As if the violent business of kidnapping had come to stay in the country given how it continued to thrive in parts of Nigeria, abductors through their recent fatal attacks in Abuja, seem to have turned the country’s seat of political power into their New Haven. The frequency and scale of the latest incidents in Abuja are unprecedented. This is happening long after residents of Abuja had forgotten when they heaved the big sigh of relief from the perils of banditry and kidnapping. The last time a case of abduction was heard of along the Kaduna-Abuja highway was more than ten months ago when 23 people were abducted on March 1, 2023. Now, the fears and trepidations that once gripped them for years have returned to make their lives and property unsafe; this time most insecure than ever before.
On Sunday, January 7, 2024, bandits blocked the Kaduna-Abuja highway near Katari village and reportedly operated for about 45 minutes. Eye witness accounts reported that the bandits opened fire and deflated the tyres of some vehicles, which forced travellers to stop; alighting from their vehicles at gunpoint. They were thereafter moved into the bush. Media reports also indicate that the bandits, who divided themselves into two groups, also invaded Bishini and Kokore communities located along the Abuja-Kaduna highway; whisking away unspecified number of villagers.
Since after the January 7, 2024 incident along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, kidnapping became the biggest news about Abuja. That which attracted public attention most is the abduction of six female siblings alongside their father, Alhaji Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, from their home in the outskirts of Bwari town in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT). The kidnappers later released the father, asking him to go and get N60 million as ransom for the release of his daughters on or before Friday. The incident, which happened on Tuesday night, January 9, 2024 took a cruel dimension when after series of failed negotiations, the abductors kept their words by killing one of the six abductee daughters, Nabeeha, on Friday, January 12, 2024.
This was after Nabeeha’s family had pleaded with the kidnappers that they could only raise close to N30 million. Angered by the ‘poor’ response, the abductors instructed Nabeeha’s family to go and receive a ‘message’ at a location in the night. It was the shock of their lives when, at Idah junction located along Bwari-Jere Road, they found Nabeeha’s lifeless body and the bodies of three other victims brutally murdered by the criminal elements. Nabeeha was a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
While still struggling to recover from the devastating shock, the abductors called to inform Nabeeha’s grieving family that they have raised the ransom to N100 million, which must be paid before the new deadline; with a threat to kill the remaining five siblings if the ransom was not paid. Touched by the incident, Nigeria’s former minister of communications and digital economy, Prof Isa Ali Pantami, raised N50 million from a friend of his in order to secure the release of the remaining five sisters by their abductors.
Besides Nabeeha’s case, three of the 10 kidnap victims abducted from a neighbourhood in Sagwari Layout, Dutse, Abuja, on January 7, 2024, were allegedly murdered. They also sent a hard-hearted message to their families engaged in negotiating ransom that the earlier amount had been increased from the initial N60 million per victim to N100 million; meaning their families are now to pay N700 million in all.
All these are happening in parts of Abuja, where the headquarters of the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Navy, the Defence House, the Nigeria Police Force, the DSS, the MIA, the NIA, and other intelligence and security agencies are less than an hour drive. This is why the fate of Nigerians living in other parts of the country, which are hundreds of kilometres away from the presence of any security troops is better imagined. The recent attack launched by bandits on a joint military camp at Nahuta village in Katsina State illustrates the point being made here.
The current spate of brazen breach of security in the FCT by criminal elements who feel so audacious to dare the presence and strength of the country’s entire armed forces in their ‘homes’ is nothing less than a national embarrassment. The failure by those who have been trained to deal with untrained armed criminals who threaten the country’s peace and security demonstrates their unwillingness to end banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria. The failure, too, by the country’s lawmakers to promulgate relevant laws that seek to deal with all aspects of the menace is highly disappointing.
Realising all the weak links, these criminal elements lucratively turned Abuja into a harbour for ‘exporting’ kidnap victims to ‘safer’ states before their release on payment of ransom. For instance, the abductors of 23 persons in Kawu village in Bwari Area Council of the FCT recently relocated their victims to a forest around Akilbu community in Kaduna State, located along the Kaduna-Abuja highway, and have demanded five motorcycles and foodstuff from the families of the victims.
Indeed, Nigerians in several other states of the country are as unsafe as those residing in Abuja. For example, 45 passengers were on Thursday January 1, 2024 reportedly abducted by armed men in Orokam, along the Otukpo-Enugu Road in Ogbadigbo Local Government Area of Benue State. In Niger State, 17 residents were on Tuesday January 16, 2024 abducted from garam town and Zhibi community in Tafa LGA. In kaduna State, some communities in Giwa LGA recently staged a peaceful protest against incessant kidnappings in the area. Without mincing words, Nigeria is currently under siege.
Part of the problem has been the failure by security agencies to deploy technology offered by the NIN-SIM linkage to track and arrest these criminal elements that have made the country unsafe. Even without this technology, Nigerians believe that security operatives who know how and from where the bandits and kidnappers operate are just not willing to deal with the situation.
While the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, is implored to walk his talk of making the territory hot for bandits and terrorists as promised during the townhall meeting he had four days ago with residents of Bwari, President Tinubu is urged to give an ultimatum to service chiefs to end the current reign of terror unleashed by bandits. May Allah bring this unpleasant trial of Nigerians to a quick end, amin.