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Kidnapping: What will save the North?

From the states in the Niger Delta region, kidnapping for ransom purposes, as a phenomenon, crept to states in the south eastern geo-political zone and…

From the states in the Niger Delta region, kidnapping for ransom purposes, as a phenomenon, crept to states in the south eastern geo-political zone and like a thief in the night has stealthily found new converts in the northern part of Nigeria. States like Kaduna, Adamawa, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory are areas where cases of abduction have been recorded and may metamorphose into a thriving commercial venture.   
Has kidnapping come to stay in the north?:
Concerned about the spread of this criminal activity, coupled with the fact that kidnapping may find willing recruits in the army of unemployed youths in the north, experts including the police have come to the conclusion that kidnapping has come to stay in the north.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Kano State, Superintendent of Police Baba Mohammed confirmed that the quest for money is responsible for the spread of kidnappings to the north. Mohammed disclosed that the police had recorded cases of kidnapping in the state, adding that a young boy was recently abducted in Kano and the kidnappers requested for a huge ransom to secure his release.
The persuasive approach adopted by the police, he said, eventually led to the release of the lad. “There are other cases which I cannot confirm right away,” he added.
He said the police in Kano had commenced educating the public on the ways to avoid kidnappers and how to monitor the movements of their children and the people around them.
Recently, in Gwagwalada, a suburb of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, a lady was abducted by kidnappers from her home. The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent Moshood Jimoh, told our correspondent that the lady, was eventually rescued in Lokoja with the assistance of policemen from Kogi State.
“The lady was abducted from her house in Gwagwalada and 45 minutes after, the police in Abuja were informed about the incident, including the route the suspected kidnappers followed. Police units were alerted and policemen trailed the kidnappers to Lokoja on their way to their hideout where they rescued the victim,” he said.
The police spokesman said the suspected kidnappers were apprehended, adding that “the case is being investigated.”
Moreover, the PPRO said a boy was kidnapped in Kubwa while another youngster fell victim to the kidnappers in Karmo; all in Abuja. He said the police rescued them without paying any ransom.
Only last weekend, the executive director operations of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), Mr. John Ayodele and a lady were kidnapped at the Gwarimpa District of Abuja. The lady was released shortly after at Zuba town while the director was taken to the kidnappers’ hideout in Suleja, Niger State. They initially requested for a N30 million ransom which was later reduced to N3 million.
Sunday Trust gathered that the director was released by the kidnappers last Wednesday night at about 11:00 pm along the Abuja-Kaduna expressway.
“He was released at a place between the Zuma rock and the headquarters of Bi-Water Construction Company. He is healthy and has since been reunited with his family,” the source said.
According to the police image-maker, a number of security strategies have been put in place by the police to address the wave of kidnappings, including the establishment of special squads.
He said kidnappers succeed in abducting people they have sufficient information about either by virtue of been their relatives, associates or with the assistance of someone close to the intending victim, advising that people should verify the records of those they employ as domestic staff, otherwise they would unknowingly be hiring their kidnappers.
How security bungled the Muliingan’s rescue:
Julie Ann Mulligan, a 45 year -old Rotarian from Canada was visiting Kaduna in the company of four other Canadians on an exchange Rotary International programme when on April 15, 2009, she was abducted by kidnappers. Her abductors who were armed were driving a metallic grey Toyota Corolla car, in colour and took Mulligan to their hideout at Gonin Gora, a settlement on the outskirts of Kaduna. Security agents investigating the kidnap mounted an undercover operation to rescue the Canadian woman and arrest the kidnappers. However, the way the rescue operation was handled, according to security analysts, leaves much to be desired.
According to reports, an undercover agent who posed as a Christian sister was negotiating with the kidnappers. While negotiation was going on, the security agents found out that the kidnappers were holed up at Gonin Gora. The SSS, thereafter, put the place under surveillance. The kidnappers directed the undercover agent to meet them at Peugeot Junction. For easy identification, she was asked to wear a white T-shirt, a black trousers and matching black pair of shoes.
At 5.00 pm on the appointed date, the undercover agent went to the agreed meeting place, dressed as she was told to. One of the kidnappers later identified as Christian Tochukwu Ogwuzor crossed the road and approached the undercover agent for the ransom money. “She came down from her car and went to open the booth“, a source said. At this point, the SSS men who had earlier swarmed the area, fired sporadic shots in the air and Mr Ogwuzor froze in his tracks, he added.  Meanwhile, the driver of the get away, on sensing danger zoomed off without Ogwuzor. It was the arrested kidnapper who led security agents to their hide-out in Gonin Gora, the source added. But, before security agents could reach the hide-out, the other members of the gang had escaped, leaving Mulligan behind.  The Canadian was wandering around the area, trying to get her bearing when she the local vigilante took her to a nearby police station.
Ogwuzor, the only suspect arrested is presently, standing trial before a chief magistrate court in Kaduna.
Government is to blame:
Reacting to the menace of kidnapping in the country and its emergence in the north, former Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Modibbo Alfa Belgore (rtd) says that the development is borne out of successive governments’ inability to provide employment to the teeming graduates produced by tertiary institutions in the country.
Justice Belgore stated that the “kidnappers may have agents, who identify people for them here to be kidnapped.” He expressed the fear that kidnapping cases may snowball into a national disaster.
“What I am afraid of is the situation whereby the matter (kidnapping) becoming anti-people from Rivers or Delta States; because if it gets to that, it will be very disastrous for the country, like it happened in 1966.”
The situation, according to him, can still be handled by the combined efforts of the Nigerian military authorities through reliable intelligence gathering and government effort of creting employment opportunities for the army of unemployed graduates roaming the streets.
Kidnapping, according to the national chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and former Governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa in a telephone interview Sunday Trust is another avenue devised by the youths to make cheap and lazy money.
He said that like armed robbery, which was not known in most parts of the north before the Nigerian civil war, kidnapping, which has since become a booming business, may have come to stay in the north. “It is most unfortunate that kidnapping has been converted into a money spinning venture by some youths,” the radical politician said.
Kidnapping in other states:
In Edo State, the targets of the kidnappers are proprietors of commercial transport companies existing in the state.  The state commissioner of police, Danlami Yar’adua confirmed this at a recent parley with journalists in Benin City.
He  said  “the  act  of  criminality had taken a new dimension  in  the  state  with  the  recent  upsurge of  kidnappers in the state.”
This has led to most transporters fleeing the state for fear of being kidnapped.
Among those kidnapped in Edo State in the last three months include General Peter  Ademokhai, who allegedly parted  with N40 million; a director of Arik Airline, Rotimi  Arumeni-Johnson, the elder brother to the chairman of Arik Air, Chief Ikhide Arumeni  Johnson; managing director of God is Good Motors, Deacon Godwin Ajere, who was found dead the next day in front of his church after paying N10 million as ransom.
Other victims include, the managing director of Alpha Furniture, Mr. Osazee Evbuomwan, who paid N3.5m to his abductors, the managing director of Big Joe Motors, Chief Monday Osayande and the wife of the Edo State commissioner for works, Andrew Obayagbona.
To arrest the upsurge in kidnapping, the state government announced a reward of N1m to any one who supplies useful information that will lead to the arrest of kidnappers and is considering constituting a joint patrol team to boost security in the state.
Death penalty, life imprisonment for kidnappers: The Anambra State House of Assembly, in March this year passed a bill prescribing the death penalty for those found guilty of kidnapping. The law known as the Criminal Code (Amendment) Law 2009 came into force on March 17, 2009. In passing the law, the House mandated the state chief judge to designate a high court as a special court to try offenders. Governor Peter Obi is expected to sign the bill into law.
Before the passage of the law by the state legislature, no fewer than 25 cases of kidnapping had  taken place in the state in the last three years. The victims have had to pay huge sums ranging from N5 million to N100 million to regain their freedom, while those who couldn’t meet the kidnappers ransom demand were murdered.
Among those who have been victims of kidnapping in the state, include a prominent traditional ruler (name withheld), the president-general of the Awka Development Union of Nigeria (ADUN), Chief Emeke Nwogbo; a state legislator, Mr. Joe Dimobi; an Enugu-based businessman, Chief Anowai  Nnubia, who is in detention in connection with the kidnap of the younger brother to the minister of information and communications, Professor Dora Akunyili. 
The promulgation of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law No.3 of 2009 is intended to nip in the bud the flourishing business of kidnapping in the state by prescribing the death sentence for convicts. Similarly, kidnap offenders are liable to life imprisonment if convicted while the same punishment awaits any person who aids or abets a kidnapper, just as a corporate body that connives with kidnappers is liable to a fine of N50 million. The bill further makes it an offence for any one to allow his or her premises, building or place for purposes of keeping a kidnapped person; as such a person on conviction is liable to 14 years imprisonment.
Renowned author, Chief Elechi Amadi, a victim of kidnap said with the frequency of kidnapping in the region, the world is being given a first-hand account of what joblessness can lead to in a society that is abundantly blessed by nature yet seriously impoverished by a megalomaniac and kleptocratic ruling class.
 “We don’t have jobs, we have skills. The governor is not providing jobs. Even Okada which some of us were riding, is now banned. We don’t have money…” The retired lecturer does not see the implementation of the capital punishments as an antidote to kidnapping. For him, the solution lies in making jobs available for the youths, adding that “let them acquire skills and then empower them so that they can make a living. If people are employed, they wouldn’t have time to take people to the bush to extort money,” he said.
Apart from Amadi, other prominent kidnap cases in the state include the abduction of Reverend Father Pius Kii, a Catholic priest; Samuel Nnee, the paramount ruler Kpite community in Tai; Mrs.Gladys Daukoru, wife of the Amanyanabo of Nembe in Bayelsa State, who allegedly paid a ransom of $2.5 million; Afinyetogha Igoni, a commissioner in the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC); Norum Yobo, elder brother to Joseph Yobo and Martins Amaehule, leader of Obio/Akpor legislative assembly.
Kids too were not spared by the criminals. On January 28, 2009, nine year-old Master Emmanuel Awolusi was kidnapped and in the process, his 11 year-old sister, Miss Oduayo Awolusi was killed by the kidnappers; Master Emmanuel. Prior; Michael Stewart, son of state lawmaker, Margaret Hills, the mulatto child whose British father is now late and Samuel Amadi, son of the traditional ruler of Iriebe community in Obio/Akpor local government of the state.
Women were also victims. The wife of Chief Humphrey Idisi, chairman of Lonestar Drilling Company; Mrs. Margaret Lulu Briggs, wife of the oil magnate, O.B. Lulu-Briggs.; the mother of ousted Governor Celestine Omeiha and the octogenarian mother ace broadcaster, Mrs. Ruth Benamesia-Opia.

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