19 December 2012

Nigeria: Making Kidnappers Kings


A RASH of concerns sprouted after the kidnapping of Professor Kamene Okonjo, mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Her release after five days' captivity, under unclear circumstances, is being celebrated as victory for the perspicacity of the security agencies whose conflicting tales of the operations is another story. Her release is "a miracle", according to her elated daughter.

We are glad this episode has passed rather propitiously and the 83-year-old Okonjo is re-united with her family. Our immediate worry is the mismanagement of investigations and absence of proactive measures to counter crimes.

Kidnapping is not just on the increase, contrary to reports, crimes are noticed only when the high and mighty are attacked. Kidnappers have been on the prowl, picking convenient targets.

Ransoms are paid and victims are released, sometimes without involving the security agencies, who many people do not trust, nor expect to protect them. Criminals seem to act with the certainty that help would not be available to their victims. They still have no reason to change the perception.

It was nauseating to watch the security agencies work themselves into frenzy over a crime that intelligence, technology and familiarity with the terrain, would have solved in a matter of hours. For five days kidnappers held the mother of a serving Minister without any heat being applied on them.

The inadequacies of the security agencies were among the issues the incident brought to the fore again. Each time there is crime against a high profile personality, everyone jumps into the search. The police would deploy the Inspector General of Police's special force - whose job, it seems, is to wait until a crime big enough to elicit Abuja's interest is committed.

What does the special force otherwise do? Does Abuja know that criminals have not allowed banking services in Auchi for over six weeks?

Army, Department of State Services, Nigeria Civil Defence Corps were pressed into service for Okonjo. They failed to prove to kidnappers that they will be caught - and punished.

Simple technologies exist for tracking calls. There are listening in devices for establishing the strength of the criminals. Why would the security agencies make criminals bigger than they are? The police's haste in killing suspects is another disheartening attribute of our security operations.

Are our security agents so poorly trained that they cannot arrest suspects? Are the killings to protect security operatives or cover up possible information from suspects that could expose their sponsors?

The Okonjo kidnapping ended on the depressing note of extolling criminals. The security agencies did not prove they have developed better ways of fighting crime. Ordinary Nigerians who cannot call up special forces from Abuja will keep suffering the ineptitude.

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