After Boko Haram, kidnapping is the biggest internal security menace facing this country. Travelers all over the country are terrified of it, as are residents of villages and small towns. Deputy Commissioner of Police [DCP] Abba Kyari, who heads the Inspector General’s Intelligence Response Team, IRT, is in the forefront of the fight against kidnappers. His team was responsible for the arrest of billionaire kidnapper Chukwudi Onwuamadike, alias Evans and many other criminal gangs all over the country. His team also killed deadly kidnap for ransom kingpin Henry Chibueze, alias Vampire in Omu Awa forest, Ikwere L.G.A of Rivers State. Kyari spoke to Daily Trust’s Ronald Mutum on the menace of kidnapping and how it could be ended once and for all.
Around one and a half year ago, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano express way became the kidnapping headquarters in the country. There were five to ten kidnappings per day on the road, at that time. the National Assembly summoned the Inspector General of Police twice over the matter. The IGP created Operation Absolute Sanity which comprised the IRT, Special Tactical Squad, Counter Terrorism Unit and Police Mobile Force, all special units of the police force that were deployed to that axis. IGP gave us matching order that we should not come to Abuja but remain along the Abuja-Kaduna express way.
We were there for six months along that road and during that period we to arrested more than 300 kidnappers terrorizing the express way. We also recovered more than 200 arms from those kidnapers. Because of the massive arrests and follow up that we did, we were able to get about 95 percent of those kidnappers operating within the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano express way, and the last time there was any kidnaping there was about a month ago.
There is only one group that is remaining, and even that group is depleted. They come and strike like once in six weeks, but we are on their trail. we have reduced the kidnapping on that highway from about ten kidnappings per day to about one kidnapping in more than a month and we are not relenting.
Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, which has a very vast forest that links to Niger State and Zamfara State, is still a very serious problem. we have the Nigeria army there on Operation Sharan Daji and the Nigeria Police are also there operating there. But because of the nature of the forest, which is vast and without road networks, it’s just like the Sambisa forest. That place is a den for bandits and kidnappers. Many of them that ran from the Kaduna-Abuja expressway found safe havens in the Birnin Gwari forests.
We are not relenting. We are working round the clock. We have gotten some of them. for example, when some South Africans were kidnapped in that forest when they went for mining operations, we got those kidnappers.
Zamfara State as a whole is an area for bandits and kidnapers too. We are working seriously on that. Kogi State has been an area that kidnappers operate. We are also working on that and it has also drastically reduced in Kogi. Despite all these arrests and recoveries, the kidnappers are still persistent for so many reasons, which may include the issue of the economy and issue of arms proliferation because of our porous borders.
Arms are coming in from Libya. Recently, we arrested a group who specialize in bringing rifles from Libya. They buy the rifles for $200 in Libya which is like N75,000 and sell them here for N400,000 or N450,000. So many people have access to arms easily like this and the next thing they think of is how to use it to make money.
A new mode of kidnapping came to this country in the last three years, where they would block the highways, kidnap people and run with them inside the bush, negotiate ransom inside the bush and the ransom is brought to them inside same bush. So the kidnapping is taking place there, ransom negotiation is taking place there and it is being delivered to them there; so it happens within the terrain where they know more than anybody. Most of them were born inside these bushes, they have no contact with towns and cities, these are their areas, this is where they know more than any other person, you and I that were born inside these towns and cities, we cannot go there and surprise them. Before you see them inside those bushes they would have seen you ten times. The bushes are not motorable, so you cannot use your armoured car to enter. The only way you can enter there is by foot.
You have to trek or use bike, so if you trek they are trekking also, if you use bikes they also have bikes, and they know the terrain more then you. You cannot surprise them, they have men in sentry all over, monitoring everywhere for them, so the best way to deal with these people permanently is to get attack helicopters.
Using modern attack helicopters, we can take the war to them. The advantage of helicopters over fighter planes is that they can come to a lower level and see clearly what it wants to attack, and it has heavy machine guns that can fire at the kidnappers. And those attack helicopters are armoured bullet proof. So all those Ak47s that the kidnappers are carrying would not affect the helicopters, which can enter anywhere. So if those can be deployed to these Birnin Gwari- Zamfara axis it will deal with them and would serve as a deterrent to many criminals.
This is very much need to finish the kidnappers. all the other efforts that we have been doing cannot finally ground them; we need the other approach. Recently, we lost four of our personnel, because of these difficulties we are talking about. A prominent religious cleric was kidnapped in Kaduna State, ransom was paid and we were following up.
I have lost about ten men so far. I lost one in Nassarawa State, another in Delta State, some in Ogun and even in Abuja. it’s sad but we make sure we take good care of their families and give them befitting burials and make sure that the families have succor. There should be a special fund for the families of officers that die directly in the line of duty. the military too need it because I have found out that many officers die and it would take two years before the benefits get to their families, and it’s not something that is substantial.