The rising insecurity in Nigeria is manifesting in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as over 30 people have been kidnapped in the first few weeks of 2021.
Locals and some security officials said many kidnap incidences were quietly resolved by families of the victims because they don’t want to be in the news.
Findings revealed that the abductions were mostly carried out in the suburbs of the capital city.
Some of the freed hostages narrated their harrowing experiences in the hands of their abductors even as they claimed that they sold all their possessions to pay the ransom.
The latest kidnap incident happened a week ago at Tungan Maje, a suburb of Abuja, where a retired immigration officer and four other residents of the town were abducted and released two days after the ransom was paid.
It was gathered that ransom demanded by the kidnappers ran into hundreds of millions of naira in the period under review while undisclosed amounts have been paid to the bandits who abduct and hold their victims hostage in forests in neighbouring states of Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa and Kaduna.
The 80-year-old father of the incumbent chairman of Bwari Area Council, John Makama, who was a victim of kidnappers recently, narrated how they invaded his house and took him alongside two women in Tokulo village.
The chairman’s father said when the kidnappers invaded his house and insisted on taking him and his wife, he begged them to spare his wife due to her health challenges.
“You can imagine at my age, I had to go down on my knees to beg the kidnappers to spare my wife when they insisted on abducting her along with me. I told them that she can’t trek a long distance and she may end up collapsing on the way,” he said.
He said the kidnappers later spared his wife and whisked him and two other women away, even as he said the kidnappers refused to allow him to wear his slippers.
“They didn’t even allow me to put on my shoes or slippers and I can’t trek for even 2 miles because of my old age; I am above 80 years, but they forced me to trek inside the forest without shoes or slippers,” he said.
Another kidnapped victim, who preferred anonymity, said he had a horrible experience the day he was abducted alongside his 18-year-old son.
He said the kidnappers bound his hands and legs with that of his son with a rope which tore into their flesh; while they (kidnappers) negotiated with his family members about the ransom.
He said they were abducted at midnight and were made to trek through a thick forest for 12 hours before they arrived at the kidnappers’ den.
According to him, the kidnappers fed them with spaghetti and beans in the morning and evening; and they were held for 11 days until N3 million ransom was paid.
An elder brother of another kidnapped victim, who simply identified himself as Danjuma, recounted how his younger brother’s wife and his two sisters were abducted a month ago.
He said the experience had put the entire family in disarray after their abductors demanded N6m ransom.
He said his brother’s wife, who was pregnant, alongside his two sisters, trekked through the forest and climbed a big hill before they arrived at the kidnapper’s hideout.
He said the kidnappers tied up the hostages before they contacted them and demanded N6m ransom, adding that the family was able to raise N3.5m to secure their release.
“The entire family was thrown into confusion, not because of anything but because of my brother’s wife who was pregnant when they kidnapped her as well as two of our sisters,” he said.
“The family had to dispose of some valuable properties to raise the ransom after intensive negotiation with the kidnappers,” he said.
Another victim who was kidnapped two weeks ago, while speaking with our reporter under the condition of anonymity, narrated how his abductors maltreated him while in their den.
“They tied both my hands and two legs, while they used a small cloth to blindfold me for the 11 days they held me hostage in their den,” he said.
“They only untied me when they wanted to give me small food, which is only beans, once a day, after which they would tie me again and continue negotiation with my family members,” he said.
He said he was forced to trek inside the bush from 2 am on the day he was abducted till the next morning bare-footed.
“It got to a point that I almost collapsed as I couldn’t walk again, but one of the gunmen threatened to kill me if I refused to continue trekking.”
Some residents of the FCT have blamed the upsurge in cases of kidnappings across the territory on government’s failure to put appropriate security measures in place to tackle the menace.
They said it was unfortunate that the FCT, which is the capital of the country, has been taken over by bandits and kidnappers.
A prominent traditional ruler in the FCT, who preferred anonymity for security reasons, said the rise in kidnap incidents across the FCT was a result of lack of government’s willingness to work with traditional rulers and relevant stakeholders at the grassroots to tackle cases of kidnappings.
According to him, there are 17 prominent traditional rulers across the territory that the government ought to have engaged to tackle the cases of banditry and kidnapping in the territory.
“We have 17 prominent traditional rulers across the FCT and I expect the government to sit down with them and fine-tune how they can engage our local hunters and vigilantes to tackle the kidnappers but that has not been done,” he said.
According to him, the government should also engage the newly recruited police constables and local hunters provide them with weapons because since they are indigenes and know every forest, they are in a better position to“For example, the government deployed a joint taskforce around Gaube-Kabbi communities in the FCT but after some time, the joint task force left the place and these kidnappers have returned and continuing with their atrocities,” he said.
Another traditional ruler, who also preferred anonymity, attributed the increase in kidnap incidents in the FCT to activities of informants, whom he said are always in the midst of people, tapping information about what is happening in the society and passing same to the kidnappers.
“If the government can engage some of the trusted state security service officers, these informants can easily be arrested because they are in our midst every day,” he added.
A senior civil servant, who preferred anonymity, noted that as long as families or relatives struggle to source for ransom to pay abductors of their loved ones, cases of kidnapping will continue to rise on daily basis in the FCT.
“Some weeks ago, I learnt that a woman who went to deliver the ransom for the kidnapped orphans in Abaji was held hostage after the kidnappers had collected the ransom,” he said.
The FCT police command spokesperson, ASP Mariam Yusuf, declined a request for an interview with the Commissioner of Police, Bala Ciroma, over the rising incidents of kidnappings in the territory.
She also refused to comment on the issue, saying it was a deliberate security measure to keep the kidnappers in the dark about what measures the command is taking to fight the crime.
However, Daily Trust Saturday gathered that the command has arrested a community head in Zuba chiefdom and three others over suspicions of their involvement in the kidnapping.
The suspects were believed to have been aiding kidnap gangs operating between Zuba and Giri Junction, on the Zuba-Gwagwalada Expressway in Gwagwalada Area Council of the FCT.
Also, the FCT spokesperson had in a statement on February 6, 2021, said they have arrested some kidnappers.
She gave the names of the suspects as Frank Ozor, 26; Nweke Uche, 19; Chester Uzor, 25; Chukwu Bethrand, 27; Chukwu Samuel, 25; and Kelechi Ngene, 26.
She said the suspects who had earlier abducted three persons were arrested by police operatives on routine patrol while attempting to relocate one of their victims.
According to her, “Further investigation led to the successful rescue of two other victims who identified the suspects.
“Consequently, the Command has deployed covert and overt crime-fighting strategies to strengthen security across the Federal Capital Territory especially areas with cumbersome terrain.
“In addition, the Command has launched a strategic counter-kidnapping operation to checkmate the emerging security concerns.
“While urging residents to remain calm and law-abiding, the Command enjoins FCT residents to report any suspicious persons or activities around their vicinity at the nearest police division,” she said.
From Terkula Igidi, Haruna Ibrahim & Abubakar Sadiq Isah