The authorities in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are tackling criminals who seize residents and demand ransom, reports GBENGA OMOKHUNU
Majority of residents in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) now live in fear of being kidnapped. This is due to the increasing rate of abductions in Abuja and the dreaded Abuja-Kaduna Expressway.
Findings revealed that kidnapping has now become the most lucrative business that can catapult the poor into affluence overnight.
When the first cases of kidnappings involving expatriate oil workers were reported 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.
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. While some of these victims were rescued after paying huge amounts of money as ransom, some of them were able to escape after being tortured or raped and others died in mysterious circumstances.
Now, hardly does a week pass without innocent citizens being forcefully moved away by deadly gangs, who take fun in pulling the trigger at the slightest refusal to obey their commands. People now sleep with one eye open, not knowing what would happen next.
John, a security expert who spoke with The Nation on the issue said: “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. The Federal Capital Territory is now experiencing this sad development.
“I think impunity is the biggest cause, because people commit the crime and don’t get punished. If someone commits a 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.”
An Abuja resident, Ibrahim Udu who also spoke with The Nation lamented that 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.
Udu went further, saying, “It is a pity that 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.”
Seun, another Abuja resident said another cause of kidnappings in the country is eroded values adding that People no longer want to follow the path of dignity of labour.
He said they do not care how they make money.
She said: “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. It is not a good news that kidnapping is on the increase in Abuja. kidnapping is on the rise because of high rate of poverty, hopelessness, joblessness and majorly, the lack of the fear of God.
“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.”
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 now 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.
“Everybody is now talking about Kaduna-Abuja road. It is on this same Kaduna-Abuja road that about 30 persons were kidnapped recently 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 Abuja, several other state across the country have paid a heavy price as a result of the incessant activities of kidnappers.”
The above instances have become commonplace along the notorious Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, especially around Jere, Katari and Rijana towns. In the last three years, the road has becoming one of the most dangerous roads in the country as clergymen, military officers and an ex minister, a serving senator as well as a diplomat, including not-so-prominent persons, have at various times been kidnapped along that road. The Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, retired Major General Alfred Nelson Williams, was abducted along the notorious road on his way to attend an event at Command and Staff College, Jaji.
Similarly, Malam Lawal Maidoki, the Chairman of Sokoto State Zakat and Empowerment, was seized in October. That same month, precisely on October 6, six armed men kidnapped Mrs Laurentia Laraba Malam, the immediate past Minister of Environment and her husband, Mr. Pius Malam along the same Kaduna Abuja express way.
Early March, a journalist with the DailyTrust newspaper was kidnapped and released after payment of ransom. He narrated his ordeal and all the modus operandi of the kidnappers based on his experience. Till today, no one has ever to dig or investigate or act on how to get them arrested. Not only on the highways, kidnappers now follow people into their towns and villages, knock their doors and abduct them.
Those who saw him at work on March 22, which was on Friday said he was wearing the same clothes as in the photo on the news when he was kidnapped.
Thought, Friday was released by the kidnappers a week after which ironically was on Friday, it was not confirmed if the family paid the N50 million ransom that was demanded by the kidnappers.
The experience, according to Friday was something he do not want to share. Findings also revealed that if took the intervention of different quarters to secure his release.
Government’s efforts to curb the menace
Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello told The Nation about the administration’s latest efforts at putting an end to kidnapping among other crimes in the nation’s capital.
Bello was furious about the sad development, saying that his administration will ensure that Abuja and its environs are safe for everyone.
He said, “The incident of kidnapping along Abuja-Kaduna Road…there was an existing regional security arrangement which was called the G-7. So with the development all the states that are around the FCT are going to revive the regional security arrangements. This will also help. If for instance the FCT administration had a way of checking but if our neighbours routes are porous then it will still come back to us. So we have to come together in form of technical tactics. All the commissioners of police and security agencies within the seven states [need] to come and draw an agenda as regards securing the region. This G-7 states consist of Niger, FCT, Plature, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kaduna. With that, the efforts of all the state governments will help deal with kidnapping issue. These are the arrangement we are putting in place.”
The minister who spoke with our correspondent through the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA’s) Deputy Director of Security, Adamu Gwary said: “The FCT administration at the last EXCO meeting when we made presentation on community policing, we know the helplessness situation of our Nigerian police as regards to manpower and other logistics. So the best way to get results is to have self-help community policing. And we paid a visit to all the 17 Chiefs and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Musa Bello directed that the reports of the visits and other findings be presented at the EXCO meeting. The report is advocating the issue of neighborhood watch and community policing. At least to ensure that information gets to the security agencies on time on issues that are related to crimes or any intention to commit crime.
“With that the administration will ensure that the community policing and neighborhood watch is seriously supposed to aid the police in achieving the set target of getting FCT rid of crime and criminality especially this issue of kidnapping. In addition, the Commissioner of police recently discussed with the minister that the force is going to embark on a special operation exercise on some area councils in the FCT. That is Gwagwalada, Abaji, Kwali and Kuje. Where there is so much reported cases of kidnapping. This administration is willing to assist the FCT police command in ensuring that such exercise records a huge success. We are serious working round the clock to ensure that the issue of kidnapping in FCT is arrested.
“The minister is very serious about this development and wants implementation of the plans as soon as possible. Members of the public should also compliment the efforts of our security operatives especially the police as regards information sharing. We want to have a section where information will be given in confidence and it will be transmitted to the police. Even with the United Nations standard of ratio of police to members of the public we are far behind. So even if police is not complaining it is glaring. During my last visit to Zuba police station, they had only one functional vehicle. We understand the gaps and we are trying to assist. The committee report like I said earlier is advocating community policing as solution to the issue of crimes especially kidnapping.
“As we work to achieve our set goals, members of the public should try at all times to be security conscious. Our findings showed that people do not want to go and report criminal matters to the police that is why we have the FCT call center. They should also use that window to relate information which is usually transmitters to security agencies. We also censor where the information is coming from to avoid any form of intimidation because members of the public are always scared to report.”