By ORJI IHEANYI
But the pertinent question is: How did we get here? Recently, cases of kidnapping barely make headlines and it won’t be diffi cult to believe that it is because these events are now usual as they happen in their numbers day in, day out. Th ough kidnapping had been within the Nigerian terrain from time immemorial, anybody acquainted with its landscape would agree that it has taken another dimension as it is now motivated more by profi t rather than principle as it used to be during the heat of Niger Delta agitations. Th e truth is that the dangerous monster has arrived in the palace and is eating the children.
Who will tell the king? Instead of properties, human beings are now being stolen. Th e abduction of Chibok girls since 2014 in Borno state and their ‘piece-meal’ release; the reports of parents kidnapping their own children; the rampant kidnap of school children in their schools, and travellers en-route; the kidnap of German archaeologists in Kaduna state; the Evans entrepreneurial kidnapping fl air that made media sensation not quite long ago, to mention but a few, are indications that kidnapping in Nigeria has transmogrifi ed over the years to become an industry with entrepreneurial dexterity where kidnappers are fast adapting to business models in response to prevailing market conditions.
With numerous employees adherent to the standard principles of segregation and integration of duties, they even demand a second payment after the fi rst has been made, underlining their confi dence and expertise in drawing negotiations; and hold their victims for months without detection. In whatever form however, kidnapping is an enemy with masterminds that are heartless, cold blooded and faceless. It is one of the reasons why the country remains at the bottom of favourite tourist or investment destinations compounding the ever existing problems of unemployment and under-development which in turn invariably encourages more insecurity and system instability in the country.
For this basic premise not to be faulty, and to avoid false premises leading to false precedence, kidnapping is not only a Nigerian menace, but a global one. It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home well over $500 million each year – and rising. According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800, 000 children are reported missing each year in the US. Th us, the diff erence lies in the eff orts of governments in raising the bar against kidnapping by increasing the risk and reducing the rewards of kidnapping. Since to hope for the best is to prepare for the worst, the Police under IG Ibrahim Idris seems to be aware of the enormity of the task at hand as they have infused some advanced level of sophistication in intelligence gathering and overall crime fi ghting that have set Nigeria on the same page with other serious countries in raising the bar against kidnapping. Th is is the crux of the matter.
Th e kernel of the issue therefore is that despite the manpower shortages and inadequate operational equipments, the Nigeria Police under IG Ibrahim, through training and use of modern technology, had made hundreds of arrests of kidnap suspects which have gone a long way in dousing tension and making kidnapping more risky and less lucrative in Nigeria. But the heart of the contest is: Can the police alone stop the kidnapping problem in Nigeria?
Th is is the theme of the clarion call. In raising a bar against this dangerous enemy called kidnapping, all hands must be on deck – both the leaders and the led. Naturally, Charles Darwin in his book, the ‘Origin of Species’ emphasized that “one general law leading to the advancement of all organic beings are: multiply, vary, let the strongest live and the weakest die”. To check the excesses of man, the cultures of consequences need to be institutionalized in our system: consequences for doing right and consequences for doing wrong. Empty moral grandstanding does not come in handy if we must combat this enemy and win.
Be that as it may, greed has been fi ngered as one of the root causes of kidnapping. Mahatma Gandhi articulated seven deadly sins of which wealth without work; and knowledge without character are among. A culture that does not attach dignity to hard work and excellence to labour is a breeding ground for kidnappers. Since the past has this obstinate disposition to always be present and attempt to woo the future, it is needful to remember that nothing happens in our present that our history and culture cannot account for.
To curtail crimes such as kidnapping, all sources of wealth must be accountable. When this is done, spending of ransoms become a risk which itself can reduce the lustre of kidnapping. In a comparative analysis, nations such as United States and United Kingdom would maintain registration of every building structure and use Internal Revenue Services (IRS) to police and monitor individual incomes and investments to ensure accountability. If a college boy for instance buys an expensive vehicle in cash of $10, 000 and above in US, such an individual would be interrogated by the Internal Revenue Services to account for such cash payment.
For the police, the alternatives in all possible shapes shows they are living up to expectation in this fi ght against kidnapping, though much still needs to be done. IGP Idris must have found a chutzpah which he has used to awaken the professionalism and combat readiness of the Nigeria Police Force under his watch. He had earlier called for stringent punishment of kidnappers to check the menace of kidnapping in the country. According to him, some states in the country which have enacted laws to punish convicts with death penalties have not executed them. And for the rest of us, we are still draped between the tapestries of these alternatives. And unless we brace up by being patriotic, conscious of our environments, encouraging good governance and giving the Police necessary information of suspicious behaviours of people around us, these numerous arrests of suspected kidnappers made by the Police will only allay this problem for a while. Mr. Iheanyi, a public analyst, writes from Enugu