No doubt, the security architecture in Nigeria has been overwhelmed by unabated kidnapping, banditry, terrorism and other criminal activities. Kidnapping around the country, even in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is becoming uncontrollable as victims pay ransom regularly before they are released.
In the past, kidnappers were going after rich persons whom when kidnapped, could pay huge money as ransom, but these days, everybody is a target for kidnappers, both the rich and the poor. Thousands of Nigerians have fallen victim of the crime and have had to pay millions of dollars in ransom for their freedom. Kidnapping is seen as a lucrative business and the shortest means to wealth by those involved in this crime. The current wave of abductions across the country makes every person a potential target regardless of social class or economic status, unlike political kidnapping which started in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta region in the early 2000s and the one by jihadist terror group, Boko Haram in Nigeria’s North-East and North-West that began in 2009 when the conflict there started.
In the Niger Delta, agitators took expatriates working with multinational oil giants hostage to force oil companies operating there to carry out community development projects for the benefit of the host communities or force government into negotiations for more of economic benefits accruing to the federal treasury for the region. Abductions by Islamist terrorist Boko Haram are to further its agenda, recruit fighters, instil fear, gain more international popularity and force the government to negotiate with it for ransom which is one of the means of generating funds for its terrorist operation. Boko Haram has committed several mass kidnappings of students. Their 2014 kidnapping of 276 teenage girls from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, was covered extensively by the international media, making millions of people aware of that specific crime and of the insurgency. Boko Haram often demands that victims’ families or the government pay them ransoms, or that the government release prisoners from their group. Boko Haram has brainwashed and forced some of the young people it has kidnapped into joining them and carrying out attacks, including suicide bombings. Members of the Boko Haram force many young female victims to marry them.
Kidnapping for ransom on a commercial scale which became rampant in Nigeria in 2011 spread across all the 36 states and the country’s capital, Abuja. In the North-West states of Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna, hundreds of local community members – mostly young people – are often abducted by bandits operating from forests.
Sadiq Mohammed, a mechanic who hails from Kubwa, FCT, and his brother Yusuf Garba were kidnapped along Bwari road few days after Easter celebration this year. Mohammed who spoke in pidgin English said it was a terrible experience after spending nine days in kidnappers’ den with his brother.
Nigerian Tribune, while speaking with Mohammed and his brother, learnt that the duo had to pay a total of N4.6 million before they could regain their freedom.
“My in-law was involved in an accident, my brother and I went visiting on Sunday. On our way back, along Bwari Road around 7pm, some suspected Fulani militia numbering 7, surrounded us, pointed guns at us and ordered us not to move. Because of the bad road, we couldn’t drive fast in our vehicle, so we had to stop.
“They brought us out of the vehicle, collected our phones; they searched the vehicle and couldn’t find anything valuable. They saw plastic soft drinks in the vehicle; they took them and drank them.
“They tied us up with ropes, they laid us on the road for more than 30 minutes, but no passerby or vehicle was seen on the road. Then they took us away, left our vehicle on the road. We trekked to Bwari with them that night; at a point, they stopped, took some hard drugs and smoked Indian hemp, then around 12 midnight, we continued trekking to Bwari”, Mohammed said.
He said on their way, they stopped at a man’s house identified as Sule. The kidnappers broke into his compound; one of them tried opening the door forcefully, then the wife of the man quickly opened the door. One of the kidnappers asked after the owner of the house, the woman then told him that her husband was not around. The kidnapper slapped the woman and immediately her husband came out of hiding.
Mohammed said the man (Sule) thought it was only one kidnapper that was around and therefore tried to take the gun from him. However, the kidnapper shot Sule multiple times, and also used a cutlass on him. Then the other kidnappers took away the wife of the man, leaving the children and the lifeless Sule behind because the woman told them that her children were ill.
Mohammed further said the kidnappers took them away blindfolded through the bush alongside Sule’s wife to their main point. They got to their destination around 5a.m.
“When the day was bright, they asked us few questions about ourselves; then they tied our hands and legs, blindfolded us and started beating us. They gave us neither food no water. Then after some days, they requested for money, they gave us a phone to call our relatives to bring money. They said each person would pay N20 million as ransom, which meant my brother and I would pay N40 million,” he said.
Mohammed said they begged the kidnappers to reduce the ransom, but they refused, then after the fifth day in their den, the kidnappers reduced the ransom. Mohammed paid N2.4 million while his brother paid N2.2 million. He said his family members contributed; some sold their assets and other things to raise the money.
“So, when it was time to pay the ransom, they got across to the families of the victims and told them to meet at a place in Bwari. The family of the woman they killed her husband paid N2 million as ransom before they released her. They also kidnapped some pastors; our ransom was paid on Sunday. The pastors’ ransom was brought on Monday then they released all of us once.
“The day they released us they blindfolded us. When we got to a point, they removed the blindfolds, told us to move straight to our houses. That was happening around 11pm; we trekked through the bush and reached our destination around 1am.
“When we got home, we were rushed to the hospital because we spent nine days in captivity without taking our bath, little or no food,” he said.
Abu Buhari, Mohammed’s brother said immediately they learnt about the kidnap of his brothers, he and his elder brother went to the Byazhin Police station to report the issue, they were told that where their brothers were kidnapped is in Niger State.
“Then we went to Area Command of the Nigerian Police and reported, we were referred back to Byazhin Police Station, we went back to the Byazhin, they directed us to Bwari, by that time, there was too much pressure from the kidnappers. They said if we didn’t get the money, they would kill my brothers, they gave us two days deadline, we had to run around to raise the money, even after we paid the ransom, they didn’t release them, we thought they had killed our brothers, but the next day, they were released”, he added.
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