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Kidnappings incorporated! ~ by Olusegun Adeniyi

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Although I have heard tales from victims of kidnappings who were released after ransom was paid, this was gripping. Nuhu Tanko is a gardener at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre whose two brothers were kidnapped on 31st December 2020 on the way from their village (Dakunu in Chukum local government of Kaduna) to the state capital.

According to their account, the kidnappers, clad in military camouflage, were more than 50 in number, all on motor bikes, with each carrying at least two guns. They were all masked. The two brothers were also on a motor bike which was burnt by their abductors after they were kidnapped.

At the Katarimape forest where they were taken, the duo met three other victims who, like them, had their hands and feet tied. Each day, the five captives were given a cup of water each and some local biscuits to share.

When the kidnappers eventually reached the Tanko family, they demanded a ransom of N10 million. After selling their small piece of land and everything else the family could sell, negotiations spanned three weeks.

They reached out to Tunde Ahmadu, the Yar’Adua Centre Chief Operating Officer to help raise money. Tunde was allowed to listen in on one of the calls with kidnappers who threatened to kill the two boys if the ransom money was not produced on time.

After gathering N900,000 in cash for the two (and having been warned never to involve the police if they wanted them back alive), a Tanko family ‘emissary’ took the money to a specified location in Katarimape forest as directed by the kidnappers. A few hours later, the two brothers returned home.

In lamentation, Tanko said while giving me the narrative of how the tragic saga evolved:

“Most people have left our village because of kidnappings. It’s like bandits have taken over our village and the surrounding communities. They kidnap people, kill and rape women, even if the women are pregnant.”

The pathetic picture painted by Tanko is not different from the account of Mallam Iliya Gwaram, father of one of the abducted Jangebe school girls in Zamfara State, who himself was in captivity at the time the female students were brought to join them.

“l saw the school girls being brought into where we were camped by our abductors. At first, l didn’t know who they were or where they were coming from, until l saw the face of my scared daughter looking at me.

“I quickly told some of the girls who were brought along with her and sat near me to tell my child not to show any indication that she even knew me,” Gwaram recounted after his release a few days later.

“The girls were brave enough and they kept our little secret up to the last day of their four days stay with us. l never cried in the whole of my life like l cried the day the girls were taken back because l felt it was the last time l would see my daughter.”

Asked whether the state government paid any ransom before securing his release, Gwaram gave a rather clever answer: “Look at those two women that were rescued along with me; two million naira was said to have been raised by their relatives to give to the bandits more than two months ago.

“But the money could not be traced as it was suspected that it was a different gang that intercepted the man bringing the money and took it from him.”

Yesterday, I obtained from Senator Saidu Dansadau, the chilling report of the Zamfara State committee established to find solutions to banditry and the spate of kidnappings.

Dansadau and other stakeholders in the state, including the former Inspector General of Police, M.B. Abubakar who chaired the committee, made a number of critical observations.

One, the pauperisation of local government through the hijack of their funds by governors has in turn led many frustrated young people to use drugs as their only means of escape.

Two, deployment of these young people as political thugs during electioneering campaigns and their abandonment after elections has left them no other vocation except banditry.

Three, the ease with which suspects of heinous crimes get released from police custody indicates collusion with powerful people in the state.

The committee claimed in its report that at the instance of a former governor, (name withheld), a High Court Judge in the state (name withheld) granted bail to three criminal gang leaders who were arrested at Sultan Abubakar International Airport, Sokoto.

“Three days after their release, they attacked the village of the person who volunteered information to the governor and killed six people,” the report stated.

Detailing how criminals have practically taken over the state, with some of their enablers in the military and police, as well as the colossal human and material losses suffered by Zamfara people in the process, the committee recommended the dismissal of some policemen, including one who is already retired, “for substituting the name of a murder suspect with the name of an innocent person” who was then detained and framed for the murder.”

They also recommended that ten military officers be court marshalled “for dirty involvement in escalating the menace of armed banditry, mismanagement of recovered livestock and unholy relationship with criminals.”

If there is anything the Zamfara report reveals, it is the level of collusion between criminals and unscrupulous security and military personnel. That may then explain the ease with which kidnappers now enter schools to ferry away innocent children.

The greater challenge is that the population of those we now ‘cannonise’ as bandits (for whom some people seek ‘amnesty’ and ‘reparation’) are growing every day.

But the Zamfara report makes several observations and recommendations on how to tackle the menace. I am sure there are similar reports from other states, especially in the North.

At the end, everything still boils down to leadership. There will be no solution to this national crisis until our public officials in these states and Abuja adopt the position of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State that their duty is to “enforce the law, not negotiate with bandits.”

You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com.

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