Kidnapping, banditry escalate amid weak security response

Kidnapping, banditry escalate amid weak security response

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Nigerians appear more gloomy over the inability of the security agencies to curtail the increasing criminality characterised by kidnapping, armed robbery and banditry, especially in the northern parts of the country.

The Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and the surrounding bushes along the road are dreaded zones of armed banditry as many motorists have abandoned the road and have taken to rail travel despite the much advertised, “Operation Puff Adder” launched by the police to tame the scourge.

Some of those who had been kidnapped but released after payment of huge ransom tell stories of the level of sophistication of the kidnappers. According to reports, some victims paid as high as N10 million to gain their freedom.

The story of their ordeals in the hands of the abductors is usually laden with anguish and fear. In the last few days, Nigerians have been inundated with such sad stories, which only increased the apprehension level and anger against the government for failing in its core responsibility of protecting lives and properties.

On Monday April 29, 2019, the bandits unleashed mayhem on motorists, and abducted many people who were said to have paid huge sums of money later as ransom fee to gain their freedom. The ugly development went unabated as security agencies, especially the police anti-terrorism and anti-kidnapping joint squad appeared unfit and unprepared to face the hoodlums.

In yet another dreadful attack, kidnappers on that Monday abducted Muhammed Mahmood, board chairman of Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), along the Kaduna-Abuja Highway. Mahmood was abducted alongside his daughter while travelling from Kaduna to Abuja Monday afternoon.

They were kidnapped around Katari, a village few kilometres from Zuba, an Abuja suburb.

Again, on Wednesday, May 1, 2019 kidnappers stormed the residence of Musa Umar, the district head of Daura, the hometown of President Muhammadu Buhari and abducted him. As at the time of filing this report, the district head is yet to regain his freedom as his abductors are said to be demanding huge sum of money.

Abuja, the nation’s capital has also been terrorised by the hoodlums in such a manner that the residents have become apprehensive.

Although the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) on Thursday, May 9, 2019, announced that the police have rescued 27 kidnapped victims, including 5 Chinese nationals, the “Operation Puff Adder” recently launched by the police appears far from taming the brazen criminals, which has necessitated new strategies from the police.

A statement issued on Thursday by Frank Mba, Force Public Relations Officer, said the new strategies, which are purposeful and intelligence-driven are targeted at identifying, locating and dismantling kidnapping gangs across the nation and bringing the kidnappers and their collaborators to justice. “It is designed to complement and strengthen the ‘Operation Puff Adder’ currently going on in several states of the federation”, Mba said.

But experts are of the view that the police and allied agencies must take more appropriate measures or face unending crisis, which might be difficult for them to handle.

A former director with the Department of State Service (DSS), Mike Ejiofor, told BDSUNDAY at the weekend that the security agencies must recruit the right people in their fold and employ the use of modern technology.

“The fact remains that no matter what efforts the government is making if it does not get the recruitment process right where the best people are recruited, and then it becomes a problem. So, even if you recruited one million people and you did not recruit the right people it is going to compound the problem. Government should prioritise security and use modern technological equipment as it is done in other countries,” Ejiofor said.

Perry Opara, national chairman of the National Unity Party (NUP), advised the government to change the security architecture of Nigeria to give much attention to security of lives and properties.

 “The police should be better equipped now, and at times, the military can intervene and not only in the northern parts of the country but in all parts because there is kidnapping everywhere. So, I want to call on the Federal Government to secure Nigerians because the APC government won election on the security mantra; it is not only about insurgency of Boko Haram but internal security of lives and properties.

“I know that if the Nigerian Police is well equipped with more personnel and appropriate weaponry provided for them, they will do better than they are doing now. Also, the police should collaborate with the community,” he said.

On the question of the criminality as a revolt against the status quo, Opara noted that the issue is that every region has s peculiar security threat, which differs from one location to another.

“There is so much hardship in the land and people are taking to kidnapping and armed robbery to make some money, but the most important thing is that as the government is trying to fight insecurity, they should also provide stomach infrastructure. When people do not have food they will seek for other ways to survive,” he noted.

On the speculation that the Federal Government has paid the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) N100 billion, Opara, who noted that he is yet to confirm the issue, said anything that the government can do to provide security for Nigerians should suffice.

 Also speaking on the seeming inability of the security agencies to tackle the menace, Law Mefor, a clinical forensic expert, told our correspondent on Friday that the security situation has become embarrassing, attributing it to the fact that security chiefs were given responsibility without specific targets.

“Security situation in Nigeria has degenerated to a very embarrassing level. In fact, it has never been this bad, even when Boko Haram was at its apogees, citizens did not feel so apprehensive, unprotected and helpless. The responses of security agencies have either been faulty or below par, and reactionary generally. People are given responsibilities and authority without targets.

“Take the issue of Kaduna-Abuja road, just less than 200 kilometres. The Police have no reason for its inability to secure that road. Even the trains are now being escorted by helicopters. It is so shameful,” he said.

He noted that much may not come from the security agencies because the security architecture is so poor, adding that the mother agency – Nigeria Police Force – is understaffed, underpaid, under-motivated, undertrained, and under equipped.

“Less than 400,000 police officers and men policing about 200 million Nigerians, 36 states plus FCT, 774 LGs. What is more, out of this paltry number, perhaps up to 100, 000 are guarding politicians, their wives and children and public institutions,” he said.

On the factors that triggered the upsurge in criminal activities in the country, Mefor said that in psychology of learning, rewards and punishments are very fundamental, stressing that any wrong action not punished will continue.

“The way criminal responsibility has been handled by the law enforcement agencies in Nigeria has been so wrong. People get away with virtually all crimes in Nigeria. Apart from that, government has actually rewarded treasonous actions against the state. When a government forgives terrorists, and integrates them into the forces, what message are you sending to the youth and their victims? Where is restorative justice? You are actually saying that violent crimes pay.

“Farmers and herdsmen who are known to have killed are paid compensation rather than being prosecuted. Such wrong policies reinforce the aberrant and deviant actions that require discouragement through severe punishments.

“Rolling out red carpets for militants, insurgents and terrorists is such a terrible policy. As we can all see, the policy has only exacerbated and spread the fault lines. Crimes in Nigeria are now becoming more wanton. From Niger Delta militancy, the nation has added Boko Haram terrorism, killer Fulani herdsmen, and now, banditry caused by gold rush, which is being privately mined and under the nation’s economic radar.

“One other factor at the core of insecurity in Nigeria is failure of the state to provide the basics of governance, which led to helplessness, anger and deviance. Economic exclusion and attendant poverty, lack of education and religious extremism are the other essential psychological factors that brought about Boko Haram, militancy, insurgency, and more recently, the growing kidnapping scourge.

“They all show we do not have a society and pushing the nation to fail and disintegrate. Most citizens are essentially on their own and essence of governance vanishing and becoming more distant,” he said.

On the alleged payment of N100 billion to the Miyetti Allah cattle breeders to supposedly help the government fight banditry and other forms of violent crimes, Mefor denounced it as “a classic example of terrible policies of government.” He said that even negotiating with Miyetti Allah alone is an endorsement of herdsmen activities, which ought to be probed and decisively dealt with.

“Their victims- farmers – will now be feeling betrayed by their government, which appears to have taken sides.

“Farmers are likely to fortify their positions and the conflict can only grow worse. What government ought to have done was to call Miyetti Allah- Farmers summit. In psychology, perception, not intention, is what matters. So, government’s intention may be noble, but the perception of the people is the opposite,” he said.

He said the way forward is to allow in the interim, formation of vigilante services all over the wards in Nigeria, and have them trained and linked with Police. That way, they would serve as an extension of NPF. He also called for state police, saying it is an idea whose time has come.

But reacting to the rumoured gift of N100 billion to the Miyetti Allah, the coordinator of the group in Benue State, Garus Gololo, told BDSUNDAY that it was a malicious lie spread by those who hate the Fulani ethnic group.

He said that the group only had a security summit with the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Danbazzau and the Governor of Kebbi State, on how to curb the crisis.

“The summit was to facilitate and assist to address the crisis so that we synergise because the crisis is getting out of hand. The government did not give Miyetti Allah any money. They just saw that there was a meeting between the interior minister and Kebbi State governor and they just carried it everywhere. But people have been having meetings with different organisations, what we need is peace and security. So, it is not true that government gave us any money. Those spreading this false information have personal hatred for the Fulani. In Miyetti Allah, we are all APC and we cannot allow the government of APC to have this kind of problem,” he said.

He added that the kidnapping business is made of people of different ethnic groups and cannot be ascribed to one ethnic group even as he called for multi-lateral efforts to address the crisis.

Recall also that the Presidency Friday debunked claims the Federal Government gave Miyetti Allah N100billion to end killing of farmers and kidnapping in the country.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement dismissed the claims, saying that the issue of money was never raised at the meeting with the group

“As I said on Channels TV, it is an absolute falsehood. The issue of money was never raised at any of the meetings between the representatives of government and Miyetti Allah,” he said.

Innocent Odoh, Abuja

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