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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Why do kidnappers rage?


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Kidnappers are no longer on the prowl. They are now on a rampage. They have run riot, running rings around hapless Nigerians. The impunity with which they go about it means they know that the coast is clear for them to go about their criminal activity without fearing that there will be consequences. Once there is no chance of punishment, there is no deterrent. As it is said, where there is no law, there is no sin. It is more or less the same thing – or even worse – where there is law but the law is trampled by everyone without consequence.

In Nigeria, those who trample the law the most are those who made the law and those charged with enforcing the law. Once other criminally-minded people know this, all they need to do is compromise these sets of Nigerians by coming under their wings. So, thugs, area boys and other sundry criminals come under the wings of politicians and are assured of protection. Those who engage in financial crimes have informants and insiders in the financial institutions that give them privileged information. The whole of Nigeria has become a crime scene. Nigeria as a going concern is a criminal enterprise. You no longer know who to turn to for succor.

I listened to an interviewee who listed all those who benefit from the rising wave of crime in the country. Government officials benefit because it gives them justification to allocate huge resources that should have gone into other productive sectors into the so-called war against insecurity. No war is fought, though, and money so allocated is diverted into private pockets. We saw an example of that in the arms bazaar that took place under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Money voted for arms to fight Boko Haram was shared to politicians to fund election campaigns and such other unrelated matters.

Governors benefit from insurgency because it gives them an alibi to further raise their humongous security votes which secure nothing. Many of them draw this money on a monthly basis and go to the real estate market buying properties on a binge. Nothing is secured and no one is secure in their state. Security votes are unaccounted for; they are not audited; why this is so, I do not know. It could be because of the cloak of secrecy that is woven around security matters. But I think it is time we rend the veil and make everything open. Afterall, we cannot be left unsecured and still lose our money under the guise of security votes.

Legislators, those that some people have chosen to call legis-looters, also benefit from this racket. They seldom pass anyone’s budget unless their palms have been greased. In every budget, they have items they hide here and there that they come for after the budget is passed and money is released. Oversight function is another avenue through which lawmakers hold government officials to ransom. Like I said, it is a racket. One thief steals; another surfaces to demand his own share of the loot. They work hand-in-gloves. They operate in cahoots.

Those charged with the risky task of carrying guns and confronting the criminals also have criminals in their ranks. We can safely expect that criminals will find their way into the fighting forces. For one, that is the safest place to be as a criminal. Who will ever suspect or stop a man in uniforms for stop-and-search? They also can work as informants. They can loan out their uniforms to criminals for a fee. Their guns and ammunition also. They can turn their guns on the State that employed them and pledge their loyalty to their partners in crime.

Now, who pays more: the government or the masters of the crime world? I am sure you know salaries are peanuts here. Take-home pay takes no one home in Nigeria. You have to find ways to augment the peanuts you receive as salaries. Most times they do not even come as when due. Most times you are owed a backlog of salaries and other benefits. And you have mouths to feed. You have responsibilities you cannot shirk.

In the middle of this, you see the opulence of the rich flaunted in your face on a daily basis. You see them take good care of themselves while they neglect you. Besides, you know they, too, are criminals of the worst order. They steal billions with a stroke of pen. If all the ransom money collected by kidnappers since 1999 is put together, it will still be mere trifle compared to the billions that one Accountant-General of the Federation stole. And the man was seen the other time playing monkey games with the court. Is it that the authorities did not know the antics of this man? Of course, they do but they are members of the same clan!

I do not support kidnapping and kidnappers. I am against the booming business of kidnapping for the purpose of collecting ransoms. In fact. I am against all forms of kidnapping and all manner of criminality. But, where do we start? We must start by checking the criminality of the ruling class. It is their own criminality that gave rise to the other criminality that now threatens to sink all of us. It is their own criminality that is not allowing them to see clearly and act appropriately to deal with the criminality of the rank and file.

Virtually everyone is sucked into the ongoing criminality that has made Nigeria an unsafe place day and night. The cities are not safe, even up to Abuja, the seat of power. Homes are not safe. No longer is the home a man’s fortress as the scripture says. The roads and highways are not safe. Schools are not safe. Even military facilities are not safe. Criminality has become big business and more and more people are trooping into it. After politics and corruption, criminality is next in the order of the “businesses” that yield the highest return on investment.

Let me share a post I read a while ago and then close: “Why do kidnappers succeed in collecting ransom from their victims? Based on my job, I learnt something special this week from security agents in Mali that we went on a rescue mission together. I don’t know if the Nigerian security agencies are in collaboration with kidnappers to take ransom and share together; if not, no kidnapper can succeed in taking any ransom where security formation is effective. The story is that, I received a message from Nigeria concerning a 16-year-old girl that was trafficked to Mali for sex trade. This victim called her parents about the situation and they passed the message to me from a government agency for an urgent rescue. When I called the number that the victim used to call her parents and I asked the traffickers to send the victim to me so that she can go back to Nigeria, they refused. Later, they removed the line from their phone; now the number is out of use. I informed a security agent about the situation…

“Now, the number I used to contact the traffickers is no longer in use. I don’t know the name of the village the victim is. I sent the number that they had removed to the security agent. After two hours, they notified me the name of the village and the current new number the traffickers were using. We went on a mission without calling the new number. We arrived at the village at midnight because it was about a 15-hour journey. The second day, Information reached us about the exact location the phone number was last used before they switched off the phone. After an hour, information came again that the person was having an appointment with somebody at 11:00am. We hung around the place. When the person came around, there was a vibration from one of the security gadgets for us to know the person coming with the number. We monitored her entry to the house. We were able to rescue the victim. No call. Nothing.

“So, ransom collection in Nigeria could be between the kidnappers and security agencies. If not, no Nigerian should pay ransom to any kidnapper if really our policemen have the necessary security gadgets. This is just a trafficking issue; not that some criminals will hide somewhere and be calling people twice to pay a ransom. You cannot call three times before being caught in Mali”.

This happened in small Mali but we are the giant of Africa. Mali is poor but we are rich. The difference between us and Mali is the kind of leaders we have had.

I also read a report in a national newspaper of repute accusing commercial banks of encouraging the kidnapping epidemic in the country as, wait for it, “some ransoms are paid into bank accounts!” Are you kidding me? Nigeria, we hail thee!

  • Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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