Citizens on edge, as kidnappers seize nation’s jugular
When the first cases of kidnappings involving expatriate oil workers were recorded in the Niger Delta in the early 2000s, not many knew that it would grow to become a national malaise in less than two decades or thereabouts.Apart from the militancy in the Niger Delta, the deadly Islamic insurgency in the North orchestrated by Boko Haram, the activities of hostage-taking Fulani herdsmen, as well as the swelling pool of criminals who are making a fortune from it have all contributed to exacerbation of the national epidemic, which kidnapping has become.
Today, not just expatriates are at risk of being kidnapped for ransom, everybody and anybody is, as shown by the list of victims, which include day-old infants, professionals, including medical doctors, lawyers, journalists, administrators, clerics, traditional rulers, artisans, para-military and military officers among others.Now, hardly does a week pass without innocents citizens being shepherded away by deadly gangs, who taken fun in pulling the trigger at the slightest refusal to obey their commands.
As a confirmation that the illicit trade has taken deep roots in the country, Control Risk, a United Kingdom-based consultancy, which tracks kidnapping cases across the world in 2016 informed that Nigeria has now risen to the fifth position in the world of kidnapping. It that year, Nigeria came just behind Mexico, India, Pakistan and Iraq, which occupy the top four spots.
In the bid to discourage the menace of kidnapping in their domains, some state governments have facilitated or spearheaded the enactment of harsher laws, including death penalty to serve as a deterrence to kidnapping, but all these have come to naught as the blood-chilling trade festers. Even the efforts of the Federal Government to stem the tide of kidnapping seems to be at best tepid.
As the scourge burrows deeper into the society’s fabric, President of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu, insists that taking the risk of kidnapping people for ransom or for ritual murder is simply evil. When people are kidnapped for rituals or organ harvesting, it is safe to say that evil has taken over the land and the nation has lost sight of what is moral or immoral. This is a cause for deep concern and it shows there is something fundamentally wrong with the country.”
Ekhomu, a security consultant added: “Kidnapping now happen on a commercial scale in the country. Even though kidnapping happens in other parts of the world, it does not happen on such a large scale like Nigeria where mass kidnapping takes place regularly. Many years ago, we said there is strength in numbers, but this is not true today. Kidnapping of Chibok girls and Dapchi girls come to mind. Boko Haram even stop buses on the way and carry out their kidnapping. There is general lack of security in the country.
“I think impunity is the biggest cause, because people commit the crime and don’t get punished. If someone commits crime and he/she gets away with it, then there is every chance that the person will continue. But if the person commits a crime, gets caught and is punished, it will definitely serve as a deterrent to others. Most cases are lost in court because of sloppy investigation and policing in Nigeria. We no longer teach religious education in schools. So, people are not morally conscious; but they now worship the god of money and justify it,” Ekhomu added.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, Dr. Esther Foluke Akinsola said part of the reason that kidnapping remains a thriving business in the country is because many Nigerians have come to believe that being rich is the ultimate life goal. “Nigerian youths have been brainwashed into believing they need to get money to have their way. So, this has spurred them to get money by hook or by crook. This is also responsible for the high rate of kidnapping and ritual killings in the country. I heard recently of a wife who took to kidnapping to get money from the husband. Many of us are not content with what we have. We want to have a good life and the definition of good life is to go into this heinous crime to make money. Greed is a psychological problem. Some in the older generations have not laid the foundation of hard work for our youths, rather, they have demonstrated that to have money is power to live a flamboyant life,” the university teacher stated.
Adebowale Ayobade, a sociology lecturer at UNILAG added: “Another cause of kidnappings and ritual killings in the country is eroded values. People no longer want to follow the path of dignity of labour, they don’t care how they make money. “The enduring spirit of due process of attaining wealth is no longer there as only a few people ask questions when they observe something does not add up. People celebrate those who acquire ill-gotten wealth and give them chieftaincy titles. In some cases, they are given major responsibilities in the society.
“The societal implication of this is that it spreads like wild fire. I don’t think it is too bad to ask someone who had nothing, but all of a sudden is living the big life, what he or she does for a living.”And for Dr. Victoria Jefferson, a cleric, kidnapping and ritual killings are on the rise because of high rate of poverty, hopelessness, joblessness and majorly, the lack of the fear of God.She said: “Another factor to this epidemic is the celebration of wealth, fame and materialism without questioning the sources. For example, a jobless young man suddenly becomes wealthy, buying houses and cars without any traceable investment, no accountability to friends, families and the government, and yet he is celebrated. A generation has emerged that is only interested in the get-rich-quick syndrome, rather than hard work, skill acquisition and education.”
While urging religious leaders, family and relevant government agencies to come together to condemn and tackle these barbaric acts, instead of celebrating materialism, Ekhomu believes that people need to be security conscious, mind the company they keep, while the government should devise ingenious ways of catching up with perpetrators.He said conscious efforts must be made to stamp out the menace of kidnapping before the entire country is overrun by kidnappers.
“For instance, the Kaduna-Abuja road is a danger zone where kidnapping has been thriving for years. So, the legislature should compel the Nigerian Police to make its presence felt there. We urgently need to get to a point where serious people govern Nigeria because governance means providing services based on facts and not fiction,” Ekhomu added.
INCIDENTALLY, it was on the same Kaduna-Abuja road that about 30 persons were kidnapped last Wednesday, including the General Manager, Public Relations, Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMET), Muntari Ibrahim. His son, Ibrahim, who made the disclosure said his father, along with his brother, Tasi’u Isah, were returning to Abuja when the kidnappers double- crossed his Peugeot 408 car, shot into the air and whisked him away.Like Kaduna, several other state across the country have paid a heavy price as a result of the incessant activities of kidnappers.
Rivers In The Throes Of Kidnappers
RIVERS State in recent times has experienced a spike in the heinous crime as kidnappers run riot across the state with no regards to law enforcement agencies. In fact, these days, they operate with impunity in several parts of the state, and of late, they have been targeting commuters on the stretch of East West Highway, between Emohua and Elele, as well as Ubima-Omerelu Road.Only recently, the kidnap and murder of Mr. John Iheanacho, a staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) caused an uproar in the state.
The victim who was until his death the President of NNPC Cooperative Multipurpose Society Limited, Port Harcourt Zone, was snatched in Port Harcourt and hidden in an uncompleted building in Oyigbo. But for inexplicable reasons, after his family had paid the ransom for his release, Iheanacho was killed and buried in a shallow grave. The kidnappers were later arrested.Similarly, in May last year, kidnappers snatched Chukwubuikem Ezenkwu, a businessman, and an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, Justina Tanko.
It was gathered that Ezenkwu’s family paid N2.7m for his release, but the kidnappers reneged on the promise to release him after receiving the ransom. After about a month, Ezenkwu’s corpse was dumped in Onne River. Just last month, a commercial bus conveying 18 passengers from Port Harcourt to Owerri, including a pregnant woman was intercepted by kidnappers along Ubima-Omerelu Road in Ikwerre Local Council and all the passengers were kidnapped.
After collecting ransom from some of the victims’ relatives, the kidnappers failed to release them until the IGP Anti-kidnapping Monitoring Unit issued an ultimatum to residents of Omerelu and Ubima to urge their kinsmen to release their victims or face dire consequences. It was after that that the victims were released.A sociologist, Princewill Tombari said with high youth unemployment rate, particularly in rural areas, where vast majority of the population are living far below the poverty line, kidnapping travelers for ransom has become the crime of choice for locals around Emohua, Ikewerre, Khana, Gokana, Etche local councils. He warned that except the limited presence of the police in various parts of the state is addressed, and rising lawlessness tackled, kidnapping will continue to gain ground in several parts of the state, including Ubima.
“If the police were to disclose data for kidnappings, which I suspect is daily, you would marvel that we are living in perilous times. Desperation for self-preservation in the rural areas, where there are no industries or factories to engage the youths has fuelled crime. Another factor is that our underpaid policemen are overwhelmed,” he said.
Last year, the state governor, Nyesom Wike, assented to the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) (Amendment) No. 2 Law No.7 of 2018, and the Neighbourhood Watch Safety Corps Act.Under the new anti-kidnapping law, Wike said that stiffer penalties have been approved to discourage those who may want to be involved in these offences.“If you are a cultist and you are caught, it is life imprisonment. If you are a cultist and you kill during cult activities, you will face the death penalty. If you are convicted of kidnapping and the Supreme Court affirms your conviction, I will sign the death warrant without looking back.
“If your hands are clean, you have nothing to fear about the three laws that I have given assent to… All criminals will face the full weight of the law. We will fight crime and ensure that the state is safe for investors,” he said.Mrs. Amaka Chinda, a resident urged authorities to put an end to the problem of kidnapping caused by youth unemployment, and the get rich quick mentality among the youths.She stressed that government must begin to implement all relevant laws concerning kidnapping.
Edo Taking The Heat From Outlaws
THE situation in Edo state occasioned by the activities of kidnappers has worsened, following the recent kidnap and killing of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Edwin, at Ubiaja, Headquarters of Esan South East Local Council, alongside others.Sources disclosed that the police officer, who was in mufti, was travelling to Asaba in Delta State when the vehicle he was travelling in was stopped, before he was kidnapped.
Edo Police spokesman, DSP Chidi Nwabuzor, who confirmed the incident to journalists, expressed confidence that his colleague would soon be retrieved from the criminal gang. But that was not to be as the kidnappers killed him immediately they found out through his identity card that he was a police officer. Shortly before Edwin’s kidnap, the Enogie of Ukhiri, HRH. Godwin Aigbe, who was also a retired Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) was kidnapped by gunmen, who stormed his palace and took him away in his Nissan Sunny vehicle after burning the unregistered car they rode to the palace.
The traditional ruler’s palace invasion carried out by five armed men left many wondering where, and who is safe in the state.The upsurge in crime, particularly kidnap has reawakened the peoples’ interest in the huge amount the state government claims to spend checking crime and criminality in the state.Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, who has severally restated his desire to create a safe and business-friendly atmosphere in the state has reportedly strengthened the fight against crime with the unveiling of the state’s security architecture codenamed WABAIZIGAN.
Frowning at the rate of criminals activities, Obaseki warned perpetrators to either desist from their ways or relocate from the state. But the increase in cases of kidnapping in the state suggests that these criminals have not taken heed of the stern warning.The governor, who also launched the Edo State Security Trust Fund, which the government committed N2b to as seed fund, explained that security remains central to his administration’s reform agenda, hence his unflinching desire to assist the security agencies wage serious war against crime and criminality.
But travellers to Benin have sordid tales to tell of encounters with kidnappers/herdsmen at Efosu, near Benin. Almost daily, travellers are waylaid and escorted inside the bush making o0ne to wonder what WABAIZIGAN is doing.While lamenting the nightmare faced by residents of the state as a result of the activities of gunmen, Obaseki assured that the government was out to give criminal elements a bloody nose.
Experiencing Upward Swing In Enugu
THE quietude, which Enugu State is reputed for was rudely shattered last December when a contractor, who rehabilitated Milliken Hills Road in Ngwo was kidnapped alongside his wife at Okpatu, near Udi.The youths, who kidnapped him, moved him from the location to Ngwo, where they confiscated his ATM cards, and made several withdrawals from his account.
Even after the victim pleaded with them to let him go, and promised to give them more money, they shot at him point blank and got his wife to watch as he bled to death.One of the gang members, who was paraded by the police recently, told journalists that they decided to kill him out of fear that he would block the ATM cards should they release him. He added that they killed him in the presence of his wife to create fear in her so that she won’t report the matter to the police.
On the eve of the botched presidential and National Assembly elections in February this year, two brothers were on their way home. At the Independence Layout, only a few kilometers away from their residence, they were waylaid by men brandishing guns, who ordered them into their waiting vehicles. Thinking they were policemen, a neighbour, Okechukwu, who saw what was happening, accosted them to know what offence the boys had committed.
Upon posing the question, the kidnappers asked him to raise his hands up, which he did. Convinced that he bore no firearms, they shot him severally on the legs and took off. They were, however, trailed by the Police leading to their abandoning their victim in the car. Okechukwu was taken to National Orthopeadic Hospital, Enugu, where doctors are still battling fix his battered legs. On March 13, the parish priest of St Mark Catholic Church, Obinofia Ndiuno, Ezeagu Local Council, Rev. Fr. Clement Ugwu was shot in the leg, and thereafter whisked away to an unknown destination around 9pm, by suspected kidnappers. The incident took place right at the entrance of his church.
After a frantic search by some local residents in collaboration with the Enugu Diocese, the parent diocese, which lasted for one-week, his decomposing body was found in the bush about 20km from where he was abducted.The abductors were said to have demanded N50m ransom, which they later reduced to N20 million. The decomposing body was recovered and buried at the priests’ burial ground at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, Enugu, after a requiem mass presided over by the Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Most Reverend Callistus Onaga.A visibly distraught, Onaga said he visited the police in Enugu three times seeking for urgent help to rescue the priest “but they kept on telling me they are on top of the situation and closing in on the kidnappers.”
Although the priest could not be rescued by the police, the police said they have got a clue that would eventually lead to the arrest of his killers.Enugu State commissioner of police, Suleiman Balarabe, told reporters that the killers have been using the slain priest’s ATM card to withdraw money from his account. He said that two suspects whose names were given as Sunday Chibuko, and Benjamin Osogwu had been arrested over the kidnap and murder of the priest.
This incident last month, was closely followed by that of Uzouwani that involved the Secretary of the Uzo Uwani Local Council, who doubles as a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.He was allegedly shot dead by some herdsmen around Olo Town in Ezeagu Local Council of the state.
The late secretary identified as Dr. Nnamdi Ogueche, who was in company of three others was returning from a peace meeting between communities and herdsmen that have been terrorising parts of Uzo-Uwani Local Council, when their vehicle was attacked.In the ensuing stampede, occupants of the vehicle jumped out in different directions, but they pursued the council scribe and shot him in the process.Investigations have also shown that apart from kidnap cases carried out by Fulani herdsmen, some kidnap victims in the state were lured through job offers and promise of huge salaries that don’t exist anywhere.
While Bishop Onaga called on the police to fish out killers of the late Catholic priest, he regretted that security agencies could not rescue Fr. Ugwu despite their assurances that they were closing up on the kidnappers.In the same vein, the Director of Communications of the Diocese, Rev. Fr. Benjamin Achi, called on the state government to live up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property.The State Police Command has restated its commitment to make Enugu safe, by fishing out perpetrators of crimes, as well as prevent further occurrences.
Now A Thriving Enterprise In Kogi
EFFORTS by the Kogi State government to stem the menace of kidnapping in the state has failed woefully, as the illicit trade has continued to thrive.Even though kidnapping has marginally reduced, kidnappers now adopt new strategies, as their older strategies no longer work, especially with the efforts of security agents, who are matching them weapon-for-weapon and trick-for-trick.
However, there is still tension in the state as kidnap for ransom is gradually shifting from the highways to the interior villages, creating fears in the minds of residents who can no longer go to their farms, or get water from streams.The Guardian checks revealed that most kidnappers operating in the state infiltrate the area from some northern states. A number of times, they block highways and kidnap commuters after which they demand ransom, which usually range from N2m to N5m.
Recently Abdul Abaji was kidnapped along Ajegwu-Itobe Road on a Saturday. He was travelling from Lokoja to Idah with some people he offered a free ride, before he was intercepted at about 6pm around Ukunube Hill stretch, a spot notorious for kidnapping activities over the years.
An occupant of the car, a lady, who luckily escaped, said the kidnappers collected their money and phones and dragged Abaji into the bush because he actually attempted to make a detour on sighting them at the top of the hill, but luck was not on his side as some other gun men emerged from the bush behind and stopped him.Abaji’s car was, however, recovered by SARS same day, and the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari, while confirming the incident said three persons along with a Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) official that were kidnapped along Chikara Road the previous week had been released.
In KotonKarfe Local Council, the incessant cases of kidnapping and armed robbery has crippled social life. In Gegu-Beki, Iraki, Omoko, Akpogu, Kpareke and Achara, kidnapping has also affected commercial activities of the people, making them to remain indoors.According to a community leader in Iraki, Chief Idris Salihu: “The kidnappers invaded the community at about 2am some months ago and began to shoot sporadically, causing panic among the people.“One Mallam Yunusa Zaga was kidnapped while returning home in his car and kept in captivity for about three days before he was released. Ransom was paid.
The same gang, after the incident attempted to kidnap other members of the community on two occasions, but did not succeed due to efforts of members of the vigilante group. “Since they started kidnapping in our community, we can no longer sleep peacefully, we now live in fear,” he said.The Imam of Iraki Community Mosque, Idris Ibrahim, said: “Government should please provide security. We can no longer go to our farms. Our women cannot go and fetch water and firewood because of fear of being kidnapped.”
The head of the vigilante group in Iraki community, Zakari Hussain, lamented that kidnapping and armed robbery have been a great challenge to his people for sometime now.He said a few months ago, one of his brothers was kidnapped and huge ransom was paid before he was released, adding that due to the spate of kidnapping in the area, the vigilante members under his leadership have been doing all they could to ensure that the people are safe.
“We keep vigil from 8pm to 8am every day. We hardly have time to sleep. What we do is patrol round the community all through the night,” he said.He appealed to the government to support them with security personnel and weapons to keep the kidnappers away.At Gegu-Beki, one Murtala Muhammed, a butcher and cow dealer who was recently kidnapped from his home regained freedom after parting ways with N2m ransom.
The butcher, who said the kidnappers swooped on him and took him away with N1m cash at 11pm on the night he was kidnapped, added that he was kept in captivity for about three days and a ransom of N1 million was paid before he was freed.Members of his family and other people in the neighborhood now live in fear.Also at Gegu-Beki, a woman identified as Aisha Abdulkareem, was kidnapped on March 6, at about 7:40pm, by four gunmen while selling at her provision store.
The kidnappers, it was gathered, actually came for her husband, but when they missed him they decided to kidnap the wife after which they demanded N50m ransom. Abdulkareem was with her kidnappers for five days before some money was paid as ransom and her release effected.
At Omoko Community, the wife and daughter of the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the area, Alhaji Audu Omoko were kidnapped recently.
The kidnappers released them unhurt after collecting some ransom from the family.At Kpareke, a member of a vigilante group in the area was killed during an unsuccessful kidnap attempt. It was learnt that the kidnappers abducted one person during their second attempt on the community. Achara and Akpogu communities on their parts have equally witnessed the grim activities of kidnappers in recent times.
The Administrator of Kogi-Kotonkarfe Local Council, Tanko Mohammed, who described the spate of kidnapping in the council as alarming, said government was working alongside security agencies to address the menace.He said following the combing of the kidnappers’ hideouts by security operatives and the subsequent arrest of some of them, cases of kidnapping has reduced in the past few days.The council administrator, however, appealed for more security presence and possibly, joint security operations in the council in order to flush out the kidnappers from their hideouts.
Recently the Kogi State Police Command paraded 52 suspected political thugs and kidnappers, which he said were arrested from criminal hideouts, black spots and flash points across the state.The Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari said the suspects admitted to “have participated in political thuggery in the just concluded 2019 general elections, several kidnappings, armed robberies and attack on innocent travellers on the major highways across the state.He said his men arrested one Musa Haruna, who was involved in the kidnap of Alhaji Usman Magaji. Four other members of the kidnap gang were later arrested.
IMO Striving To Contain Onslaught
LAST Sunday kidnap of a community leader in Okuku in Owerri West Local Council of Imo State, Mr. Charles Ibe, ensured that the state was not without any kidnap case for long. Three gunmen arrived the residence of their target with an unmarked vehicle around 8pm and proceeded to whisk him away.
The Guardian reliably learnt that as they made away with their victim, one Vitalis Ozumba attempted to block the kidnappers exit route. Angered by the action, the gunmen, they came down from their vehicle and rained bullets on Ozumba until he died. They also shot two others on their way out of the village, leaving them currently in critical condition. This incident is one of the recent kidnapping cases recorded in the state.
In August last year, the State Police Command paraded 34-year old Uchenna Ugwueze, from Obolukwu in Ihioma, Orlu Local Council, a suspected leader of a kidnap gang in the state. Ugwueze and four others were alleged to have kidnapped Mrs Evans Ajaps, from Amadagba Ibiasiegbe in Oru West Local Council. Ajaps was whisked away from the gate of her residence as she was about stepping into the compound from the market.
Still in August last year, operatives of the State Police Command arrested two men, Chukwudi Chukwu and Bethel Ibe, for abducting a corpse from a morgue in the state after, which they demanded a N5m ransom. After abducting the corpse, the kidnappers contacted Bright Nwanshi, manager of Jesus Hospital Mortuary in the Ikeduru Local Council and made a demand of N5m as ransom.
The Command also in September last year arrested a 20-year-old-man, Victor Onumajuru, and his 25-year-old accomplice, Chibyke Chikere for allegedly raping a 19-year-old girl, whom they kidnapped and took to their hideout.In February this year, men of the Command arrested one Chinweke Nnachi, 23, and Chibuike Okolia, 24, for allegedly kidnapping a two men, including a 60-year-old man in September last year.
The victims, Ekwueme Uchenna, 27, and Christian Duru, 60, were rescued after the operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Command led by its Commander, Victor Geoffrey, swung into action. The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Ikeokwu Orlando, told The Guardian that the Command is always out to rid the state of kidnappers and would not rest on its oars.
“So, by and large, we are doing our best and I can tell you that the state is relatively calm and we are ensuring that crime is brought down in the state to the barest minimum,” he said.
Delta Residents Helpless As Kidnappers, Herdsmen Cause Bedlam
DELTA State, like many other states has no official data of kidnap cases, but the “business” is booming in the state, judging from the number of reported cases.Now, kidnappers in the state are resorting to hiding their victims in the forests as against uncompleted buildings, which were used in the past.Fulani herdsmen, who have also joined the kidnapping enterprise, are now demanding ransom in millions, even though some still demand as low as N300, 000.
Unfortunately, the well-organised criminal gangs and kidnappers have their allies among security operatives, as the State Police Command recently confirmed how warders with the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Delta State Command, escorted jailed kidnappers to hotel rooms to meet their gang members in Warri, last year.The two warders DCIP Anthony Nketan, 55, who provided them with the pass that facilitated their exit from the prison, and SPA Justice Oveto, 34, were rewarded with N3, 000 and N2, 000 respectively on each occasion.
The inmate, Stanley Erujere, 32, who is serving a 21-year jail term in Okere Prisons, Warri, was arrested by police officers inside Omaks Hotel, at 40 Ginuwa Road, Warri, during a meeting with his gang.The meeting culminated in three kidnappings in Warri and Asaba before detectives busted the gang on June 22, 2018.It was further revealed that Erujere had been making use of his phone to rally his gang for series of kidnappings.
“On April 22, 2018, they allegedly attacked and kidnapped one Ejiroghene Omu at Jakpa Road, Warri, and collected a ransom of N2.5m, and also robbed him of his Toyota Highlander jeep.A week after the gang kidnapped Maureen Anigbogu, 43, robbed her of her Toyota Lexus Rx350 jeep at Beach Garden Estate, Asaba, and thereafter collected a ransom of N2m.
“The same gang on May 22, 2018, using the first victim’s Toyota Highlander, kidnapped Benedicta Okeme Eseoghene, wife of Mike Okeme, former chairman, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Delta State Chapter, at Ogbueke Square, Asaba, and obtained a ransom of N10m. Five of the suspects were in police custody after their confessions that have been helpful to police investigations,” the police in the state disclosed.The State Police Command in 10 operations seized 14 kidnappers, rescued 10 victims on October 22, 2018 without ransom. Those rescued include a Senior Special Assistant to Delta State governor, a pastor, retired naval officer, housewife and others.
Another case of a kidnap gang king ruling from prison was confirmed late last year, just as another group abducted the state’s Women Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The 50-year-old politician, a staunch supporter of Senator representing Delta central in the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege was on a campaign trip from Orogun with three others when her abductors took her and later demanded N30m ransom.The clergy have also had a fair share of misery offered by kidnappers as unidentified gunmen on November 9, 2018, took four Catholic priests, wounding others in a brazen broad day attack that sent shivers down the spine of the survivors.The abducted priests included Rev. Fr. Victor Adigboluja of Ijebu Ode Diocese, Rev. Fr. Anthony Otegbola, Abeokuta Diocese, Rev. Fr. Joseph Idiaye, Benin Archdiocese and Rev. Fr. Obadjere Emmanuel of the Diocese of Warri.
Little Respite In Akwa Ibom
Akwa Ibom State was at a point seen as kidnappers’ den because of nefarious activities of some misguided youths in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo council areas.However, this sort of became history because of the intervention of the state government, which gave assistance to security agencies in the state led by police.Before now, local administration in the two council areas almost collapsed and schools shut down because of the combined activities of militants, cultists and kidnappers.
Within a period of two years in these areas, people were kidnapped, vehicles, houses and other properties burnt as kidnapping for ransom became the only way the unscrupulous youths could feed themselves. Sanity only returned there after the governor extended the olive
branch to the warlords to grant total amnesty to all of them.
In July 2018, a traditional ruler in Eket, Chief Inam Unanaowo, and five of his subjects were arrested for alleged kidnapping. Unanaowo, the village Head of Atibe in Afaha Eket, Eket Local Council, and five others were arrested for allegedly kidnapping staff of a company, who was travelling from Port Harcourt for a crew change of duty at Qua Iboe Terminal (QIT), a ExxonMobil operational base, at Ibeno Local Government Area.
Earlier in 2017, two Turkish construction workers were abducted by gunmen in their hotel rooms at Eket, Eket Local Council of the state.Then spokesperson of the command, Chukwu Okechukwu, explained that the Turkish nationals worked for BKS Construction Company in Onna Local Council, and were seized at Airstrip Hotel in Eket by the gunmen.In February this year, 18 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members who worked as ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were abducted in Abak, Itu and Ikono local councils. INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini, who made the disclosure said, “At Abak 10 corps members were abducted, while four apiece were kidnapped at Ikono and Itu.”
Speaking on how the state has fared so far, especially since the state government revved efforts in 2018, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, said the Command has been proactive and that those known to be behind this dastardly act were being brought to book.
“Why we have low rate of kidnapping now in the state is because the hand of God is with the state, in addition to the fact that security measures put in place by the Command to checkmate kidnappers’ activities are working. We have improved our intelligence gathering and we have been consistent at ensuring that those kidnapped are rescued timely, while those culpable are arrested and prosecuted,” he said.
Ekiti Battling To Contain Novel Evil
KIDNAPPING in Ekiti State has no historical antecedent as the malaise is a very recent development. However, between October 2018 and February this year, no fewer than 10 cases of kidnapping occurred in the state.Places identified as very dangerous and hot spots where kidnappers ply their trade include Ikere, Erio, Aramoko, Igbara Odo Efon, Ijan and Iju. Travelers and residents simply dread these places.
Manager of one of the BOVAS Petroleum and Gas Limited stations in the state, Mr. D. Alalade and his wife were kidnapped at Efon Alaaye in Efon Local Council in January 2019. The kidnappers later demanded N20m ransom.Also, a former Commissioner for Lands, Mr. Remi Olorunleke and the Director of Administration, Gbonyin Local Council, Mr. David Jejelowo, were kidnapped along Ado-Ijan Road same month. This incident occurred barely a week after an accountant with Emure Local Council, Mr. Abayomi Ajayi, was killed by kidnappers along Ikere–Ise Road, while two other staff from the council were abducted.
Also, the Financial Secretary of Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Kayode Oni was kidnapped at a location between Efon and Erio on his way to Aramoko, Headquarters of Ekiti West Local Council. But the case of Adeola Adebayo was pathetic. Adebayo, a 33-year-old lawyer and former Secretary of Ikole branch of NBA, was kidnapped on November 17, 2018 along Efon-Erio-Aramoko road and taken to an undisclosed location before his decomposed body was found on Sunday, December 2, 2018 after the ransom had been paid.From the victims’ accounts, these kidnappers’ allegedly resembled Fulani herdsmen, and are always dressed in military camouflage as they waylay their victims.
However, at an event organised to find the way forward, Governor Kayode Fayemi unveiled measures being put in place to either apprehend the kidnappers, or chase them away from the state.“To show our commitment to making Ekiti safe, we have reinstated the sacked operatives of the scrapped Ekiti State Peace Corps. We intend to recruit 800 operatives to work with the police across every community.
“OPC as a respectable pan-Yoruba security group is also welcomed in the battle to make Ekiti safe. We need you because you are credible; you understand the terrain and we have that confidence in you that you can provide support for the police in the area of information provision, even for other security agencies, which would help their intelligence gathering and also help them to take proactive actions.”
Fayemi said his government had given marching orders to the Police Commissioner, Mr. Asuquo Amba, the Directorate of State Services (DSS), and other security operatives to rid the state of criminals, insisting that the backing of other stakeholders in the security sector would provide a buffer to the conventional security for the task to be achievable.Since these security measures were put in place by the state government in February this year, there has been no reported case of kidnapping.
A Decline In Cross River State
UNLIKE the last three years, that is, from 2016 to 2018, the rate of kidnapping has drastically dropped in Cross River State. Before now, kidnapping was a reoccurring thing in Calabar, the state capital and its environs. Worst hit were South East businessmen in the state. Between December 2017 and June 2018, at least 10 persons were kidnapped in the state and each paid between N500, 000 and N20m to regain their freedom. At a point, the situation became so bad that that traders and businessmen in Calabar metropolis threatened to close shops for one week to protest against the spate of kidnappings, while some others even relocated to neigbouring Akwa Ibom State.
The Concerned Businessmen Forum (CBF), through its spokesperson Chief Innocent Anyamelukwe, at a briefing last year said, “it has become imperative for the traders and businessmen to take to the streets to protest against incessant kidnapping and extortion of ransom running into millions of naira from businessmen by gunmen in recent times.”At a point, a reliable source at the State Police Command corroborated what the traders were saying. The source said: “It is unfortunate that Calabar, the capital city of Cross River State was fast becoming a safe heaven for kidnappers. It is very disturbing and alarming for investors and for people of the state.
Thankfully, concerted efforts of the state government and the State Police Command have brought about reprieve.It is believed that effort of the state government to get the dreaded Bakassi Strike Force (BSF) to surrendered arms and ammunition on December 17, 2018 has greatly improved the security situation in the state as a lot of kidnappings were associated with the BSF, even though the group had severally denied complicity.
The Leader of the BSF, Benjamin Ene otherwise known as G1 had during the handing over ceremony said: “Today marks a memorable day in the life of the Bakassi Strike Force of which I was the leader, a day the security agencies have won the battle and the war and we have won our freedom and passed the message of our peoples’ suffering and agitation to the relevant quarters of the world, though not totally addressed.”
But despite the effort of the state government and the police, a popular broadcaster with the Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) in Calabar, Mr Petertex Etim, better known as “The Godfather” was on January 11 this year kidnapped by unknown gunmen. The abductors stormed his house along Chamley Street in Calabar South Local Council and whisked him away in a waiting vehicle. Up to date, he has not been released and there is no information about him. The state’s Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Irene Ugbo, when asked about kidnapping situation in the state said the police was not aware of any recent incident. She declined further comment on the issue of the kidnapped broadcaster.
Osun Records A Drop
OF late, the spate of kidnapping seem to have reduced drastically in Osun State, where people were either kidnapped for ransom or for organ harvest by ritual killers. Findings by The Guardian indicated that there is a sharp drop in kidnapping in the state, and Police authorities are quick to advance reasons for what might be responsible.The Police Public Relations Officers (PPRO), Folasade Odoro told The Guardian that criminals are aware of the high security alert in the state, a development, which has made it difficult for kidnappers to operate there. But when confronted with the report of a missing NYSC member, she said the matter was yet to be reported to police authorities.Some residents, who spoke on the issue said vigilance and security consciousness should be cultivated to reduce the chances of one falling victim. They also cautioned against engaging in night journeys or moving alone in deserted areas.
How Ondo Stemmed The Tide
YEAR 2019 witnessed high profile cases of kidnapping in Ondo State, especially along Akure/Owo and Owo/Ikare expressways, which were turned were turned to kidnappers dens. For weeks, kidnappers terrorised people and passengers along Akure/Owo/Benin/Akoko expressways, killing a lecture of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo (RUGIPO), Taiwo Akinyemi.Despite government’s moves to contain the criminality, kidnappers still went ahead to whisk away another RUGIPO lecturer, Mr Michael Olopete and two others at Utelu-Owo.These spate of kidnapping angered many who charged Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, to take serious action as the chief security officer of the state.Akeredolu, aside soliciting the cooperation of traditional rulers across the state to stamp out the menace, also sought the help of the leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association, whose members were alleged to be involved in the crime.
At an emergency meeting with heads of security agencies, leaders of the Miyetti Allah and the Hausa community, the governor declared that his administration would not allow any breach of the peace in the state, which would scare away investors.
Consequently, the Nigeria Army, 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure, flagged off a military operation tagged: “Exercise Egwu Eke III,” rid the state of criminal activities, especially incessant kidnapping and armed robbery activities.The General Officer Commanding, 2 Division, Major General Okwudili Azinta, at the formal declaration of the exercise in Owo, Headquarters of Owo LGA of the state, said there was no hiding place for kidnappers and criminals in the state.
Kaduna Still In The Grip Of Kidnappers
DESPITE efforts made by Kaduna State government and security agencies to checkmate kidnapping and banditry in the state, the menace has continued to be on the rise. The kidnappers who hitherto operated on highways and in the outskirts of the state are now beginning to operate within the metropolis.
Last Wednesday, five gunmen, within Kaduna metropolis, attempted to kidnap some expatriate at Mothercat Co, at Mando area. They were, however, repelled by policemen on duty. Three of them were killed in the gun duel, while one policemen was killed in the process. Recently, gunmen stormed Rigasa area of the metropolis and killed a man simply identified as Abdul’azeez and kidnapped his nursing wife.At Kachia Local Council on Tuesday 26, March, the state’s Police Command also confirmed the kidnap of a Catholic priest, Rev. Father John Bako from his residence, at Ankuwa Village by unknown gunmen. As the situation becomes worse and kidnappers attack motorists plying the Kaduna-Abuja Highway, majority now prefer to shuttle Abuja and Kaduna by rail.
Just last week week, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai’s convoy foiled a kidnap attempt along Kaduna-Abuja road on Wednesday afternoon.The governor’s spokesperson Mr. Samuel Aruwan said the governor who was on his way to Abuja got to the Akilubu Village around 3:40pm, only to be confronted with dozens of vehicles parked by citizens alarmed that kidnappers were ahead. Security operatives in the governor’s convoy advanced and cleared the road as criminals who fled into the forest.On April 1, at about 6:30pm, armed men at Gidan Visa along Abuja-Kaduna Expressway opened fire at a Toyota Hilux with registration number CT 01 AF belonging to the Judiciary and in the process one Mshelia Sulaiman, who was injured was taken away by the occupants.
The route from Kaduna to Birnin-Gwari has remained remained a danger zone, as motorists have become so reluctant to ply it due to high rate of kidnapping there. Recently, hundreds of passengers were stranded at the Kawo Motor Park in Kaduna following a protest by commercial drivers plying the route over activities of gunmen and kidnappers on the road.On March 14, the state’s Police Command confirmed the killing of 17 vigilante men and rustling of many cows by gunmen in Jan Ruwa village in Birnin Gwari Local Council. As a result of all these, el-Rafai on April 2, summoned a meeting of state’s security council to assess the situation on the Kaduna-Abuja and Kaduna-Birnin Gwari roads.
The council, however, appealed for calm, assuring citizens plying the Abuja-Kaduna and the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari roads of robust security presence, adding that all resolutions adopted would be immediately implementation. The meeting assured residents that the government would continue to partner with security agencies as it strives to protect the lives and property of the citizenry.
The PPRO of the Command, ASP Yakubu Sabo told The Guardian that as part of efforts to checkmate banditry and kidnapping, “the two assistant commissioners of police were on the Kaduna -Abuja highway to supervise the deployment of our men. The PPRO also called on the residents to always report any suspicious movements to the police as crimes are better prevented through proactive actions of all parties concerned.