Kidnappings: ‘Police Must Earn People’s Trust’

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Alleged criminals apprehended by the Kogi State Police Command… recently PHOTO: JOHN AKUBO

As Kogi Heaves Sigh Of Relief 

FOR residents of Kogi State, the recent respite in the spate of kidnappings is a most welcome development. It would, however, last only when stakeholders work conscientiously towards its sustenance.

At the peak of the saga, Inspector General of Police (IG), Solomon Arase, had deployed 350 specially trained officers to combat the menace, a move, which appears to have yielded the present quiet experienced in the state. The police in Kogi in recent times have also busted robbery gangs, recovering arms and ammunition in the process

. “There has been tremendous improvement in the security situation, based on reports. People are no longer panicky. But the police should give members of the public dedicated telephone lines they can dial in times of emergencies,” said Idris Miliki, Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights in Lokoja.

Miliki urged the state government to organise a security summit where all stakeholders could air their views at a roundtable, adding that security is a collective responsibility.

“We need some new strategies that would incorporate the citizenry. If you have a security challenge of this nature, you have to rely on citizens to get adequate information,” said Maliki, calling on the police to carry civil society groups along. One resident, Hassan Adamu, said that for Kogi to continue to enjoy peace, members of the security agencies must earn the trust of people in the state. “The suspicion the ordinary man has towards the average policeman must be overcome,” said Adamu.

“Also, the police must be seen as incorruptible. In a situation where people have doubts about whose side uniformed officers are, it becomes difficult to divulge key information to them.

Nobody wants to speak and at the end of the day be hunted down for talking,” added Adamu On his part, Lokoja-based legal practitioner, Joel Usman, said that although kidnapping in the state is not altogether new, it assumed monstrosity when it became an almost daily affair.

He noted that the sudden surge in cases of abduction might have caught security agencies unprepared. He, however, commended the IG for bringing in personnel trained in anti-kidnap methods. He expressed optimism that the newly deployed officers would train colleagues on ground on how to combat the menace.

“We will use all that is available within the Nigerian Police Force to secure life and property,” said Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Emmanuel Ojukwu, promising that the outfit will continue to give adequate protection to all Nigerians.

The high profile kidnap of a judge without any clue on his whereabouts was one of the most disturbing cases of abductions in the state. Although, about 15 people were reportedly kidnapped between June 2013 and June 2014, with some of the cases ‘solved’ from the prying eyes of the media, none created ripples like that of the learned judge.

It would be recalled that a gang of three armed men abducted Abayomi as he went to the office on May 25. The men took him away in his Toyota Yaris car, after killing his orderly, Cpl Usman Musa. Of the catalogue of kidnap cases, most are high profile. Curiously, after regaining freedom, some victims insist no ransom was paid for their release.

But rise in incidences of abduction may suggest that money has actually been changing hands, and that some black-hearted folks think business is good. The first reported case of kidnapping was in 2013 when one Mustapha was abducted from his home in Ihima, Okehi Local Government Area.

His body was found in a grave in a forest about six weeks after. In August of the same year, gunmen abducted the younger brother of former Governor Abubakar Audu, Alhaji Ibrahim Audu, in Aloma, Ofu Local Government Area. He was released after two weeks. Not long after that, the bursar of the Federal Polytechnic in Idah Local Government Area was kidnapped. His younger brother who was with him was killed in the process.

The bursar, however, regained freedom after three weeks in captivity, and following payment of an undisclosed ransom. In February 2014, the wife and daughter of former Chairman of Adavi Local Government, Salihu Adaviruku, were kidnapped in their home. The woman and her daughter spent over three weeks in the kidnappers’ den before they were released.

Again an undisclosed ransom was paid. Barely a month after the release of Adaviruku’s family members, two sons of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Momoh-Jimoh Lawal, were kidnapped at his residence in Okene, Okene Local Government Area.

The children were held captive for over two months due to alleged inability of the Speaker to pay the ransom demanded. Though the police arraigned five women in court in connection with the abduction, the case is yet to see the light of day. On May 28, 2014, Hajia Hawawu Bello, mother of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fair Plus Transport, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was kidnapped at her Nagazi residence in Adavi Local Government Area.

When the kidnappers returned to the eastern axis of the state, the Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Mathew Akpata, was abducted. Luck, however, ran out on the men; their car was involved in an accident and they took to their heels. Villagers nearby brought out a distraught rector from the boot of the car.

Also on May 31, 2014, Registrar of the same polytechnic, Abu Kazim, was abducted from his house at the premises of the institution. Another high profile kidnapping, which elicited global outrage was the abduction of 80-year-old American Missionary, Rev. Phyllis Sortor.

The state Commissioner for Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Stephen Mayaki and six others were also abducted recently in Osara, Adavi Local Government.

Another chapter in the kidnap saga has been the abduction of Chinese workers. Since November 2013, when a worker was kidnapped in Ganaja village, a suburb of Lokoja metropolis, kidnapping has taken a different dimension.

It was alleged that the company the Chinese man worked for paid ransom to the culprits against advice by security experts, a situation that led to the kidnap of seven more Chinese workers.

Fallout of the abduction of the Chinese expatriates has been delay in finishing repairs on township roads, said Commissioner for Works, Mr. Onama Godwin.

The Kogi State Government, meanwhile, has offered a N5m reward for anyone who can volunteer credible information that would lead to the apprehension of kidnappers anywhere in the state.

The governor, who spoke at the police headquarters, Lokoja, during a recent familiarization visit to the State Command called for better cooperation between members of the public and security agencies.

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