Saturday, 30 April 2016

PALAVER TREE COMMENTARY: ABDUCTION NATION: Despite Death Sentence, Kidnappings Thrive

These seven suspects reportedly confessed to be involved in kidnapping
Daily Trust checks show that an average of 25 Nigerians are kidnapped every month, while 278 Nigerians have been abducted between May 2015 and April 2016. Also, amounts ranging from ₦250,000 to millions of naira have been demanded as ransom, bringing the total sum to ₦3.3bn.

The rising wave of the crime across the country has left many more afraid of kidnappers than armed robbers or even insurgents. Gone are the days when only expatriates, wealthy individuals and petroleum industry workers were the main targets. Today, anyone can fall victim.

The failure of security agencies at resolving many cases has made matters worse, with many families caving in and agreeing to pay ransom. While there are instances where the police rescue victims without payment of ransoms, there are also many where huge amounts were paid to kidnappers.

There are also instances where the police claim credit for rescuing victims without ransom payments, only for the families of victims to counter the claims by publicly announcing how much they paid to secure the release of their loved ones.

According to reports, most of the kidnappers said they engaged in it because they needed money to solve personal problems as they have no job.

Victims suffer psychological trauma, lack of trust, fear, torture and in some cases even rape, among others.

The 14th April 2014 abduction of about 276 Chibok school girls in Maiduguri by the Boko Haram insurgents remains indelible even as it drew world attention including reactions from US President Barack Obama and other world leaders.

The scourge of kidnapping has forced many states to enact laws recommending capital punishment and long prison sentences for those convicted of kidnapping.

This month alone 32 cases of kidnapping were reported in Enugu, Kano, Cross River, Imo, Rivers, Kaduna, Abia, Kogi, FCT, Delta and Benue states. Since kidnapping is not contained on the exclusive list of the Nigerian Constitution, it is States Houses of Assembly that can enact laws on it.

Kidnapping was made a capital offence in 2009 in Abia, Akwa, Ibom, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo states to curtail the wave. No kidnapper has however faced the death penalty since the enactment of the laws.

Before the Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, signed into law a bill that prescribes death penalty for convicted kidnappers in the state, and before the Kogi State Executive Council under former Governor Idris Wada approved death penalty for kidnapping and other related criminal activities in the state, Governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo states approved the death penalty for kidnappers in 2013. The Delta State House of Assembly also passed the Anti-Kidnapping Bill 2013, imposing a death sentence on any person convicted of kidnapping in the state, into law.

How Nigeria would tackle the menace remains to be seen in the face of other socio-economic and security challenges, even as the nation is held to ransom by kidnappers.
Most of the kidnappers said they engaged in it because they needed money to solve personal problems as they have no job

Deadly Kidnap Gang Holding Kano To Ransom
Daily Trust reports that the Southern part of Kano State has always been peaceful. Until now, when a gang of kidnappers have begun operation in earnest. Called ‘Garkuwa’, Daily Trust checks revealed that members of the gang are Fulani, from Senegal and Cameroon.

The group is organized to the point that they have an emblem, showing a gun and sword crossed, usually on a white flag. It was also gathered that they are in possession of sophisticated weapons, which they deploy during their activities.

The Garkuwa gang’s main targets are, ironically, Fulani resident in Kano State, especially those who own substantial numbers of cattle. Choosing to attack in the wee hours of the morning, about 2:00 to 3:00am, they arrive on motorbikes, and in large number. They always conduct thorough surveillance on targeted communities and victims before striking. Such operations, witnesses disclosed, are sometimes led by a female leader, also said to be non-Nigerian from her accent and mode of dressing.

The female leader, according to a local who encountered the group at Tarai village in Kibiya Local Government, is merciless.

Describing the group’s modus operandi, another source told Daily Trust that a number is given to a victim’s family member to communicate with the kidnappers, without police involvement. “This usually comes with a threat to harm - or even kill - the victim, if law enforcement agents are involved,” the source said.

The Garkuwa gang has been terrorizing various communities in Doguwa, Tudun-Wada, Sumaila, Rano and Kibiya local government areas. In the last three months, the gang has kidnapped about 100 people, among them nursing mothers, children, and the aged, according to the District Head of Tudun-Wada, Dankaden Kano, Dr. Bashir I. Muhammad.

The gang’s operations soon turned deadly, Daily Trust also gathered, as they killed three youths in Tudun-Wada, Kibiya and Sumaila in separate operations.

According to the District Head of Sumaila, Danruwatan Kano, Alhaji Ibrahim Ado Bayero, about 15 persons were kidnapped there. He spoke through a representative, Alhaji Ibrahim Ci-Gari, saying: “Last week Saturday, April 16, the kidnappers stormed Matigwi village and took two persons. They also returned to the same village two days later and grabbed the father of a former member of Kano State House of Assembly, Alhaji Zubairu Masu.

“The most disheartening part is that the kidnappers have informants in most of our communities. That’s our major constraint,” he said, adding that the trend is growing to alarming proportions.

In Tudun Wada local government, 17 people were kidnapped from Dariya, Nata’ala, Burum-Burum, Karafa and Gazobi villages, Dr. Muhammad has confirmed. He said four people have so far paid ransoms to secure release, but the rest remain with their captors.

Also, the Garkuwa gang demands for protection money, sometimes as high as two million naira, so they will not be kidnapped.

Dr. Muhammad also told Daily Trust that the kidnappers recently sent letters to five people in his constituency, warning them to either pay ₦2.5m each or be kidnapped. “Their victims include farmers, tea sellers and all kinds of people,” he said, adding: “This is how the gang has been terrorizing us on a daily basis.” He said people in his domain have resorted to prayer, because the situation was a helpless one.

In Doguwa local government, the stepmother of a serving lawmaker in the State House of Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Ibrahim Riruwai was kidnapped sometime in March this year. “They were so bold, and told me that since I am an influential figure in the state, I should pay sixty million naira ransom.” He later paid ₦2 million before she was released.

Riruwai said kidnapping has become rife in the Southern part of Kano recently, and until something urgent is done, it will continue.

Also in early April, a nursing mother and her baby were picked in Yar-Labi, while a pregnant woman in Burum-Burum village, both in Tudun Wada local government. 

The gang, led by their female commander, stormed Kibiya town in Kibiya local government two weeks ago and kidnapped three persons, including the wife of an ex-member of Kano State House of Assembly, Alhaji Garba Shehu Famar. The two others, a mother and her son were later released while the wife of the ex-lawmaker remains in captivity.

Last week, the kidnappers sent letters to five people in Tudun Wada town ordering them to either pay ₦2.5 million each or be kidnapped, the chairman, Kano state chapter of Fulafulbe Development Association of Nigeria (FULDAN), Alhaji Sanusi Baffa Dawakin-Tofa, confirmed. He added that also in Diwa village, five people were kidnapped within the space of 48 hours.

Dawakin-Tofa added: “From what we gather, the kidnappers aren’t Nigerians. They have collected so much ransom money from people in the various communities they have attacked.”

The District Head of Doguwa local government, Alhaji Aliyu Harazimi, said the Fulani residing in Falgore Forest have now started relocating to Doguwa town, due to persistent kidnappings. “My people have now resorted to self-defence. When the bandits stormed Kudara village recently and kidnapped three, the residents resisted and engaged the kidnappers until they ran for their lives. The trend has now subsided in Doguwa but we are still praying,” he said.

Aliyu Isa Kibiya said the kidnappers are heartless. “They ride in on motorbikes wielding sophisticated weapons. Even if you flee, they would chase you and grab you,” he said, adding that apart from kidnapping, the gang also steals motorcycles.

Another resident of Sumaila local government, Kabiru Idi Gomo, said the menace of kidnapping is massive in the area. “We’re living in fears, as the gang operates almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Also on Thursday, April 28, five more suspected kidnappers, among them a notorious armed robber who has been trailed by the police for two years, were arrested in Nata’ala village, Tudun Wada local government.

However, State Police Commissioner, Alhaji Maigari A. Dikko said although he was recently deployed to Kano, police records of people kidnapped in the Southern part of the state is less than the 100 claimed by some locals. He said they recorded only 21 cases from February to date, and 12 of them have been rescued. He also said 14 people were arrested in connection with kidnaps, with six of them confessing their participation.

The commissioner explained to Daily Trust that four of the confessed kidnappers were arrested in Doguwa, one each in Kibiya and Sumaila and Tudun Wada local government areas. He said: “The kidnappers operate a syndicate and from our findings some of them are from Niger, Kaduna and Bauchi states. They only come to Kano on invitation whenever there is an operation. We have deployed men to the affected places to end the problem.”

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