Kidnapping for ransom was alien to Katsina State and its environs until recently when it became the vogue and a lucrative venture. Hardly a day goes by without a reported incident of abduction. People now live in fear and go through sleepless nights.
When kidnapping for ransom started in Katsina, seven local government areas – Jibia, Danmusa, Safana, Dandume, Faskari, Sabuwa and Batsari – were mostly affected. They are neighbouring the dreaded Rugu forest, which served as a hideout for bandits, rustlers and kidnappers.
It is worrisome that kidnapping has spread across the state; hence farmlands and villages are being abandoned for more cosmopolitan settlements. The result of this ugly development is that, on a daily basis, more people are becoming internally displaced. Indeed, many lives and valuables are lost in the process.
The hinterland and local government areas that were hitherto perceived to be safe are now experiencing the menace. Katsina, the state capital, is also not left out.
Although Dutsin-Ma town is not bordering the forest, it has become vulnerable. In the last one month alone, many high profile cases were recorded, with some of the victims still in captivity.
Notable cases in the last one month
Between November and December this year, there were notable and high profile kidnapping cases. Most of the victims are still in captivity, including one Ibrahim Musa Jabi, a manager at Shema Petroleum filling station, who was abducted in his house at Bakin Kasuwa, along Tsaakiya road in the night. Zainab Musa, a dental technical student doing her industrial attachment at the Dutsin-Ma General Hospital, was also kidnapped at Maitsani village, along Dutsinma-Tsaskiya road.
Furthermore, a driver, Umarun Tafkin Alkali is still in captivity, while the two councillors of Safana Local Government Area, who were abducted together, were released after spending 26 days in captivity. A N50million ransom was placed on them, but sources said more than N4million was paid to get them released.
An elderly woman, Dudun Bawale of Unguwar Kudu was kidnapped but released after a day in captivity on the ground of what her captors called “mistaken identity.”
There was also a reported case of two undergraduates at the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma. Our correspondent gathered that the students, who were purportedly staying off campus, at Gidan Block, Kadangaru Quarters, were abducted around the state television and radio transmitter, along Katsina- Dutsin-Ma road.
However, in a reaction, the university described the story as “fake news”, saying they were not aware of the incident. They said any information that did not emanate from the Student Union Government, management of the institution, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) or the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) should be disregarded. They said that those who were responsible for the misinformation would be dealt with accordingly.
Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the families of six passengers from Karofi town, who were abducted at Birnin-Gwari in Kaduna State, on their way from Lagos, paid various sums of money for their release.
Also, last week in Dabawa village, Shamsu Nomau, Sharbilu Nasiru and Abdulaziz Danlami were abducted on their way home. Danlami was, however, set free at the spot with N300,000, which he had on him, while the other two were whisked away. The kidnappers have since demanded N15million for the duo.
Unfortunately, family members and friends of those in captivity are afraid to come out and speak, for the fear that they might be harmed. It was learnt that after every operation, the kidnappers always warned the families of their victims to keep off the media and security personnel or risk losing their loved ones.
When Daily Trust on Sunday visited some families of the kidnap victims, they refused to talk to the media.
Speaking on the matter, the village head of Tsaskiya, Kabir Nuhu, said the most affected in his domain were isolated villages, including Gobi, Karofa and Dogakara. He said the main village had not recorded any abduction.
However, his Dabawa counterpart, Sada Karare, said that three of his subjects were in captivity. He added that the situation was worrisome and called for concerted efforts to tackle the menace.
Sani Dutsin-Ma, the chairman of Unguwar Tsamiya Youth Development Association in Dutsin-Ma town, also called for more vigilance from residents of the town and collaboration with security agencies to address the situation.
Bala Baldu, whose son is still in captivity, said he had been suffering from emotional trauma and the whole family was thrown into confusion. Baldu’s son, Shamsu, was among the three people kidnapped in Kankara town.
“At present, we have sold the only available family farmland to raise N1millon for his release. We are expecting his return as the money must have reached the kidnappers by now,” he said
We’re recording successes – Police
When contacted, the Katsina State police command said that from the available indices before it, the level of kidnapping is gradually dropping as a result of massive mobilisation of police operatives to most vulnerable areas.
The commissioner of police in the state, Mohammed Wakili, said that presently, some of the deployments include policemen from the Inspector-General of Police Special Force, two units of CTU, three units of PMF, as well as three units of conventional policemen that are being trained on special combat, all targeted at bandits and kidnappers.
He said that a kidnap kingpin, one Abdullahi Bello, alias “Gemu” was recently killed in a gun duel with the police and another recently picked in Dutsin-Ma and still in custody.
Spare no one – Masari
Disturbed by the resurgence of kidnapping and other forms of banditry in some parts of Katsina State, Governor Aminu Masari has given an order to security chiefs to spare no effort in arresting the situation and those behind it.
Masari also warned traditional rulers in the affected areas against shielding criminals, saying that government would not hesitate to dethrone anyone found harbouring kidnappers, cattle rustlers and other criminals.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Abdu Labaran, Governor Masari said that those whose duty is to protect the lives and property of the people must be up and doing. He warned that government would not tolerate complacency and complicity in matters of security.
“We place very high premium on the security of our people. The protection of their lives and property is the duty of the government. And we will not shy away from meeting that responsibility, no matter the challenges.
“We are ready and willing to give our people a secure environment to go about their legitimate activities. We will not hesitate to deal appropriately with anyone who is not ready to join us in our aspirations to guarantee the safety of the lives and property of the people,” the statement added.
Masari said it was only with the cooperation of the people that government would be able to provide the required protection for the society. He urged them to always pass on useful information to security agencies.