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An epidemic of abductions

It does not rain, the well-worn saying goes, it pours. For hardly had I finished authoring a piece last week on the hardship that stalks…

It does not rain, the well-worn saying goes, it pours. For hardly had I finished authoring a piece last week on the hardship that stalks the land and the looting spree of trucks conveying foodstuffs  and the break-ins of warehouses that followed in its wake than news filtered in that hundreds of women and children had been abducted in Borno State by Boko Haram terrorists.

The abductees were said to have left their displaced persons camp to fetch firewood to cook and augment their meager incomes.

Even before one could process the import of this dastardly act, it was reported that not less than 287 scholars and teachers were abducted at Kuriga in Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State.  Another 15 pupils of a Tsangaya school were abducted in Sokoto State. Yet another set of 40 were abducted in Buda village of Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. These abductions took place within the span of two weeks.

It is instructive that these abductions are coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the abduction of school girls in Chibok by Boko Haram. They are also coming hot on the heels of the recent declaration by Governor Babagana Zulum that the Boko Haram terrorists had been substantially degraded.

Could this epidemic of abductions be calibrated or designed to send a shrill message that insurgency is well and alive?

Whatever agenda may inform this renewed wave of abductions, two things are crystal clear: Abductions are lucrative. They are an easy path to quick and easy money. They are also an avenue for terrorists, noted for brutality, to raise money, buy weapons and recruit more fellow travellers from the ranks of the unemployed and the gullible.

Often, and ironically, the lucrativeness of these abductions are driven and nourished by the outrage they inspire and the desperation of relatives, and sometimes governments under pressure, to secure the release of abductees. In the process, money running into hundreds of millions is shelled out to these mendacious and heartless terrorists. They, in turn, plough these huge sums into their vile and God-forsaken “business”.

The shock abduction of Chibok schoolgirls 10 years ago occasioned local and international outrage. It also inspired the “Bring-back-our-girls” movement. Rather than deter the terrorists, the attention their wicked act generated buoyed them in the knowledge that they could use the girls as bargaining chip.

It is a measure of the lucrativeness of the kidnapping “business” that a group, which recently abducted 16 residents of Gonin Gora, near the Abuja-Kaduna junction, last week demanded an outrageous N40trillion, 11 Hilux vehicles and 150 motorcycles as ransom. The abductors of the Kuriga scholars and teachers demanded a whopping N1billion as ransom.

Ludicrous demands such as these  stand out, not only for their egregiousness,  they point clearly to the fact that if they are met, the said ransoms would be deployed to fuel further abductions and acts of terrorism.

If kidnappings are an easy path for making quick and easy money, Kaduna State appears to be its epicenter. It is also about the most vulnerable. Perhaps to rubbish the state as the custodian or host of sundry military institutions, the terrorists have deliberately chosen it to underscore the fact that they can carry on with recklessness and abandon.

But assuming Kaduna State is being targeted because of its status as the bastion of Nigeria’s military institutions, its former governor, Nasir El Rufa’i, did not help matters. He was one of the first governors to appease terrorists financially before he later made an about-turn. Similarly, the former president, Muhammadu Buhari, emboldened the terrorists. He inexplicably treated them with kid gloves. He was also slow to act in a decisive manner against the terrorists until they became an existential threat to his person and government. He took like forever to order the security agencies to decimate them. And that was after they had callously killed 63,111 Nigerians under his watch.

First, this government must deal with this renewed wave of abductions and heightened insecurity with steely resolve and dispatch, otherwise, we shall become the ungainly kidnap capital of the world, in addition to other unenviable trophies which we have had the dubious distinction of winning.

Kidnapping, which attracts a mere 15-year sentence, should be upped to a life sentence. Mass abductors should be treated as the terrorists they are. Once apprehended or tracked to their dens, they should not be shown any mercy. Once stern measures are taken and visited upon them vigorously, they will serve as a deterrent. Extreme maladies require extreme remedies.

Second, there must be a conscious effort by the government to increase boots on the ground. This will enable our security agencies to checkmate the many non-state actors who currently occupy vacant spaces and are using them as vantage positions to wreak havoc.

Third, since schools, especially those in far-flung villages and outskirts, are vulnerable to abduction, initiatives such as the one began by the Nigeria Civil Defense Corps (NCDC) to protect schools, should be robustly supported and more of its personnel deployed to protect these vulnerable schools.

Fourth, high premium should be laid on intelligence gathering. This vital and onerous task should not be left to the security agencies alone. Traditional and community leaders should be co-opted and grafted onto our security architecture. The people should be sensitised to report suspicious activities and persons to their community leaders. They, in turn, should escalate such information to the appropriate authorities for prompt action.

Fifth, our three tiers of government (federal, state and local governments) must work consciously and assiduously to create jobs or the environment for our millions of youth to engage themselves meaningfully.

As the trite saying goes, the idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Once our youths are gainfully employed, most of the insurgency we witness will abate.

Sixth, there must be a conscious and determined effort, especially in the North, where the evils of terrorism, insurgency and kidnappings are prevalent and thrive, to invest hugely in education.

Education imbues us with uplifting values. It restrains us from violent impulses. Besides, a truly educated person is most unlikely to subscribe to some half-baked or bizarre doctrines or indeed get involved in any get-rich-quick scheme(s).

Eighth, it is high time we embarked on moral re-armament and re-awakening. We must re-invent our high-minded values. We must cultivate and espouse virtues. We should lionize and celebrate only persons who accomplish feats by way of hard work, ingenuity and integrity. We must also reward genuine hard work, ingenuity and excellence. Our youths should be made to understand that there are no shortcuts to success, and they must roll up their sleeves to make it in life. The media, influencers, Nollywood, the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the civil society must lead this campaign of national revival.

Above all, our leaders must carry themselves above board, with integrity, decorum and a sense of purpose. It is when they do these that they can demand that their followers do the same.

Dazang is a former director at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).



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