Is there a government by gunmen?
The commonest question for a primary 1 pupil like my lovely son NaetoChukwu is to ask him “Why is government necessary.”He will quickly tell you that government exists for security.
Government in the thinking of some scholars is important because the institutions of government ought to provide the parameters for everyday behaviour for citizens, protect them from outside interference, and often provide for their well-being and happiness,” (www.ushistory.org).
The framers of the Nigeria’s extant constitution were clear about why a government exists, a reason why they stated in section 14(2) (b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
By and large, the aforementioned primary obligation of the Nigerian government tallies with both what my five year old son and the United states based scientists saw as the essence of government. I agree with both submissions.
A conversation on the theme of government in Nigeria is necessitated by the overwhelming evidence of violations of this sacred obligation of government and the resultant mass kidnappings and killings of Nigerians by series of gunmen who as it were have even began acting as if they are the defacto government in some parts of Nigeria. This is because these armed men are now subjecting the citizens to payments of ransom and protection fees even for them to access their farm lands to harvest their crops in the North of Nigeria which prides itself as the food basket of Nigeria.
The prevailing climate of fear and violence is not limited to Northern Nigeria but the rule by the gunmen is fast spreading to all parts of Nigeria.
Few days back, in Benin, Edo state, a commissioner of police was fatally shot by armed cultists who were engaged in supremacy battles.
The Rivers state governor Nyesom Wike has just announced curfew in about two local government area councils because of the persistent violent battles between all sorts of cult groups.
The Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, imposed a 24-hour curfew on the Okoro-Nu-Odu flyover in Rumuokoro area of the Port Harcourt metropolis in the next two weeks, following rising cult clashes and violence. He cautioned that government would leave no stone unturned in dealing with anyone who breaches the peace and security in the state with cult activities and associated killings.
In a statewide broadcast, Wike explained that the decision to impose the Curfew was taken after the State Security Council meeting in Port Harcourt.
He explained that the Rivers State Government was disturbed over the recent upsurge of cult activities and related violence and killings in the Okoro-Nu-Odu flyover in ObiolAkpor Council Area.
The governor stated that government had constantly warned misguided youths against engaging in cultism because of its anti-social effect on society.
“As part of measures to tackle the menace, government has imposed a 24-hour Curlew for two weeks on the area from the Saint Emmanuel Anglican Church, Rumuokoro to the Rumuodomaya Slaughter and daily market with effect from Monday, November 23, 2020 (today).
He continued: “Consequently, no trading, human or vehicular movement is allowed within the restricted areas until further notice. Only staff and vehicles of Julius Berger Nigeria Limited are exempted from the curfew and restriction of movement so that construction work on the Okoro-NuOdu flyover is not stalled.
Mr. Wike directed security agencies to enforce compliance with the curfew arrest and prosecute any person, trader or vehicle that violates the restrictions.
His words: “We wish to warn that community leaders that allow cultism and related activities to thrive in their communities would be treated as collaborators to the crimes and will be dealt with accordingly.
“We urge all citizens to be part of the efforts to curb cultism in the state by reporting any suspicious Cult activity, including gatherings and initiations in and re-around their neighboring-hoods to the security agencies for immediate action, “he said.
He disclosed that the state government would construct the seventh flyover in Port Harcourt to traverse Ikokwu to Azikiwe street and appealed to residents of Street Port Harcourt and Obio-and Obio-Akpor council areas to bear with the state government over the traffic challenges they might encounter due to the ongoing construction of the Oro-Abali and other flyovers.
In Lagos, there was a period this year that a cult group persistently kept hundreds of thousands of residents of some areas sleepless at night as they were going from house to house to kill, harm, destroy and loot even as the security forces are no where near the crime scenes.
Zamfara and Kastina States are notorious zones of armed bandits who practically crippled the pace of governance to an extent that the governors were forced to the negotiation table with these outlaws. Some of these gunmen reportedly surrendered after being financially induced.
However, as it is with outlaws, they are back to their familiar routines of kidnappings, pillaging, killing, destroying and collecting financial settlements even as the Central Bank of Nigeria is unable to trace some of these transactions and the Nigerian Communication Commission and the security force can not trace their communication whilst they negotiate for ransom.
Aside behaving like defacto government, these outlaws with big guns are acting in ways that suspicions ought to be raised regarding the involvement of some top people in government and the security forces.
If their transactions can not be traced and they make uninterrupted telephone negotiations and successfully pick up these generous payments running into billions in a single year, thereby making crime a billion dollars business, there is need to investigate if there are government and security officials aiding and abetting these crimes.
Another issue that makes a very strong case of collusion is that no state ministry of Justice or the Federal Attorney General have successfully prosecuted these criminals, some of whom the Nigerian Police Force had paraded before the media.
So effectively, the justice, telecommunication and the security segments of the Nigerian government must be placed under surveillance to fish out persons who have continued to compromise national security and are almost succeeding in inaugurating a government by gunmen in Nigeria of 2020.
A brief run –down of some of the reported cases of kidnappings and payments that took place in the past few months in Nigeria, should convince us that there is more to it than meets the eyes. The latest was that which took place somewhere in Kaduna whereby those who went to pay ransom reportedly stated that SECURITY OPERATIVES WISHED US LUCK AS WE WENT TO PAY RANSOM.
Like a NOLLYWOOD movie, Daily Trust reported that the nine students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, abducted six days ago along the Kaduna-Abuja highway have regained their freedom. Daily Trust gathered that families of the French Language students individually stumped up over N500,000 each to secure their freedom in a bush near Maru village, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
The nine students were part of a travelling group of 12 who chartered an 18-seater bus to convey them to the French Village in Lagos for their French immersion programme. They had been trapped between Akilubu and Gidan Busa Road along the Abuja-Kaduna Highway on Sunday when kidnappers blocked the double-lane highway and opened fire. Two of the students had escaped with gunshot wounds while a female student was spared because of her toddler. The bus driver, Nurudeen Mohammed, who also escaped the attack, later confirmed that nine students, not eight as earlier reported, had been abducted.
Daily Trust reports that the bandits had demanded a cumulative ransom of N270 million, asking each parent to provide N30 million for the students’ freedom.
However, after days of negotiations with relatives, Daily Trust gathered that the kidnappers settled for unequal amounts from various families. Christian John, whose sister, Elizabeth John, was among the students confirmed that his sister had returned home safely after they paid the ransom.
He said though suffering from exhaustion, Elizabeth was doing well and happy to reunite with her family. He refused to disclose how much they paid for his sister’s freedom. The Director, Public Affairs, of ABU, Auwalu Umar also confirmed the release of all nine students on Saturday night but said he could not give further details. Other relatives of the victims however told Daily Trust correspondents that the school management and the government were not part of the negotiations.
Continued tomorrow on Opinion page.
Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).
Efforts to reach the Kaduna State Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Mohammed Jalige were not successful, as he did not answer his call. In a detailed report, we were told that Families of the abducted students told Daily Trust they were all asked to converge around a forest in Chikun Local Government Area and were then given directions into the forest. One of the relatives, who conveyed N500,000 to secure his sister’s release, said: ‘It was as if we were given the same time to bring the ransom. About 12 people were released on Saturday night among them the nine students; eight females and a male. Each family went with their ransom separately in a bag and we were all directed by the kidnappers,” he said.
Another family source who delivered N800,000 for the release of his niece said each family was given a particular amount to deliver with the least being N500,000. “Some paid N700,000, some paid N800,000 and another paid N1 million. However, we paid N800, 000 to get my niece out of the forest.” Describing their journey, he said, “If you are travelling to Abuja from Kaduna, immediately after the NYSC camp, there is a solar light at a small village called Dutse. By the side, there is a tarred road that goes into Gwagwada but before we got to Gwagwada, there is a road that will lead you to Maro village. It was on our way to Maro that we were diverted into the forest. We are in serious trouble in this country because this thing happened just close to the NYSC camp.”
He said the experience was both frightening and terrible. “We met with security agents who were patrolling the area while on our way and they asked us where we were going to because it was late at night. We told them we were on our way to pay ransom for the release of our relatives and the security agents wished us good luck,” he said.
“We drove for about 30 minutes inside the bush and then we saw some people on motorcycles and we were asked to hop on. We rode on the motorcycles for another 30 minutes deep into the forest.” He said as they travelled into the forest, armed men surrounded them and asked them to raise their hands. “We did as ordered because they were well-armed and so they searched our body and when they didn’t find anything, they collected the money and counted them all to be sure they were complete before they released the victims.” “We were asked to form a queue and one by one, we were attended to. If your money is complete, you will be asked to provide the name of the person you were paying for and the person will be called out then you will stand aside and the next person on the queue will be attended to,” he said. The source said during the encounter, some of the kidnappers tried to make small talk with them as one of them told them he was an ex-security agent who quit and joined the group while others claimed to be from the Niger Republic and Cameroon. The source told Daily Trust that the students and three others were released around 10 pm on Saturday but by the time they got to Abuja.
These are other reportorial evidence that Nigeria may actually now have THE FIFTH REALM OF THE ESTATE meaning that there is a GOVERNMENT OF GUNMEN running their organised businesses as if the Federal government does not exist in their calculations.
It was reported that N2.5m ransom paid for release of kidnap victims in Oyo Published APRIL 16, 2020 by Vanguard just as Vanguard gathered that the victims were forced into a forest on Igboora-Abeokuta Road by the hoodlums. An impeccable source said, “The Olori and her daughter were released Wednesday night after payment of N2.5 million.
Another related reported says We paid N5m each to secure our release says Nasarawa kidnap victims Published September 28, 2020 by PUNCH. The Six officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps out of the 26 officers released recently by bandits in the Maraba -Udege area of the Nasarawa Local Government Area of Nasarawa State have said they paid between N5 m and N6m each as ransom.
Then came the tragic story of Kidnappers hanging a man on tree after collecting N1m ransom Published 16 July 2020 by Guardian. The Kidnap gang has been arrested by operatives of the anti-kidnapping unit of the Rivers State police command for allegedly hanging one Mr Ereba Dinabari on a tree till he died after collecting N1 million ransom for his release.
TKidnappedhen we read that the wife of vigilante commander freed after paying ransom Published November 3, 2020 by Premium Times. The family source, who is familiar with the kidnap incident, said the payment negotiations started with N50 million. They, however, finally agreed on N2 million which was paid to facilitate her release.
Kidnappers kill Abuja doctor after receiving N7.5 million ransom says the Police as Published on June 29, 2020 by Premium Times. The Nigeria Police have revealed how Benedict Audu, a medical doctor practising in Abuja, and two others were killed by a criminal gang after being paid N7.5 million as ransom.
Then the story that Kidnappers Kill DSS Officer after Receiving N5m Ransom in Katsina Published September 15, 2020 by ThisDay. A 33-year-old operative of the Department of State Services (DSS), Sadiq Abdullahi Bindawa, was reportedly killed by his suspected abductors after receiving the sum of N5 million as ransom.
Another incident was that of Kidnappers who killed a doctor, son after collecting N7.5m ransom as narrated by the Police and Published June 29, 2020 by PUNCH.
The story says that operatives of the Intelligence Response Team have arrested members of a kidnap syndicate, who allegedly killed three of their victims, after collecting N 7. 5 million ransom from their family members. Another is that Kidnapped Ondo Market Women Regain Freedom After Paying N5 Million Ransom Published November 11, 2020 by SaharaReporters. SaharaReporters reliably gathered that the victims paid N5 million ransom before the kidnappers freed them. Then the story of abducted bishop, two others regain freedom after paying N1.5M ransom Published October 18, 2020 by BusinessDay.
Specifically, A bishop in ogwasiuku-uku axis of Delta State, Paul Okozi and two other persons has regained their freedom after payment of N1.5 million to their abductors.
Then the story that Police arrested kidnappers over death of victim following release as Published on AUGUST 28, 2020 by Vanguard. The Police in Rivers state have apprehended four persons and tracking more in connections with the kidnap of 65-year-old Sokari Braide who died two days after being released following payment of N1.2Million ransom.
Then Kidnapped university official freed after paying ransom Published October 26, 2020 by Premium Times. The clinical official attached to Federal University Dutse (FUD) in Jigawa State, who was kidnapped a few days ago, has been freed after paying a ransom.
Reading through these rudimentary pattern of crimes of armed kidnapping for ransom and the incapacity and unwillingness of the Central Nigerian government to unravel the faces behind these dastardly act of criminal violence on citizens which negate the primary obligation of government statutorily, the question to be asked is why the nation’s crime fighting mechanisms are still at the primitive stage whereas other jurisdictions have advanced with sophisticated technologies to combat crimes. From the University of SanDiego comes a fantastic piece by Erik Fritsvold, a PhD holder on the ten innovative police technologies and then you wonder what on earth has Nigeria been investing the humongous budgets on police for over the past many years that Nigeria still cant solve the rapidly expanding frontiers of crimes of kidnapping for ransom and other manifestations of violent criminality by criminal elements who now move about their daredevil activities as if they are running their own government of gunmen.
Writing about the 10 Innovative Police Technologies, the academic cited aforementioned said “Technology is transforming police work in the 21st century — introducing new tools to fight crime and new categories of crime to fight. For example, while more and more police departments across the country are deploying drones as eyes in the sky, the FBI reports they are also being used for criminal activities.
As technology continues to reshape nearly every sector of society, law enforcement leaders now have an arsenal of high-tech systems and tools that are designed to enhance public safety, catch criminals and save lives.
Also he says Eyes on Innovation – Police Technology ranging From drones and body-worn cameras to facial recognition software and artificial intelligence, here’s a list of 10 of the most important technologies that are equipping law enforcement agencies with new capabilities to protect and serve. On Facial Recognition Software he says, .ne of the more controversial emerging police technologies involves the use of facial recognition software.
He says a hypothetical example offered in an NBC News report illustrates the pros and cons: Picture a crowded street. Police are searching for a man believed to have committed a violent crime. To find him, they feed a photograph into a video surveillance network powered by artificial intelligence.
A camera, one of thousands, scans the street, instantly analyzing the faces of everyone it sees. Then, an alert: The algorithms found a match with someone in the crowd. Officers rush to the scene and take him into custody.
But it turns out the guy isn’t the one they’re looking for ─ he just looked a lot like him. The machines were wrong. He says too that though advanced forms of facial recognition offer “dazzling potential for crime prevention” (for example, tracking wanted criminals, missing people and suspected terrorists), the report cautions that it is also “raising alarms” about the potential for mistakes and abuse since it could be used to secretly monitor the public.
On Biometrics he says that Police have been using fingerprints to identify people for over a century. Now, in addition to facial recognition and DNA, there is an ever-expanding array of biometric (and behavioral) characteristics to being utilized by law enforcement and the intelligence community. These include voice recognition, palmprints, wrist veins, iris recognition, gait analysis and even heartbeats.
The FBI has developed a database called the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, “which provides the criminal justice community with the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information.”
He wrote also that With comprehensive electronic databases now in place to more effectively use DNA and other biometric data in law enforcement, even the use of fingerprints to identify suspects has gone high-tech. For example, a CNBC report explains how police in London can now use a mobile INK (Identity Not Known) biometrics device to scan a suspect’s fingerprints and in many cases reveal their identity within 60 seconds.
The most intriguing of the ten, which we may not mention for want of space are the artificial intelligence or Robots. Hear him: “Many law enforcement agencies are now using next-generation robotic cameras to deliver visual and audio surveillance of potential crime scenes that may be too dangerous or too hard for officers to reach.
Some of these devices are even “throwable” (up to 120 feet and capable of withstanding repeated 30-foot drops) — powered by an electric motor and equipped with high-tech wheels that enable it to move, climb and explore even the most challenging spaces while being operated wirelessly by a trained officer. Automaker Ford has filed a patent for a self-driving police car equipped with artificial intelligence and designed to catch violators of traffic laws or impaired drivers by transmitting information to human officers or carrying an optional passenger officer who could make arrests. Additional applications for using robots in police work, now and on the near horizon, include:
• Ever-expanding capabilities for robots to gather surveillance information, take police reports and provide communications in settings where human officers’ safety would be compromised
• China’s ongoing development of an “AnBot” robot to patrol banks, airports and schools
• Patrolling tourist attractions with a touchscreen-equipped robot officer, as is now on duty in Dubai.”
Can we ask the government we elected through the ballots why they have abdicated their primary Constitutional duty of protecting us the citizens and have permitted the existence of another GOVERNMENT BY GUNMEN.
Can we ask why the Nigerian Police Force meant for crime prevention and law enforcement gas collapsed to an extent that the NIGERIAN ARMY IS NOW DOING THE JOB OF POLICE IN ADDITION TO THE CONSTITUTIONALLY STATED DUTIES?
Onwubiko is Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs.