In the aftermath of the release of the 10 victims, eight students and two members of staff, who were violently abducted from the Nigeria- Turkish International School in Isheri near Lagos the other day, it is apposite to reappraise the situation and once again make some suggestions on how to tackle the scourge of kidnapping in the country.
Like most kidnap cases in Nigeria, the victims were released after a ransom was paid. In all, they spent 12 harrowing days in frightening captivity. The good news is that the scoundrels who carried out the dastardly act have been apprehended and have made useful confessions to the security agencies. For the victims, although the physical experience is over, the trauma of those horrid days will linger for some time to come. Indeed some would require the attention of social and psychological therapists to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which often torments victims of extreme violence. Still it is a happy ending. Some victims have not been so fortunate. Quite a number of victims have been known to lose their lives either during or after the ordeal. The brutal tactics which the kidnappers use in seizing their victims and the harsh treatment meted out to the hapless persons in their custody sometimes result in death.
It is an irony that in the same week that the Lagos State House of Assembly passed a bill that imposes the death sentence on kidnappers, the abductors struck in their very backyard. This is unfortunate. The fact that the death penalty has never served as a deterrent to crime was underscored by the act of brazen defiance of the Turkish School attackers. Punishments such as long jail terms or life in prison is a more humane way of dealing with such criminals.
The point has to be made that the Nigerian State must take tough measures to end kidnapping. In the example under reference, the Inspector General of Police and the Department of State Security took charge of the investigation which is commendable. But this may have happened because the victims were from the high end of society. In some cases, families and friends are left to their own devices to deal with kidnapping. While the victims are in their custody the kidnappers harangue, threaten and cajole families into parting with huge sums of money. Negotiations are carried on through telephone chats and exchanges. There have been cases too where the kidnappers went ahead to abduct a second person from the same family.
Kidnapping has, unfortunately, spread across the country. In Anambra, Enugu, Abia, Rivers, Delta, Kaduna and Bauchi states, kidnapping is still very much a menace. Sometimes in the full glare of the public the hoodlums strike. In other cases, they come as robbers in the night and take their victims away. Attacks and abductions on the highway have also been part of the modus operandi of kidnappers. Certainly, Nigeria cannot raise her hands in helplessness and allow criminals to write the script of a nation’s history.
Therefore, the Inspector General and other security chiefs, must form a crack anti-kidnapping unit which combines intelligence gathering with striking capabilities. Such a force can gather intelligence before a kidnap takes place or monitor the calls between kidnappers and their victims’ families. As it happened in the Nigeria-Turkish International School experience, men of the security agencies moved in and arrested the criminals after they collected the ransom. A special anti-kidnapping team should work in conjunction with the network carriers whose services are always employed by kidnappers for negotiations.
Kidnappers are not spirits. They are human beings. Some kingpins and their associates are usually highly visible. They live within communities; they have brothers, sisters and associates. With proper intelligence gathering, kidnapping can be nipped in the bud. Often kidnappers are known to community leaders; but out of fear of reprisals, nobody volunteers information to the security agencies. It is an open secret that Nigeria has a credible witness protection programme in place. Furthermore, general surveillance of towns and cities should be embarked on by security agencies. In the modern world, police presence in strategic positions of all cities is a sine qua non for protecting the people.
While the security agencies deserve commendation for promptly apprehending the criminals who abducted some members of staff and students of the Nigeria Turkish International School, all security chiefs should develop mechanisms and structures that could check the activities of kidnappers. The state must rise to the occasion and reassure citizens that she is on top of the security issues of the day.