9 February 2013

Nigeria: Lure for Ransom Raises Waves of Kidnapping

A recent surge in kidnapping in Nigeria has seen prominent members of the society being abducted for huge ransoms.

In fact, this year has witnessed rise in kidnappings. Previously the targets were foreign oil companies' western workers who were taken by the Niger Delta militants, but now it has steadily penetrated into the northern and the kidnappers are becoming ever more attracted to wealthy individuals and politicians.

Disturbed by the trend, the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in the South East yesterday gave governors in the region a 14-day ultimatum to procure tracking devices to check the spate of kidnapping in the zone.

This ultimatum was contained in a statement signed by Mr. Uzor Uzor, the Chairman, CD South-East Region in Onitsha, Anambra.

It stated that the South East governors must procure the tracking devices for security agencies.

However, police headquarters spokesman Frank Mba said security forces were making a number of moves including the use of modern gadgets to track kidnap gangs across the country "but the major problem in tracking kidnappers is "insider connection."

In the past, domestic workers such as cooks, maids, gardeners and drivers provide information to kidnappers on their victims. Today, the situation is complex because children are kidnapping their parents while husbands kidnapping their wives. In this case, no amount of policing will stop a child from kidnapping his father.

"The main target is to get ransom from the victims. We are engaging the services of stakeholders for the need to regulated appetite for wealth," Mba said.

Several people were abducted between September 2012 and January 2013 and few were released days after the payment of ransoms. Police and other security agencies have traced the hideouts of a number of kidnappers, freed the victims and arrested those responsible. In December, a member of the Gombe State House of Assembly, Jalo Ahmed Ganga was kidnapped and was later released.

Ganga, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations, was abducted in the early hours while he was on his way home from a nearby mosque after his morning prayer. On Tuesday, a combined team of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta codenamed Operation Pulo Shield, the SSS and the police secured the release of the abducted mother of the Leader of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mrs. Esther Akpe. The 59-year-old woman was kidnapped at Ebedebiri in Sagbama local government area of the state. Her captors demanded N80m which they later reduced to N8m, N6m and N2 million as ransom.

Mrs. Justina Ekwu Nwakwe, a mother of triplets in AMAC Estate, Lugbe, off the Umaru Musa Yar'adua (Airport) road in Abuja was abducted in September last year. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of N25million before she could be released. Nwakwe was abducted one evening in front of her residence in the Estate. She was freed a week after the kidnappers failed to get the ransom they demanded. Ms Nkeiruka Sylvanus, a Nollywood film star and Senior Special Assistant to Imo State governor was abducted on December 15 alongside Uche Okoli and Kenneth Okolie at Nworie Street, Akanchawa roundabout, Owerri by three gunmen. They were kept in a bush around Avu junction for six days before they were released on December 21 after payment of N8 million ransom. The abductors led by an ex-policeman were arrested few days later. Just last week Tuesday, Monday Bidam, an accountant with the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture attached to the ministry's veterinary section in Kafanchan was kidnapped while travelling from Kachia to Zuluruk-Kagoro in Kaura local givernmnet area after he boarded a commercial vehicle. A family member said the kidnapers contacted Bidam's family and demanded N1.5 million before his release.

Wife of retired Brigadier-General Oluwole Rotimi, Titilayo, was kidnapped in December in Ibadan, and the mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Kamene Okonjo, was taken from her home in Delta State, also in December. She was released after payment of ransom. Delta State Commissioner for Higher Education, Professor Hope Eghagha was abducted at Abavo, September 29, in Warri. He was released later.

Police spokesman Mba said the abductors of Sylvanus, Titilayo and Kamene were arrested and were facing trials in different courts. He said: "Our approach to crime fighting is holistic because of our understanding of the very complex nature of crimes."

He said the police anti-kidnap squad was strengthened recently and deployed to several parts of the country. It is now left to be seen how far the police will go in the fight against kidnapping in the country.

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