Last July, when the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau (rtd) led Police Inspector General Ibrahim Idris and other police officers to Rijana, the villagers lamented that they had lost 18 people who were providing information to the police. The community, which hinted at police complicity in the incessant acts of kidnapping and banditry along the expressway, wondered how intelligence reports given to the police by the informants get to the criminals.
They said the merciless killing of 18 villagers has demoralized them from providing security agencies with intelligence about criminals in the community.
Community blames police
Former Special Assistant to ex Governor Ahmed Makarfi on Rural Development, Malam Abdulsalam Abubakar, who spoke on behalf of the community articulated the peoples dilemma.
According to him, “although, the presence of security chiefs has brought some relief to us, we are still worried following the brutal killing of our people by the kidnappers. We members of the communities around are living in fear and anxiety. We are very interested in supporting this operation with useful information; our major problem is the fear of death. Our people are now scared to give information to the police.
We have hitherto been giving information to the police but instead of seeing improvement and progress in the area of security, it is the other way round.’’ Malam Abdulsalam said that there are bad eggs among the security personnel especially the police.
He said that although the Inspector General of Police has stationed policemen at every U-turn along the expressway, with a patrol van and a minimum of 10 personnel, ‘’unfortunately, you will hear that in between, there are cases of armed robbery or kidnapping.’’ The former Special Assistant further said that ‘’if you tell a policeman that robbery or kidnapping is ongoing somewhere close by, he will tell you point blank that he will not go because he does not carry the kind of weapon criminals carry.’’
Malam Abdulsalam said that in spite of the deployment of 600 policemen to the area and ‘’not even a common chicken has been arrested.’’ He confessed that he had not been sleeping in his house since he spoke during the IGP’s last visit because the criminals may come after him.
Dambazzau promised safety for informants
In his response, General Danbazau assured that everything possible will be done to put the situation under control. “We are here because of incessant kidnapping going on in this area. Government is interested because it is its responsibility to protect lives and property and it is a promise this government made before it was elected into office.
“We see this as act of terrorism because every element of terrorism is reflecting and it must stop. I’m aware that, most of the people involved are foreigners but they cannot succeed without connivance with those that reside here in the community. It is a tragedy that anybody plying this road cannot be sure of his safe return.’’ The former Army Chief partly put the blame of connivance on youth unemployment.
Past high profile kidnappings
Many prominent Nigerians and non- Nigerians alike have been victims of kidnapping along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, stretching back to almost two years and the crime has not shown sign of abating.
On October 3, 2016, unknown gunmen kidnapped former Minister of Environment, Mrs. Laurentia Laraba Malam and her husband Paul Malam along Bwari axis of Abuja-Kaduna highway. Laraba, who served during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, was abducted on their way to Kaduna from Abuja.
The kidnappers later released their driver to convey their message of N10 million ransom to the family. According to reports, some money was paid to the kidnappers and they were released.
Sierra Leonean diplomat, ED Dangote Group
On June 30, 2016, unknown gunmen abducted Sierra Leonean Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Major General Alfred Claude-Nelson along the Kaduna-Abuja expressway. He was later released after the ransom of about N1.5 million was allegedly paid. Similarly, an Executive Director of Dangote Company, Dr Mansur Ahmed was abducted along the same road.
Alhaji Zakari Mohammed Sada, an ex-board member of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and current external auditor of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), was also a kidnappers’ victim. Alhaji Zakari was intercepted by the kidnappers around Katari along the Kaduna-Abuja highway. Also, former Kaduna state chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Audi Yaro Makama Rigachikun was shot on the leg early last year.
On March 21, 2016, President of United Church of Christ in Nigeria also known as HEKAN, Rev. Emmanuel Dziggau and two other clergymen, Rev. Yakubu Dzarma and Rev. Illiya Anto were abducted in Kakau by armed gunmen. The first two later regained their freedom after 10 days in captivity when a hefty ransom was paid by the church, but Rev. Anto, who was ill during the incident, died as a result of the ordeal. His corpse was picked up by the church.
Operation Absolute Sanity arrests 82 kidnappers
Worried by the spate of kidnapping and armed robberies along Kaduna-Abuja Highway, the IGP on July 25, 2017 launched Operation Absolute Sanity with the mandate of rooting kidnappers out of the highway. A detachment of Special Police Force, Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorism Squad and Anti-Kidnapping Unit were deployed for the assignment and barely five days later, 32 kidnappers were arrested with various kinds of guns and other dangerous weapons.
The kidnappers, who were paraded in Kateri with over 10 AK 47 rifles, belonged to four different gangs . Two days later, a five-man gang of kidnappers and another five-man gang of dare devil armed robbers were nabbed by the police. One of the robbers was shot dead during gun battle. Barely 24 days after, the Kaduna Police’s Operation Absolute Sanity also announced arrest of another set of 40 suspected kidnappers as security agents located their camps.
However, since August, there have been a visible lull in the activities of the special police squads along the highway, as the kidnappers and bandits continue to unleash terror on the surrounding villages.
Significantly, it is imperative for government to boost the people’s confidence on its ability to protect lives and property, lest more villagers will resort to self help like the people of Sabon Gaya did penultimate Sunday.