- The tragic case of Hosea Ibi should spur the state to devise measures to prevent kidnapping, instead of reacting to it
How did the kidnapped Taraba State lawmaker, Mr Hosea Ibi, die? Was he killed by his captors? Ibi, who represented Takum I in the Taraba House of Assembly, was abducted on December 30, 2017, and found dead in his home town, Takum, on January 15.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, said: “We paid the ransom thinking it was a case of kidnap. I thought he was going to be released unhurt. When I travelled out of the state, they still demanded for a second ransom and it was paid again; two days later he was murdered.”
The dashed expectation heightened the tragedy. “The reason I am much pained is that the security agents in the state and I worked hard to ensure that Ibi was rescued unharmed, not knowing we were talking to murderers and not kidnappers,” Ishaku lamented.
This is an intriguing case, particularly because the governor revealed that the government paid ransom twice. The question whether the authorities should pay ransom to kidnappers or encourage ransom payment continues to generate public debate. Two major considerations are involved: Paying ransom might encourage would-be kidnappers; and it would suggest governmental weakness.
Obviously, when a kidnap victim dies in captivity despite ransom payment, it shows that prevention is better than cure. It is better to work on security to prevent kidnapping in the first place.
Ibi’s death in captivity resurrected recent similar cases, illustrating the scale of the kidnapping problem and the need to strengthen security capacity across the country. For instance, a December 20, 2017, report said: “Seven suspects who allegedly kidnapped and murdered a production manager with Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Ltd, have been arrested by the Rivers State Police Command. The 64-year-old victim, Mr Ubani Onyema,was kidnapped on October 16th by gunmen in Woji area of Port-Harcourt and killed after the kidnappers collected N10 million ransom.”
Abba Kyari, Team Commander, Inspector-General of Police Intelligence Response Team (IRT), who confirmed the arrest, told reporters: “They admitted that the victim died on the very day of his kidnap as a result of gunshot wounds he sustained during the incident. They still went ahead to collect a ransom of N10 million.”
Another example reported on May 22, 2017: “Men of Ogun State Police Command have arrested six suspected kidnappers, who lured a man, Femi Olatunji, from his home in Isheri area of Ogun State to Igbokoda, Ondo State, and killed him after they had collected ransom…The leader of the kidnap gang, who confessed to newsmen that they strangled the victim inside one of the abandoned classrooms in the primary school, refused to give any reason for the action.”
There will be reasons captors kill their captives, even when such reasons are not expressed. However, whatever the reason, no kidnap victim deserves to die, and none should be allowed to die.
In Ibi’s case, it is troubling that his death could trigger inexcusable tribe-related reprisal killings. Ishaku’s warning was appropriate: “I have warned people against attacking anybody or any tribe because this is not about tribe. Don’t go and say that they have attacked a Jukun man and you want to retaliate. It is purely a criminal act that will be handled by appropriate authorities. Do not bring more problems to us because we already have many to deal with.”
It is important to get to the root of the matter by getting the kidnappers. When abductors are not found and brought to justice, which regrettably happens too often, it does not help the anti-kidnapping war. If killer kidnappers are never found, it means cold-blooded murderers will escape justice, which is unacceptable.