Since the beginning of the week ending today Saturday April 6, 2019, the media has been awash with news of kidnappings on the Abuja-Kaduna highway. No period in recent times did kidnapping become as worsened as happened in the past few weeks; rising to a disturbing level since after the release of the Kano-based Muslim cleric, Shaykh Ahmad Sulaiman who regained their freedom after 13 days in captivity in Katsina State. The cleric and his children were kidnapped along Kakumi-Kankara Road in Kankara Local Government Area of Katsina State on March 14, 2019. In an official statement, the Nigerian Army said the men were rescued in a special military operation with the help of other security agencies and that no ransom was paid.
Before Shaykh Ahmad Sulaiman, a Daily Trust reporter, Ahmad Garba was kidnapped on Thursday March 7, 2019 on his to Kaduna from Abuja to enable him keep up an appointment with his doctor the following day (Friday). He spent 8 days in captivity. The story told by Ahmad Garba after his release was horrifying.
In recent weeks, Kidnapping has become a daily occurrence in Nigeria. In most cases, victims’ families, friends and sympathizers are compelled to pay ransom in huge sums. Depending on the circumstances of the negotiations, ransoms could range from one million to as high as tens of millions of naira. All classes of people including citizens, foreigners, the rich, the poor, the employed, the self-employed, the unemployed, the very old, the young, men and women have had a taste of kidnappers’ wickedness; some losing their lives either before or after payment of ransom. The trauma, fatigue, pains, stress and psychological shock passed through by victims in the hands of kidnappers is so horrible that you would not wish even your worst enemy to be a kidnap victim.
For some time, kidnapping was only a scourge peculiar to the South-South region of Nigeria. Gradually, it spread to other parts of the country including the North. Kidnapping progressively became a popular crime in the Northern part of Nigeria with Kaduna – Birnin Gwari road, Kaduna-Abuja road, and Abuja – Lokoja roads being the worst hit. Zamfara, however, became the most notorious state for kidnapping and banditry in the country. Now, Katsina, Plateau, Niger, Taraba and Ekiti states have joined the list of states invaded by kidnappers. It was just last week that the abducted 80-year-old mother in law Hajiya Maisitiyari of Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina state was released by kidnappers after eight days in captivity. She was kidnaped from her house within Katsina Township.
After some special operations conducted by the police and the military last year, the incidence of kidnapping drastically reduced on the Abuja-Kaduna highway. Unfortunately, the kidnappers seem to be back and in full force. With the daily occurrence of kidnap cases on the Abuja – Kaduna highway, rustling of hundreds of herds of cattle and burning down of villages especially in Zamfara; insurgency seems to have become a lesser evil. Traders are afraid of traveling along many highways in the country particularly on the Abuja – Kaduna highway. Because of incessant abductions that occur on their way to the farm, some famers have abandoned their farmlands out of fear of kidnapers. These have negative implications not only for the country’s economy but also for citizen’s lawful social activities.
The Acting Executive Secretary of the Zamfara Emergency Management Agency (ZEMA), Alhaji Aminu Umar, recently stated in Gusau that 227 people were kidnapped in the state from December 2018 to date. He further said that, during the same period, 408 people were killed, 126 injured and 248 houses destroyed; adding that the figures could be higher because many cases had gone unreported. He said 31,402 people were displaced following the unending deadly attacks on their communities by the armed bandits and cattle rustlers over the years.
There was no day in the past one week in which kidnap cases were not reported by the media in one part of the country or another, especially in the Northern states. Lots of other cases go unreported. On Monday, an undisclosed number of persons were on Monday abducted by armed men while travelling in a Toyota Hilux van with registration number CT 01 AF along the Abuja – Kaduna highway. The armed men reportedly intercepted the van at about 6.30pm near Gidan Visa and started firing at it. Reacting, the Kaduna State Government said the police and other security agencies were reinforcing their presence on the major expressways leading in and out of Kaduna. This was announced following a meeting of the Kaduna State Security Council summoned today by Malam Nasir El-Rufai to assess the situation on the Kaduna-Abuja and Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Roads. The same Monday, a senior accountant with the Taraba Ministry of Finance, was abducted by six gunmen midnight Monday. The victim, one Alhaji Garba, was abducted midnight Monday by six Gunmen.
On Tuesday, The General Manager (Public Relations) of the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), Muntari Ibrahim, was reportedly kidnapped along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway. According to media reports, the kidnappers came with two cars with the first blocking the front that forced his official car, a Peugeot 408 to stop while the car behind closed up on them. “The gunmen shot in the air before whisking the victim away.
On Wednesday, Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai’s convoy reportedly foiled an attempted kidnapping of motorists along Kaduna-Abuja road. The governor was on his way to Abuja in a convoy when at about 3.4pm they sighted dozens of vehicles parked by the road at Akilubu village. His convoy was told that kidnappers were ahead. Security operatives in the governor’s convoy advanced and cleared the road of the criminals who fled into the forest.
It is time for government to prioritize the tackling of kidnapping, banditry and cattle rustling. Kidnappers are not spirits. They are human beings who live among Nigerians. All it requires is strategic intelligence. The success achieved by Nigerian army, through tactical intelligence, in some special operations including the fishing out of killers of General Alkali and their recent rescue of Shaykh Ahmad Sulaiman is enough evidence to prove that kidnapping can be tackled through adequate intelligence sharing, management and usage. The declaration of a state of emergency on kidnapping and banditry is the least Nigerians expect now from government. May Allah (SWT) guide our leaders to do all that is necessary to rescue Nigerians from the current spate of kidnappings and banditry, amin