The spread of kidnapping to other parts of the country is believed to be a fallout of the military confrontation between the militants and the Federal Government. The militants, who were dislodged from their Niger Delta bases like Gbaramatu kingdom, etc, were forced to relocate to other areas where they have continued their trade of kidnapping as a means of survival. The other probable groups of kidnappers are those who, though not militants, believe that kidnapping pays with minimum risk of being caught. This second group follows the general trend of Nigerians who like to go into any business that they consider lucrative at the moment, not minding if such would endure or not.
When the ‘pure water’ business debuted in Nigeria, many Nigerians became pure water manufacturers with some going to the ridiculous extent of bagging dirty stream water as ‘pure’ water. When finance house business was the ‘in-thing’ in the early 1990s, many Nigerians had also owned finance houses; the rest is history today. The same goes for kidnapping which many of our idle youths believe is lucrative and have embraced. In the last six months, people who are close to me have been victims of kidnapping. When it first happened in Ekiti with the kidnapping of a top official of Spring Bank, I was jolted because the man is the boss to our friend and, in fact, it was the driver of our friend, who happened to be driving the man that was kidnapped together with him. Next, a government official was kidnapped, who is an uncle to a friend in Ado-Ekiti. The one that scared me most was the case of two children of a friend who were kidnapped in Benin two weeks ago. The kidnappers demanded for a whopping 50 million naira from the father of the kids, a medical doctor.
I am afraid of the dangerous dimension this is getting to. The signs are ominous, as we are approaching a situation where wives who would want to fleece their husbands of their hard-earned money could organise their own kidnapping and share the loot with the kidnappers. Husbands may also do this if their wives are rich. Wayward children could also do this to their rich dads. Employees may do it to get money from their companies. Politicians may also do it to raise money. The reason for this is simply that the chances of apprehending kidnappers by the law enforcement officers are very remote, so it encourages the trade. It is still part of the symptoms of a failed State. Our security agents are not doing enough in this regard and this is symptomatic of our systemic failure as a nation. One then wonders how those who were kidnapped were smuggled away, passing through the numerous checkpoints. Our policemen by training and by mere looking at faces in a vehicle should be able to detect someone who had been kidnapped. The eye contact is there, and fear is always written on the faces of such victims. But the problem is that our policemen at checkpoints are more interested in how much the driver of a vehicle can drop. Take for instance, a vehicle conveying five stern-looking guys (four kidnappers and one victim) approaches a check point and offers the policemen say N500, and exchange banters like, ‘Officers I beg make una take this one buy pure water.’ The kidnappers are likely to have easy passage. The policemen are more likely to lose concentration and may not be interested in looking and reading meaning in the faces of the occupants of the car.
The only antidote to kidnapping is for the culprits to be apprehended either at the point of abducting the victim or at the point of collecting their ransom, as is done in advanced countries. Our security agents, especially policemen at checkpoints, must be more vigilant by observing the faces of the occupants of a car especially when there is an alert of a kidnap in their area. The National Assembly must take the lead in passing a bill concerning punishment for kidnappers. State Houses of Assembly must follow the example of Delta State by enacting a law that would make kidnapping punishable by death, if only to discourage kidnappers. They are worse than armed robbers!
Jamiu is an Abuja-based media consultant