When the Inspector-General of Police expressed embarrassment at the rate which kidnappers have been snatching policemen, it underscored the severity – and potential deadliness – of the issue. Daily Trust takes a look.
Fate Thursday smiled the way of Amos Aliyu, a Superintendent of Police and Divisional Police Officer (DPO) attached to the Sarkin Pawa division following his release by his abductors. Gunmen had seized the DPO, his orderly and four others Sunday morning. They demanded a ransom of N16 million before his release.
The DPO and his orderly, a corporal whose name could not be ascertained, were said to have run into a blockade mounted by gunmen suspected to be armed robbers, on their way from Minna to Sarkin Pawa, near Chibian community when the incident took place.
Family sources said the kidnappers had demanded for N16m ransom from the family before they could effect his release. The family battled to raise the required sum, to no avail. A source close to the family said only four million was realized from sales of property of the embattled officer and some family members as at Wednesday. There was anxiety as the abductors turned the appeal, to beat down the ransom money. However when all hope seemed lost, the abductors soft-pedalled.
The chairman of Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in Munya local government, where the incident happened, Alhaji Ibrahim Kadi first confirmed SP Aliyu’s release. He said the officer was released after the payment of ransom but did not mention the amount. He disclosed that the police officers were released in a village called Gwagwa in Shiroro local government area of the state, adding that the victims were in good health.
However, a source close to the DPO’s family confirmed his release and the payment of N5 million ransom by the abductors to our correspondent on phone. The source said the DPO’s wife and father went to Sarkin Pawa to receive him.
Vehicles were sighted conveying the rescued officers at the gate of the state police command an hour later. The officers were accompanied by the Chairman of Munya local government area to the state police command headquarters located in Dutsen Kura area of Minna.
Efforts to gain access to the command failed as police officers on duty said they could only allow him entry on the directive of the commissioner. The command later in the night issued a statement announcing the release of the DPO and five others.
According to the statement signed by the new police public relations officer to the command, Superintendent Abigail Onaeze, the kidnapped senior police officer and five others were “rescued at New Kabula Forest by the Police Rescue Operation Team.”
The statement was silent on the matter of ransom.
The Command had initially maintained sealed lips on the entire kidnap saga. Its public relations unit and the top hierarchy were also not forthcoming with information. But the Command’s disposition on the matter is expected. The recent kidnap has sent shock waves in the spines of its officers and men, coming barely three weeks after the Inspector in charge of Allawa Outpost, in Shiroro local government area of the state, whose name was simply given as Mr. Paul, was kidnapped. He was seized alongside a forestry officer in the area, Malam Aminu Dahiru on their way from Pandogari in Rafi local government to their base in Allawa.
Unlike the DPO’s case, the Inspector and Forestry officer were lucky that a detachment of military personnel were on duty in the area. They engaged the fleeing kidnappers in a shootout, rescued the victims, but lost two officers.
The Superintendent was in Tudun Fulani area of Minna to see his family on Saturday. It was a journey he undertook every two weeks from his station in Sarkin Pawa, the headquarters of Munya local government area. He was seen with friends Sunday evening close to his residence. A family source said the officer was said to have gotten a call from the Command to mobilize his men for an operation around Sarkin Pawa. He had headed out that night with the men he came with to Minna and ran into a blockade at a spot around Chibian village. This was where he was kidnapped by the gunmen.
A source said when his men waited in vain in Sarkin Pawa division to no avail, one of the men reached out to the DPO’s wife to know his whereabouts. The wife told him that her husband had since left for Sarkin Pawa. “They told her that he had not arrived Sarkin Pawa,” the source said.
Monday morning, the wife was said to have set out to SarkinPawa in search of the husband, but his men told her they had not seen him. She then returned to Minna, where she got a call later that night from the kidnappers demanding for N16 million before they could set him free.
“The kidnappers told her they are holding the husband somewhere in Zamfara. They called with the husband’s number and asked her to drop the money somewhere on Sarkin Pawa road,” the source said.
It was learnt that since the news of his kidnap filtered in, sympathizers have been trooping to his Minna residence. Also, some of the DPO’s family members, including his father, arrived Minna from Pategi in Kwara State over the incident.
The source said the kidnappers reached out to the wife, Wednesday to inquire about how much she was able to raise. They threatened that he must come up with the amount demanded between then and Friday and that in the event of any failure, they would kill her husband.
It was gathered that Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who was away abroad, directed a key official of government to liaise with the command and the family members to address the matter. Disturbed by the kidnapping of its officers, the command has had to increase security presence in places considered to be dangerous spots across the state. In a statement Thursday night, it said it has “put in place sensitive security measures that will deal with any form of security threats in the state.
“Already, all identified hideouts of criminals have been noted and security personnel deployed to ensure their arrest and prosecution,” the statement said. Many hope that the new measures would address the rising security concerns across the state.
So far, ten cases of kidnapped policemen have been reported in 2017. The first was the abduction of John Manger, a superintendent of police in Nasarawa State in February. He was cornered on the Abuja-Keffi road. This was almost immediately followed by that of Sergeant Bola, a policewoman, around OmoIjebu in Ogun State. Her ransom was N200,000.
In March SP Valentine Mbalu, a DPO at Asaba C. Division was kidnapped along the Benin-Asaba expressway in Delta State. Ransom demanded was N20 million.
Other victims include DSP Munir, who was abducted along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway, Corporal Stephen Adesokan Siun along Abeokuta road, Inspector Paul along Allawa road in Niger State, ACP Emmanuel Agene along Birnin Gwari-Funtua road and so on.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, expressed his displeasure over the kidnapping of police officers. He described it as embarrassing and annoying, particularly after the abduction of DPO Aliyu. The top cop pointed out that the officers kidnapped should have been more careful.
Nigerians, especially on social media, have been expressing concern over what seems to be a rise in policemen being targeted by kidnappers. “If cops are targeted, how about us, who they’re supposed to protect?” asked one Jameel Hameed via Twitter. “It would’ve been funny, if it wasn’t so serious,” he tweeted.
With additional research by Haruna Ibrahim