Security agencies could do more to contain the menace
Over the past few months, Nigerians have lost count of victims of the gangs who operate everywhere in the country, extorting money from people, both rich and poor, in the name of kidnap for ransom. The crime is not only well organised, but also becoming a thriving industry with network of support staff. That traditional rulers who ordinarily are the custodians of the cultures, values and norms of the people have become easy prey for kidnappers is an indication of how low society has lost its values and essence. It is also a testimony to the increasing sophistication of these criminals that they could easily get to these royal fathers who are hardly alone.
In April this year, the Obadu of Ilemeso in Oye local government area of Ekiti State was kidnapped in his palace by gunmen. Same week, the traditional ruler of Umuezie community in Nguru, Aboh Mbaise local government area of Imo State, was also abducted in his palace in what has become a familiar story across the country. The governing mercantile logic among the kidnappers must be that the abduction of monarchs is bound to attract huge attention and sympathy, which could in turn translate to heftier ransoms from the monarch’s subjects.
Since traditional rulers have also become prime targets, members of our various communities must realise they have a critical role to play in providing useful information to security agencies that should also begin to act with urgency while deploying all necessary and available resources. Above all, we call on government at all levels to begin to address social issues like unemployment and poverty which help to feed this crime. With ransom being paid for victims, kidnapping now seems to be a serious vocation for some idle hands.
It is particularly unfortunate that most victims regain freedom only after their families had parted with huge sums of money. But not everyone survives to tell their stories as many of the victims have also been killed. While the spread of kidnapping for ransom may be the symptom of wider problems in the society, it is important for the security agencies to device strategies for tackling the challenge of this most heinous crime. Initially, the targets were rich businessmen, politicians, and other well-heeled professionals.
However, kidnappers also come to the lower bracket, perhaps out of desperation. In some cases, these criminals randomly stop vehicles on the road in the hope of finding someone worth kidnapping. So notorious has our country become in this crime that when the African Insurance Organisation, a non-governmental outfit, held its forum in Mauritius last year, Nigeria was designated the global capital for kidnap for ransom, having overtaken countries like Colombia and Mexico that were hitherto front-runners.
Sadly, the authorities have been unable to find a lasting solution to combat the crime, despite increased patrols of the highway. In many of the 36 states, there are laws that any person who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures, or takes another person by any means or trick, with intent to demand ransom or do anything against the victim’s will, commits an offence punishable either with death or life sentence. Sadly, not a single person has been brought to justice on account of these laws. Even the case of Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly known as Evans, which began in 2017 has more or less ended in media drama.
That the current security system needs a major shake-up has been harped upon by critical stakeholders. But now that kidnappers target the palace, the message is clear: many of our communities are no longer safe. The security agencies must mobilise the necessary skills and resources to combat this threat.