Before Kidnapping Becomes an Enterprise in Kwara State
By M. Yusuf
Every phase of human development has its own security challenges. Growing up as a young boy some decades ago, we lived to witness what our elders then called child kidnappers (Gbomo-gbomo). And when you heard one incident, it took almost a year if not more for such barbaric act by the rogue elements to repeat itself. That one sad news would spread across the town like harmattan fire.
Decades after decades, years after years, here we are with growing sophistication of criminality (insecurity) ranging from armed robbery (which was post-civil war challenge), cultism, raping, money rituals to terrorism and banditry.
Banditry, as then was, started as cattle rustling in the North West of Nigeria but later grew in leap and bound to involve kidnapping for ransom, raping and outright killing of captives when ransom is not paid within a given timeline or even paid when the bandits are in their ‘high mood.’
This, among other security challenges portrays sulcus spate of insecurity ravaging the nation and if not arrested, in no distance time, the country will fall into apocalypse. Something must definitely give to something!
No doubt, globally, the world is going through one form of insecurity or another ranging from terrorism (involving ISIS, IS, and BH that metamorphosed into ISWAP in recent years) to wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan and the 2019 Myanmar’s clamp down on Rohingya Muslims which have resorted into humanitarian disasters in form of thousands of deaths and creation of Refugees in millions.
In 2019 alone, according to statistics available on the website of Statista Research Department, terrorists killed 28,082 human beings worldwide from 9,681 attacks with Afghanistan topping the list with 1,750 attacks and Nigeria on the 6th log with 458 attacks.
While between 2015 and 2019, more than 133,000 people sustained one form of injury or another from terrorism. The number of people injured in 2019 was put at 19,924 globally and that was the lowest in 5 years referenced above.
Despite the drop in number of terrorists attacks in year 2020 compared to the preceding year, the global terrorism index(GTI) report still ranked Afghanistan as number 1 followed by Iraq with Nigeria coming 3rd. This, I must say, is not good for the image of the country and this is not who we are.
Also, Statista Research Department added that the global economic cost of terrorism in 2019 was put at $26.4bn which was the lowest since 2005 compared to the sum of $115.8bn being recorded in 2014.
The concerning question that has been bothering my “innocent mind” is: “Why are we on the global report for wrong reasons?” The answer might not be farfetched because we all know that Boko Haram in cahoot with other terrorist organizations have joined forces to wage asymmetric war on our country attacking military bases, soft targets, killing innocent people, looting armories, markets etc and kidnappings for ransom which has become a good source of revenue for the goons as free moneys are now available for replenishing their arsenals to wreck more havoc on the nation. This barbarism reached an unacceptable level of late when more than 50 farmers were slaughtered in their farms in Zabarmari village in Borno State causing outrage and worldwide condemnations.
As the military was doing its best to confine this terrorism to the North East of Nigeria despite its limitations, the banditry which started as a mere cattle rustling reared its ugly head in the North West of Nigeria and within a very short time, the menace has turned into a viable business of kidnapping and abductions for ransom.
Meanwhile, as it is now, it is no longer news to say that banditry has become an industry of a sort with multi-million naira turnover cutting across the states of Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna in the North West, as same has gradually moved into North-Central with Niger State becoming highly exposed and targeted spot for kidnapping for ransom.
For a very long time now, the ancient town of Birni-Gwari in Kaduna State has become an epicenter of banditry and kidnapping for ransom. Hardly can one mention any social gathering in the town that has not been badly hit by the bandits. The worst, in recent times was the attack on the people who gathered for funeral rites of victims of banditry. The Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai confirmed the terrible incident on the 10th of March during the State’s security conference, saying bandits killed more than 900 people in the year 2020 alone in the state.
In Niger State, between February and March 2021, the state has witnessed many cases of kidnapping, arson and looting. However, the kidnap of students of Government Secondary School, Kagara which attracted worldwide condemnations and that of 54 passengers travelling through the state owned mass transit bus are still fresh in mind. Although all the victims have since been released with claims and counter claims on payment of ransom or otherwise.
With Niger State, as one of the contiguous States to Kwara being constantly under attacks, and with its border towns adjoining the Northern part of the state, it is just a matter of time for Kwara to be on the radar. An unconfirmed report acknowledged the presence of bandits in the forest joining the two states.
This medium, Intercontinental News 247 had earlier reported the recent incident of kidnap for ransom of one Alhaji Musa Atere in Ogundele area in Ilorin on the 9th of February, 2021 which signaled the bad omen for the state. As that was not enough, a female student of Kwara State University (KWASU) also fell victim of the goons as she was picked on her way to school. The sum of N2m was allegedly paid as ransom for her freedom. Like Ogundele area in Ilorin is also becoming popular for wrong reason as there was a case of abduction of a Medical Doctor who was on an outreach mission in the area. With these ugly developments in the state capital, there is fear of creating another ‘BIRNIN-GWARI’ in Kwara unless urgent steps are taken to nip this menace in the bud.
The implications of insecurity on the state is too costly to bear. Apart from loss of lives that are involved in the satanic business, the economic consequences are grievous, as payment of ransom in millions of naira has grossly enriched the kidnappers at the expense of their victims. Those rogue elements that were seen in the videos that have gone viral in recent time are looking polished, relaxed with glowing faces. It shows on their faces that the notorious business is doing well and its viability not in doubt.
On the flip side, the victims and their families who contributed to ransom have become pauperized. This is the irony of our nation and reality of today’s Nigeria.
Socially, the trauma kidnapped victims go through cannot be quantified in monetary term and no one will even wish it for an enemy. Having listened to some victims narrating the ordeals and what they went through is quite disturbing and psychologically sickening.
Kidnapping through banditry and involvement of some criminal herders pose serious threats to food security in our country. Without mincing words, farms across the nation have been deserted to some extent for fear of falling victims to these criminals. There have been outcry on the influx of herders from neighbouring Oyo and Osun States to the various parts of Kwara South. How then do we identify the criminals among them who may want to continue their despicable activities of kidnaping and rape against our people?
As it has become odd in some States, the new dimension of attacking schools and abducting innocent students possess a great threat to our educational system with attendant consequences of growing the numbers of out-of-school children among others.
Recent events in our neighboring States of Niger, Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara among others are pointer to the risk which our schools in the bordering towns and even villages are exposed to.
Before kidnapping becomes an enterprise in Kwara, something must be done urgently, as only God Knows what may happen next as bandits are becoming more daring with growing effrontery to confront the State despite the popular belief that it has monopoly of instruments of coercion. Is safety of our schools in border towns guaranteed?
Despite this potential threat, we still believe that all hopes are not yet lost as the state government appears to be proactive in allaying the fear of the residents by demonstrating commitment to their safety and wellbeing.
The recent Governor’s visit to his Oyo state counterpart for collaborations is a step in the right direction. However, this should be extended to all the Governors of the neighbouring states for effective collaboration against unfettered mobility of the bandits and criminal herders across these states.
According to a reliable government source, the Governor has recently met with security chiefs in the state with intention of taking holistic view of the security architectures so as to be able to withstand any potential threat to the peace of the state. While he promised proper funding for the operational activities of “Operation Harmony” through improved logistics for efficiency in crime detection and prevention.
Nevertheless, engagement with the traditional rulers in the state and local vigilantes will enhance community intelligence gathering because the war on terror requires the contributions of all and sundry.