For families across the country who are in constant search for their loved ones, it’s harvest of tears as they can neither bond with them nor see the bright smiles that light up their visage, except in photographs, no thanks to reported or unreported incidents of cruel attacks by kidnappers.
While some Nigerians may not be lucky to have their loved ones back (as they could have been specimens for money ritual), or even killed; there are lucky Nigerians who are alive to tell their stories after parting with humongous amount of money to buy freedom from the firm grip of kidnappers.
For security expert and CEO of Apex Security, Mr Mike Ejiofor, his perception about payment of ransom to kidnappers changed after he was accosted by 12 gun-trotting men who ordered him to park on his way from Delta state.
Until he was kidnapped, Ejiofor had vehemently opposed payment of ransom to kidnappers. But like they say, he who does not wear the shoe does not know where it pinches.
Ejiofor, who narrated his experience on a live radio programme in Lagos said, “Before I was kidnapped, I had always been of the opinion that victims should not pay ransom, but my perception has changed now.
These people (kidnappers) have no value for human life. When I was accosted, there was someone driving behind me that was also ordered to stop; he tried to escape, but was shot. He died instantly.’’
Recall the ordeal of elder statesman and former minister of finance, Chief Olu Falae? Not even the grey hair of the septuagenarian could deter his abductors from dragging him barefooted into the bush, slashing him with their cutlasses.
His account: “After dragging me around for about 2 hours, they stopped somewhere for us to rest and they asked me to phone my wife and tell her I have been taken out of Ondo state which was a lie. I suspected I must have covered a minimum of 15km.‘‘Finally, they dumped me somewhere.
In that place, we all slept on the floor, on leaves. Unfortunately, the rain came in the night and I was thoroughly drenched where I was lying.’’ However, worthy of mention is the arrest of notorious kidnapper,Chukwudubem Onwuamadike , otherwise known as Evans.
News spread like wild fire in market places, churches, mosques and other public places about the wealth of the man described as Nigeria’s most “successful” kidnapper.
From North to South, West to East, highways to schools, churches to mosques, nowhere is insulated from the attacks of kidnappers, The Daily Times has learnt.
In recent times, the discovery of ritualists’ dens in some parts of Lagos has heightened fears in some quarters about the scale of havoc kidnappers can cause following the reported discovery of human parts and other items many consider incriminating.
Speaking to our correspondent on the rising cases of kidnapping, senior advisor at African Union Commission Headquarters and former Sector Commander, Military Joint Task Force, Defence Headquarters, Maiduguri, Mr Remi Adeoye, says there can’t be a better time than now to have State Police.
Adeoye said, “Even without kidnapping, State Police is desirable. The structure, size and population of Nigeria is not one that federal police alone can protect effectively.
State Police naturally brings policing closer to the people and earn their trust. That is important in crime fighting. So, yes, every crime that tends to get out of hand makes a compelling case for State Police.
A federal state should actually have a state police. Ours is an aberration.” On the alarming rate of kidnapping, Adeoye said, “Greed. Huge ransom to be made from relatively soft targets is responsible.
There is big risk in robbing a bank but with kidnapping, the victim is often without the means to offer a resistance and relations of the victim bring the money out of bank vaults to hand over to the kidnappers.”
Barrister Suleman Danlami, in his contribution, blamed the rising spate of kidnapping on economic hardship, failure of religious institutions, criminal justice system and the family.
Suleman said, “ The rising spate of kidnapping in the country may not be unconnected partly with the economic situation in the country, the relative control of enforcement of punitive measures for the culprits that are arrested, our porous criminal justice system that allows for legal maneuvers,’’ etc.
He said further, ‘‘The moral fabric of the society has been battered, such that families, communities and indeed religious organisations have failed woefully in sustaining moral values.
The society places high premium on material acquisition such that a good man is defined in terms of how much money he ostensibly has regardless of how he makes his money.
“At the end, the society becomes more bedeviled with all kinds of vices. I guess kidnapping appears most lucrative apart from drugs and the likes. After all, it has been localised such that an average Nigerian is now has a kidnap value, unlike previously when it was confined to foreign nationals.’’
Disagreeing with the call for state police, Danlami says Nigeria is not ripe for such. According to Danlami, Nigeria has not risen above ethnic and religious considerations enough to trust one another in the hands of “Indigenous’’ police.
Even as we are presently, some police officers either refuse transfers outside their states of origin or simply work their ways back when they are transferred simply because they enjoy the mischief and cover they get from their states.
The tendency to sporadically shoot at citizens of other states in the guise of quelling crises, the hostility shown to non indigenous persons at police station, the confrontation, the harassment and interrogation faced by motorists passing through or visiting other states are clear signs that the idea is not safe at the moment,’’ said Danlami.
In same vein, Deputy Head of Security and Safety Services, African Union and Counter terrorism expert, Mr Sadeeq Shehu, says Nigeria must look beyond state police to check the menace of kidnapping.
“The problem has more to do with lack of enough policemen as well as lack of necessary modern equipment and training. It has little to do with state policing.
If you have state police in same low numbers with no modern scientific equipment and training, the problem won’t go.
To counter kidnapping for example, you need more police helicopters, each police with a radio set, more police vehicles fitted with communication gadgets, forensic training, sniffer dogs, etc.’’
Sadeeq added that “Until we have policemen in enough numbers and adequately equipped and trained , all we can do is to train people on anti-kidnap tactics for prevention and how to survive the ordeal if kidnapped.
If you have 100 policemen on foot with no patrol vehicle, no radios for communication, no helicopter to comb forests, such policemen will be less effective than even three policemen that are properly equipped.
Meanwhile, Police Public Relations Officer, Mr Jimoh Moshood, assures Nigerians that the police are working hard to ensure Nigerians are safe.
“We are doing a lot in terms of intelligence gathering. We gather information from people that foil a lot of robbery attacks and kidnappings, but we don’t come to public to disclose what we have done to secure them.
We prevent a lot of crimes from happening but when people walk around, they don’t know what the Police have done,’’ Moshood said
To avoid being a prime target of kidnappers, a Security Consultant, Mr Jude Okeke, calls on Nigerians to desist from unnecessarily display of their wealth on social media, parties and public places.
“Kidnapping is still under reported. There are lots of cases that do not get reported. It’s a battle that can’t be left in the hands of security agents alone. Criminals do their research well.
Don’t flaunt your wealth unnecessarily on social media, workplace or parties. There is a lot we can do by ourselves to keep kidnappers away,’’ he said.