or army to handle certain duties which the police are expected handle. All these are responsible for the increase in crimes which I think the government must or should look into,” he said.
He called on the citizens to join hands with the government in the fight against crime, saying it is a collective responsibility.
“People should not only blame the government on this because fighting crime is the responsibility of everybody,” he said.
An Islamic cleric, Dr. Sheikh Gumi, recently attributed the increase in kidnapping to the economic situation in the country, adding that the security agencies are not doing enough.
A former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said there is no correct political leadership in the country to tackle the problem.
He also blamed the urge to get rich quick and the lack of prosecution of criminals as adding to the problem.
Since the incident at Kurmin Kare where the UBEC chairman and his daughter were abducted, the name of the community has added fears to travelers on the highway. The other dreaded spots are Jere, Katari, Rijanna, Akilibu and Kakau.
The District Head of Kurmin Kare, Maiwada Dogoyaro, told Daily trust that the crime has become worrisome as people no longer travel freely while many are even afraid to go their farms.
He said the best way to deal with the situation is for the government to build an army barracks within the community as it would ensure constant presence of military personnel and discourage armed men from attacking unsuspecting persons within the community.
The traditional ruler suggested that roads in the villages be constructed to enable security men go deeper into the recesses to check the activities of criminals.
The head of the Kaduna State Vigilante Group in Kurmin Kare who gave his name as Julius, said the crime has continued because the criminals most times get away with it.
He said due to lack of communication facilities, his men get to hear of attacks only when it’s too late and the criminals might have gone away with their victims.
According to him, the state government can provide them motorcycles and other means of transport and they would ensure that criminals do not continue to have a field day.
Another member of the community, Sunday Maiwada, suggested that the best way to tackle the menace is for the government to build a military facility on the route so that the presence of military personnel would be permanent on the highway.
A youth leader in Rijanna, Yakubu Baushe, said they were doing their best to secure the community within their limits but that the government could do more by deploying more security personnel around the route.
A leader in Rijanna market, Tasiu Lawal, noted that security agencies are mounting pressure on criminals in Kaduna and neighbouring states and hope that if the pressure becomes too much, the criminals would abandon the acts.
Kidnapping on the rise in Taraba
A businessman based in Takum, the headquarters of Takum Local Government Area of Taraba State, 45-year-old Alhaji Usman Mayo, was a kidnap victim.
Due to the level of insecurity and high rate of kidnapping in southern Taraba, two policemen were attached to him. In February this year, the security men were withdrawn and a few hours later, Mayo, while resting in a filing station along Wukari road in Takum, was abducted by a group of gunmen.
He was said to be diabetic and hypertensive. Two weeks later the abductors contacted his family and demanded a ransom of N200million. After series of negotiations between the kidnappers and Mayo’s family, the amount was reduced to N100million.
A source in Takum, told Daily Trust that during the negotiation, the abductors had warned Mayo’s relations that security agents must not be involved in the matter and any attempt to do so would lead to the death of the businessman.
It was gathered that the family, working on the instruction of the abductors, arranged N85million in a bag and delivered it to the abductors in a location not far from Takum town as first installment of the ransom.
The source said N25million was paid a few days later but the abductors instead of releasing the man, demanded an additional N100million. It was further gathered that the abductors also demanded for money for medical care of the businessman and for telephone recharge cards which were all paid.
According to the source, the abductors forced the man to call his family to state their fresh demand but instead, Mayo told his family to the hearing of the abductors that no kobo should paid for his release anymore, and that he would rather die.
However the businessman was released after payment of an additional N5million last month and he is still recuperating at the Takum General Hospital.
Similarly, a senior lawyer based in Wukari, Barrister Yaburo, was abducted with his driver along Wukari- Takum road. His abductors demanded for N15million but his family, according to sources, offered N1.5million which the kidnappers rejected.
A lawyer working in Yaburo’s chambers told Daily Trust that the abductors reduced the amount to N10million, which the family could not raise, and he is still being held.
There was also the case of three cattle merchants abducted while traveling from Ibi town to Maraban Baissa in Donga Local Government Area to buy cows. They were kidnapped at Kofan Amadu along Wukari- Takum road in March. They are lsiyaku Bakon Dare, Rabiyatu Bakon Dare and Musa Bakon Dare. The abductors had called the father of the three young men and demanded N30million but Alhaji Bakon Dare, who himself was once a victim of kidnapping, said he had no such money.
Daily Trust findings revealed that two wives of the Permanent Secretary in the office of the Taraba State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Babaji Dadinkowa, were abducted in Jalingo in March this year and a ransom was paid before they were released.
There was also the case of the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Darius Ishaku, Mallam Hassan Mijinyawa, who was abducted along Bali-Serti road while traveling to Gembu town to meet his principal who had travelled to the area a day earlier.
Hassan, after spending several days in the hands of the abductors in the forest, was released after payment of ransom.
Alhaji Yahaya Lau and Alhaji Umaru Gembu, residents of Primary Board area in Jalingo, were both abducted in one day. They were released after ransom was paid.
The Deputy Registrar, Taraba State University, Jalingo, Mallam Sanusi Sa’ad and Director of Works, College of Education, Zing Husaini Manaja, were also abducted in their residences in Jalingo.
Other people kidnapped include; Alhaji Abdu Hamza, a large scale farmer who was abducted from his farm at Nanguru, Gassol Local Government Area, he is still being held by his abductors, the former chairman, Taraba State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was also abducted but has been released. An army officer and his wife and two children were abducted along Wukari- Ibi road last week. They were released a day later after soldiers stormed the forest where he was held.
A Jalingo resident, Mallam Yahaya Haruna, commenting on raising cases in Taraba State, alleged that politicians were sponsoring kidnapping.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Taraba State Command, DSP David Misal, said the command was doing its best to control the menace.
He said, however, that most kidnappings were not reported to the police and urged the people to always report such cases in time.
Experts advances causes of deadly trend
Some security experts spoken to said several factors are responsible for the inability to check the spate of kidnappings.
The chairman, ASIS International, Abuja Chapter 273, Kabir Adamu, told Daily Trust that an estimated N1billion was paid in ransoms between January and March 2019. He noted that kidnapping is now becoming an industry where ransom is empowering criminals.
He added that with this kind of funds, more weapons would be procured and more youngsters would be lured into the “trade” due to its lucrativeness and perceived “high social status.”
He said the high return on investment for kidnapping, the seeming lack of political will in some quarters to address the menace, the seeming lack of capacity by the security forces to stamp out the scourge and the quasi-official sanctioning of payment of ransom have acted as catalysts to escalate the crime such that it is now committed increasingly with impunity along highways and in towns and even villages.
He urged government at all levels to make its position on payment of ransom very clear, which should be in line with global best practices and any government official that goes contrary to this should be sanctioned appropriately.
He demanded that the government roll out the practice and adherence to the principles and tenets of community policing nationwide, for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
He said the government should capacitate the police in respect of manpower, equipment, training and appropriate procedures and processes to enable it function in line with global standards.
He said security agencies should improve on the use and harnessing of technical and human intelligence (TECHINT and HUMINT) collection as well as technology such as drones and tracking systems that allow security agencies to adopt surveillance mechanisms to know communication and movement of the bandits, their informants and sponsors as well as collaborators.
“The intelligence generated from this should be used to arrest and prosecute anyone involved in banditry and kidnap for ransom activities.
“Ensure the security agencies establish a modern and well-equipped intelligence fusion centre in Abuja and across the six geo political zones of the country to aid security deployment.
“The importance of this is better understood if we appreciate the stretched circumstances of most of our security agencies including the military” he said.
According to him, having this intelligence will allow a more effective and efficient deployment strategy ideal for a quick and capable force. He pointed out that in the interim, the military should be mandated and empowered to conduct decisive, surgical and comprehensive kinetic operations in all vulnerable areas in line with the dictates of human rights and global best practices to rid the regions of all undesirable elements.
Adamu said despite the successes of military and police operations, the “safe havens” and camps of the kidnappers have not been taken and dominated.
He noted that security agencies must make it difficult for crime to take place, whilst also making it difficult for kidnappers to benefit from the crime.
A retired army officer, Salihu Bakari, said addressing a peculiar security trend is not a one-way thing.
“First is the political will, you can’t achieve anything if you don’t have it. It is the driving force and it seems this is lacking here in Nigeria,” Bakari said.
He added: “The political leadership must appreciate that there is a serious problem. You then bring together your security apparatus, including personnel and technology, then draw a roadmap to addressing the menace.
“Sadly, the political class only shouts when there is general uproar by the masses and the social media, then the police and soldiers would act on an ad-hoc basis just like what we are seeing along the Abuja-Kaduna road…The problem will never end this way,” he said.
“The kidnappers are not living in the moon, the air force jets see them every day and the drones see them. In fact, advanced Google search will show you their camps and movement from the comfort of your room. Why are our security forces only scratching the surface, always claiming they have repelled the kidnappers and sometimes killing a few?
“We must trace the source of their motivation, those giving the kidnappers information, those releasing some of them after they must have been captured, and most importantly establish an enduring synergy among our fighting forces and the intelligence community,” he said.
For Barrister Aminu Yusuf, Nigeria is a lawless society. “The laws are there but they are impotent. Nobody is afraid of the consequences of his actions,” he noted. On the way forward, he said, “The laws must be seen to be working to serve as deterrent. It should not be about arresting and parading suspected kidnappers. This is what I call media trial and it will take us nowhere.
“We should see the suspects in courts and all encumbrances hampering diligent prosecution should be sieved from the judicial processes.
“We have so many cases were criminals are making mockery of us. Look at Evans, the billionaire kidnapper. This is a man who is now seeking damages in the courts claiming infringement on his fundamental human rights, what kind of society are we living in?” Yusuf lamented.