In the face of the surge in abduction across the country, expectations are that the police, constitutionally mandated to protect lives and property of Nigerians, will form a line of defence against the daredevil kidnappers. But how wrong they are?
The police are also seeking protection against the kidnappers because they too, like ordinary citizens, are susceptible to abduction. In the last couple of weeks, many policemen have been subjected to harrowing experiences, like other abducted Nigerians and foreigners alike, in the hands of kidnappers, who have become the lords of several cities in the country.
In February, armed men abducted a policewoman, Sergeant Bola, attached to Ketu Police Division in Ikosi Ejirin Local Council Development Area of Lagos State. Bola and four other people were abducted at Omu-Ijebu in a commercial bus.
The kidnappers were so daring that they contacted the sergeant’s boss, the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Ketu Police Division, and demanded a N5 million ransom. The money was later reduced to N200,000 which was paid before she was freed. After their arrest, the suspected kidnappers confessed that they also collected N300,000 from the sergeant’s family.
If those who kidnapped the sergeant were daring, about the same time, some other gunmen were so audacious that they abducted the DPO in charge of Area C, Bridge Head, Asaba, Delta State, a Superintendent of Police (SP), Mr. Valentine Mbalu. The gunmen accosted the DPO between Umunede and Igbodo towns on the Benin- Asaba-Onitsha Expressway while returning from Agbor in Ika South Local Government Area to Asaba.
The five-man gang, which abducted the DPO, demanded N20 million to set him free. During negotiations over ransom, the kidnappers reportedly asked the family to quickly bring energy drinks for Mbalu because he was weak. But they suddenly switched off the phone in the midst of negotiations. That was the last time the abductors contacted his family.
After more than two weeks in the kidnappers’ den, Mbalu’s body was reportedly found in the bush close to the spot where he was abducted.
That on its own suggests an indictment on the part of the police, the institution which Mbalu worked and died, although needlessly, for.
If the police had swung into action immediately the DPO was abducted, the story would have, probably, been different. With the way police handled and bungled the DPO’s abduction and eventual murder, it is doubtful his colleagues, especially the rank and file, would be willing to stick out their necks in fighting criminals, particularly the kidnappers, who, it seems, have taken over the control of security apparatus in the country.
For the police to be able to successfully fight kidnapping, officers and men of the force must be adequately motivated in terms of their welfare, reward and remuneration. This will greatly boost their morale, which is necessary in winning any war.
Also, the Anti-Kidnapping Units of the various police commands must be adequately equipped, in terms of modern communication gadgets, sophisticated weapons and vehicles. Also, fighting criminality, especially abduction, requires scientific policing.
That is, the police must out-think the kidnappers, some of who are well-educated, and wait for them at the point of abduction. That is the only way police can beat the kidnappers at their own game. In the case of Lagos and Ogun states, kidnapping thrives in Epe, Ikorodu, Arepo and other coastal communities.
It shows that the former militants cum kidnappers flushed out of the creeks of Ikorodu have returned to their former territory. So, it will not be out of place if the military can repeat the July 2016 raid on the criminals tagged: Operation Awase, which forced the kidnappers to flee Ikorodu and its environs. This time, it must be extended to the Epe axis.
Many states now have laws prescribing death penalty for kidnapping, but it seems the states lack the political will to enforce the law.
For instance, the Anti- Kidnapping Law in Lagos prescribes death penalty if anyone dies during kidnapping or life imprisonment when no death is recorded. If Lagos and other states could muster the will to enforce the law, it will stem the tide of abduction. Also, other states need to take a cue from the states fighting abduction by domesticating the Anti-Kidnapping Law.
Only a coordinated war on kidnapping will, if not eliminate, reduce the menace of abduction to the barest level.