Owing to the prevalence of high profi le kidnapping in Nigeria in recent times, travellers, especially important personalities, have devised diff erent methods of evading abduction. SUNNY IDACHABA highlights these undercover tactics in this report.
Recently, along the lonely Ajaokuta-Idah road in Kogi State, a Lexus Jeep was abandoned over-night in the middle of the road not too far away from a sleepy settlement called Ojuwo-Ocha. Generally, it was assumed that the Sports Utility Vehicle had a mechanical fault. Later, it was discovered that the owner, one Ugwu Joel, who was travelling to Enugu, had been kidnapped the previous night .
Two days, later he was released Narrating his ordeal, he said the kidnappers who were mostly youths ranging between the ages of 25 to 30 years, told him that since he drives a jeep, he must be a rich man. According to Joel, they asked him to pay a ransom of N2 million. Last June, along the ever-busy Owerri Port Harcourt Expressway, precisely between Omoku and Elele in Rivers State, all the passengers in a bus were kidnapped until they secured their release few days later. Whether any ransom was paid to secure their release cannot be ascertained.
The above instances have become commonplace along the notorious Abuja-Kaduna expressway, especially around Jere, Katari and Rijana towns. In the last two years, the road has becoming one of the most dangerous roads in the country as clergymen, military offi cers and an ex minister, a serving senator as well as a diplomat, including notso-prominent persons, have at various times been kidnapped along that road. In July last year, the Sierra Leone Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, retired Major General Alfred Nelson Williams, was abducted along the notorious road on his way to attend an event at Command and Staff College, Jaji. Similarly, Malam Lawal Maidoki, the Chairman of Sokoto State Zakat and Empowerment, was seized in October. That same month, precisely on October 6, six armed men kidnapped Mrs Laurentia Laraba Malam, the immediate past Minister of Environment and her husband, Mr. Pius Malam along the same Kaduna Abuja express way.
The incident, according to reports, occurred at 7.00pm along the Bwari/ Jere axis of the express way. Last month, a Kaduna businessman Alhaji Sheriff Abidu Yazid was shot dead by gunmen on the KadunaAbuja Expressway, while his wife was taken away.
The killing, according to reports, occurred at Kakau village, about 200 metres away from the Kaduna Toll gate. Reports indicated that he was driving from Abuja and was just a kilometer to Kaduna metropolis when the deceased was shot at the neck by the kidnappers. In fact, villagers said when they heard gunshots, they quickly alerted the police who were just a stone throw away.
But the gunmen disappeared into the nearby forest before the police arrived. Rather than abate, the criminals are getting bolder by the day and commuters are devising ways to beat them to stay alive. According to reports, high profile politicians and public office holders, including senators and House of Representatives members, now patronise the Kaduna-Abuja train. However, the rush has over stretched the coaches and motorists now abandon their posh cars and follow commercial transports. Blueprint Weekend’s investigations show that luxury car owners discovered that they are easy targets of kidnappers so they rather prefer to use public transport like every ‘ordinary’ Nigerian as a cover– up for security reason.
They are prepared to endure the hardships that ordinary Nigerians go through daily in public transport on Nigerian roads. That is not all, many of them wear rag-tag clothes as they disguise as a poor travelers. This trend appears to be paying off though, but reports also indicate that kidnappers have equally discovered this latest trick and have therefore, devised a thorough scrutiny of all travellers in public transport as a way of discovering undercover ‘big fi shes’. Mallam Inuwa Abdul, a driver who often plies the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway while narrating this latest twist to Blueprint Weekend said in the month of August alone, his vehicle was waved down by kidnappers in military uniform twice between Jere town and Kaduna.
He said while the men copiously surveyed the passengers, everyone was wondering what they wanted since their mode of search was not synonymous with the usual checks carried out by genuine military personnel on the roads. According to him, one of the kidnappers asked a passenger where he works. He further said that they even asked another to surrender his mobile phone which the man did, while they scrolled through probably in search of bank transactions.
The commercial driver said it was their way of identifying rich people hiding among indigent members of the society to travel. The kidnapping attempt, according to him, was foiled by an incoming military vehicle which forced the abductors or fake soldiers to scamper into the bush with the man’s phone. Recently, a senior management staff of an Abuja-based newspaper who preferred to be anonymous also had a similar experience. In his own case, even though he is not fortunate to have the look of someone with a ‘deep pocket’, he said the kidnappers who stopped the vehicle in which he travelled, looked at him with serious suspicion.
However, he said after telling the kidnappers that he was a retired teacher, who was just travelling to collect his pension, he was allowed to go. However, the police are not resting on their oars. MrMoshood Jimoh, the Force Public Relations Offi cer, in a chat with our correspondent, advised Nigerians that “Security is everybody’s business since it involves securing lives.
As far as this latest twist in kidnapping is concerned, there is nothing short of alertness, but the police is equal to the task”. In spite of the heavy deployment of police men, the joint military patrol, the visit of the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris to Rijana and a similar visit by retired General AbduRahman Dambazzau, the Minister of Interior, including the redeployment of all policemen that were previous serving along Kaduna-Abuja road, the 200 kilometre express way remains one of the most dangerous in the country. Incidentally, it’s the major road to both the North West and North East geopolitical zones.