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Forestalling the next kidnapping


Arrested kidnap suspects

Advisory To Parents, Students And Travellers

As kidnapping has become so commonplace that practically anyone could fall prey, it is only prudent that individuals, as well as families, prepare for the unknown, so as not to be caught off-guard. So, it wouldn’t be out of place to learn a thing or two about self-defence and security tips. Some experts give useful hints and advice on the issue.

President of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON) and renowned Security consultant, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, said kidnapping has become a big problem in the country because a serious approach has not been adopted to combat it.

He said: “We have been playing around with this for a long time now. Presently, kidnapping has become a low risk, high yield venture. And the public is not equipped to ask the right questions or hold the leaders accountable, so it has continued. We are going round in circles without making any progress. The main thing driving it is laziness on the part of the political elite and law enforcement agencies. The poor security architecture of this country leaves a lot to be desired. We have a lot of ungoverned spaces in Nigeria. So, there is no way for information to flow into place of authority in an orderly manner. We are not performance oriented, when it comes to solving major cases. The kind of things we solve is when somebody cuts someone else’s head and is caught with a human skull in a nylon bag.

“The police led by Assistant Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, have been able to trace calls made by kidnappers and that is a good development, but not the solution to the problem. Kidnapping is so deadly, because you don’t know what they would do with the victim. In most cases, kidnappers collect ransom and still kill the victims and bury them in shallow graves. People should tread cautiously.”

As both the rich and ordinary persons are being targeted, Ekhomu said roadway kidnapping is a random act of violence. So, before people travel, it is important they call someone to know the situation of things in that place and the condition of the road to enable them plan their movement.

“You must know the areas, where kidnapping or armed robbery is rampant, so you can take another route to avoid danger. People should travel in daylight and go in company. It is also essential to have a pair of tennis shoes to enable easy movement, if anything happens. We must do threat assessments. City kidnapping is done by people, who have been closely watching their prey. Be conscious of what is happening around you and be kind to your personal staff. Don’t give them a reason to want to victimise you.

“If you are going anywhere, let your family members know the exact place, the person(s) you are going to see and the time you will be home, as this will make it easier for them to search for you, if you don’t return in time. Give information on a need-to-know basis. Check your workers’ background, and if they have criminal tendencies, get rid of them immediately. Check disgruntled elements in your home, as they could pose a threat. Go for security meetings, listen to news and read newspapers to keep yourself abreast of things happening.”

On how parents can protect their children, Ekhomu advised they should be aware of the threat out there because kids are dependent. “Parents have to become security experts to their children to protect them from predators. Parents should warn their kids not to accept gifts or money from strangers. They should quickly run away and shout ‘No!’ when a stranger wants to come very close and forcefully offer them something or give them food.”

Augusta Peter, chairperson, Women In Securities, and MD, of Brain and Braces Ltd., explained that kidnapping is not new in our society, as we had gbomo gbomo in the past, which was basically kidnapping of children for ritual purposes.

“Then, it wasn’t for ransom, and at the initial stage, it was politically motivated. During electioneering process, people arranged with criminals to kidnap opponents and in some cases kill them. A lot of things trigger kidnapping, and these include, unemployment and the economic situation, among others. Before, kidnappers were going for politicians and getting them to pay ransom before they could be released. But now, the trend is the kidnapping of all manner of people to get money. You can see that they now kidnap in schools, churches, on the road and other places.”

“Like I always say, most kidnap cases are based on intelligence. There must be a lead. If you check the root in most cases, you will discover there is an inside source. Kidnappers use different methods and it is becoming difficult by the day to apprehend them. We now have three categories of kidnapping. The first one sources for victims, the second keeps them and the third is the negotiator. They move the kidnapped person to different locations, so that they will not be traced.”

On the way forward, she warned that people should be security conscious. “Some people are flamboyant. It is paramount to mind what we display. A lot of times, we pay our domestic staff such meagre salaries as N10, 000 to N15, 000 naira and they see us buying a pair of shoes for N100, 000 for our children. Your driver sees how much you spend on food, when you take your family out and hears your telephone conversations, where they mention millions of naira. Some even send their drivers to get money for them. When you want to pick a call or say something sensitive, let your driver stay away. When you are done, you can call him back.

“To avoid the chance of being kidnapped, live a modest lifestyle. You can wear anti-kidnap devices, put a tracker in your car, educate your children on security and give them a number to call and have a code in your house for communicating. The person that goes to pick your child in your absence must be properly vetted. Ensure that the background of your nannies, cooks, drivers, gardeners, etc. are thoroughly checked. Some parents love driving exotic cars, wearing very expensive clothes, jewelries and showing off at Parents/Teachers Association meetings. A criminally-minded teacher can arrange to kidnap your child. Schools should learn to keep the identities of parents private. Also, be careful when you drive and be careful while going to ATM units. Children should avoid late night outings, as well as unsafe areas. They shouldn’t go where parents didn’t authorise them to go or follow strangers.”

Oluwaseyi Adetayo, chairman, American Society for Industrial Security, Lagos Chapter (ASIS) and Fellow Nigerian Institute of Industrial Security, blames the development on many factors.

He said: “The first is lack of preparedness on the part of the Nigerian government, it was not anticipated that we were going to find ourselves in this kind of situation. So, security agencies were not well equipped. Second is the ease with which kidnapping is carried out, and the third is that the risk is less, compared to armed robbery. Lastly, there is the ineffectiveness of our judicial system. How many of these criminals have been charged to court? And among those charged to court, how many have been prosecuted? How many have been served capital punishment to serve as deterrent to others? We don’t pay attention to security here and we make ourselves vulnerable to targeted kidnap attacks.”

“The way forward is for government to train people on kidnap for ransom cases. We must acquire more equipment for those that are trained. Robbery cases have actually gone down, but more people are now into kidnapping, because the risk is less and it is highly rewarding. The problem is that anybody can be a victim of kidnap. They go to people’s homes, church, school and even on the road. The best way to help is to assist the government by giving information. We should be observant of unusual activities going on around us. Ninety per cent of people held captive are kept in the communities. The police should be able to hold meetings with communities and enlighten them on kidnapping.

“Parents have a lot of work to do to reduce the exposure of their families. Many parents engage in irresponsible social media activities, showing off their children going to school in flashy cars and their expensive houses. They are frequent on Facebook, as they post everything from when they are eating to partying, buying expensive items and so on. There is always a time stamp on photos. When you turn on location app on your phone, any photograph you take on that phone can trace where you took that picture. A criminal minded person can see the name of the school on the child’s uniform, see the time you updated, take the picture and put it on their own application and it will show the location where you took the picture.

“The Lagos State chapter of ASIS has taken it as a responsibility to educate parents and children on the radio. We have distributed books on child security to schools and hope to do more this year, by taking awareness campaign to schools to educate them on basic security, as part of our corporate social responsibility.”

Adetayo counsels parents to be wary of domestic staff and ensure they carry out due diligence on them. “They should limit the number of workers engaged in homes. There is also a need to have a simple family code with which to communicate with your children and spouse. Be careful who you handover your child to. Parents are advised to be vigilant and avoid ostentatious lifestyle. Always delete your financial transactions in your iPad or handsets, take only less valuable items while travelling. Plan your trips on time and avoid late travelling.”

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