38 DAYS OF HORROR: 50 policemen dead, kidnappers demand N1bn …for 321 victims - The Gallant News


Sunday, 8 August 2021

38 DAYS OF HORROR: 50 policemen dead, kidnappers demand N1bn …for 321 victims

  38 DAYS OF HORROR: 50 policemen dead, kidnappers demand N1bn …for 321 victims

No fewer than 50 police officers were gruesomely murdered by bandits and other criminal elements in the last 38 days while about 211 other Nigerians were killed during the same period.

Sunday Vanguard review of security situation in Nigeria during the period showed that about N1.415billion was demanded as ransom for 321 kidnapped victims across the country. 

Of the N1.415billion ransom, the demand of the abductors of Madam Betinah Benson, 80-year-old mother of Bayelsa SSG (Secretary to State Government), Dr Kombowei Benson, topped the list as they demanded N500million for her release.

Another group demanded N200million for the release of Tari Ajanami, the owner of Club 64, a nightclub also in Bayelsa.

Captors of the Emir of Kajuru, 13 family members and aides, on their part, demanded N200million ransom.

These came to light as experts warned that there would be no end to ransom payment as long as activities of criminals were not checked by security agencies.

According to the Sunday Vanguard review, Kaduna State is worst hit with 206 abductees and 51 deaths, followed by Sokoto, Borno, Zamfara and Adamawa states respectively.

In Sokoto, 60 persons were kidnapped while two persons lost their lives.

Borno recorded 45 deaths while Zamfara, Adamawa and Plateau had 42, 41 and 24 deaths accordingly.

Imo State also became a hotspot of killings during the period under review by ‘unknown gunmen’.

The findings showed that about 250 people were killed by bandits, militants, herdsmen or unknown gunmen while 14 lost their lives in the hands of the police, Customs and military officers.

Also, five suspected kidnappers were set ablaze in Edo State by a mob.

SBM Intelligence

The above figures were not part of recent SBM Intelligence report which found that that a total of 2,371 persons were kidnapped in Nigeria within the first six months of the year, that is, from January to June, 2021.

According to the research consultancy group, an average of 13 persons was abducted daily in Nigeria in the first half of the year.

Kidnapping: Fast growing industry

Kidnapping has become commonplace and a sort of business to bandits and other criminal elements, who raid, kill and mass kidnap for ransom, particularly of school children.

It is the fastest growing industry and has remained the most virulent form of banditry in the country.

Recent reports have shown that criminals are often driven by financial motives to kidnap children and others and hold them for ransom.

According to the SBM report, N10 billion ($19.96 million as of June 30) was demanded as ransom for the kidnap victims.

Attacks on schools

Nigeria’s kidnap-for-ransom industry is growing, and it’s not just the well-off who are at risk.

The new targets are poor villagers and ordinary schoolchildren.

Since the well-publicised abduction in 2014 of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok secondary school by Boko Haram terrorists in Borno state, more armed groups have resorted to mass abduction of students.

There has been a recent spate of abductions from schools for ransom. Authorities say recent attacks on schools, especially in the North-West, have been carried out by bandits, who are largely motivated by money.

Experts’ opinions

Security experts, who shared their thoughts with Sunday Vanguard, stated that in normal circumstances, Nigerians would not pay ransom to kidnappers but with the failure of government and incompetence and corruption in the security establishment, citizens had no choice than succumb to the whims and caprices of criminals.

Govt has failed the people —Ashiru

The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Bulwark Intelligence Solutions Ltd., Tanwa Ashiru, opined that families would do anything to secure and release loved ones, most importantly, when government has failed to live up its mandate.

Ashiru, a U.S Air Force veteran with over 14 years of experience in Intelligence Analysis, maintained that Nigerians would continue to pay ransom to criminals until the government makes the country uncomfortable for kidnappers and other criminal elements wherever they are found and eliminated.

She said, “As far as the people are concerned, government has already failed them. To them, the fact that their loved ones are abducted in the first place means failure on the part of government to provide security for its citizens.

‘Our own government’

“Here in Nigeria, we already believe that we are a sort of our own government because we provide our own light, our own water, security and practically, everything else.

“So when a person is kidnapped, that mentality carries on. We believe that we are on our own; therefore, we are the ones to make sure that we get our loved ones out. “No one really trusts government or law enforcement agencies to be on top of the situation.

“When government says it is not going to negotiate with criminals and that nobody should negotiate, then, we have to also believe that something is being done on the other hand.

“If government is telling us not to pay, then, they should also tell us what active plans, and not just talking, we must see the active steps it is taking to actually protect the citizens.”

She advised government to start building trust among the people, put up a response unit, provide a dedicated hotline for kidnap cases, and assign professionals to victims’ families to help them during the traumatic period.

Nigerians buy favour —Ononugbo

In his contribution, Mr. Alfred Ononugbo, a forensic expert and criminal intelligence specialist, said Nigeria’s security infrastructure has been weakened by indiscipline, corruption, unprofessionalism, incompetence and lack of patriotism.

According to him, a situation whereby “citizens freely engaging criminals shows that there is a break in the bridge.

“It starts with buying of voter’s card to buying power, and now, we are buying the favour of criminals.

“We make criminals see themselves as entrepreneurs and that is very dangerous for our society.”

To arrest the ugly trend, Ononugbo, a security consultant and private crimes investigator, suggested rejigging of Nigeria’s security architecture.

The analyst said: “We must rejig the security infrastructure, we must look at the curriculum and we must also look at the selection process.

“Part of why we are in this mess is that we entrusted our security in the hands of politicians who recruit security agents based on quota, and not on merit or credibility.”

It’s an extortionate terrorism —CISLAC boss, Hashim

Also, the Program Manager, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Sacandeen Hashim, described what the country is experiencing as an ‘extortionate terrorism’.

According to him, it would be difficult to stop payment of ransom to bandits because some unscrupulous elements in government circle were using negotiation and payment of ransom as a cover to divert public funds.

Hashim said: “We have noticed a new avenue for massive diversion of public funds to escape accountability.

“Political fat cats access funds in the false impression of paying ransom to bandits in the bush that are kept and sustained for this game called banditry.

Carrot and stick

“However, to end strife, there are often two positions. You either beat the enemy to pulp, pulverize and blow him away. Or you negotiate.

“Negotiation is done everywhere in the world, but when it becomes a tool for corruption and financing terrorism and political establishment, then, it becomes extortion.

“Government should apply carrot and stick to save the situation and avoid fatalities of those in captivity.

Professional negotiators

“The institutions of the state are weak. We do not even have professional negotiators. “The example of Zamfara and Katsina is a classical example of failed negotiations.

“A government should have a team of experts handling the situation with concrete prohibition for operation in specific boundaries.

“We must think outside the box because, we cannot continue to do same thing and expect a different result.”

No alternative to paying ransom —Onovo

Chief Martin Onovo, a political analyst and former presidential candidate, added that Nigerians pay ransom due to compelling cultural, strategic and logical reasons.

He explained that the principal reason for kidnapping was ransom, adding that in some cases, victims were kidnapped for labour or sex slavery.

“The bandits that kidnap have crime as the source of their funds. They have killed many of their victims and may kill those that fail to attract ransoms. Some victims have become sick in captivity and died”, he said. “Considering the danger victims face, friends and family members are desperate to have their kidnapped loved ones home safely. Consequently, they raise the funds required for ransom.

No choice

“In normal circumstances, Nigerians will not pay any ransom to kidnappers, but with the failure of the Buhari’s administration, and the incompetence and corruption in our security establishment, Nigerians see no alternatives.

“If Nigerians believe that our security forces can rescue their kidnapped relations, they will most definitely not pay ransom. “Nigerians pay ransom because they know that their government and security forces will not rescue them if kidnapped. Nigerians have no choice but to pay the ransoms or risked being killed.”

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