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Author Name: Ifedigbo Nze Sylva
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Now that kidnapping has assumed a new dimension
Author: Ifedigbo Nze Sylva | February 16, 2009

Security tops as one of President YarâAduaâs seven point agenda which many have described as seven âsleepingâ agendaâs due to the lack of any clear cut direction from the Government towards the actualization of any. Security like the other six ill fated agendaâs of the Government has remained a huge challenge and with every passing day, it becomes increasingly apparent from occurrences that the Country in not only insecure, but its level of insecurity is actually assuming graver dimensions. If perhaps in our uniquely Nigerian nature of deemphasizing issues or better put getting use to situations such that we now begin to consider them a normal way of life, we consider things like armed robbery, car snatching, burglary, one chancing, and such other serious everyday issues of insecurity as trivial, one which we can not afford to threat with the same kid gloves is the issue of Kidnapping which is gradually assuming the status of a trade in Nigeria today. Before now, it was considered a Niger Delta problem. It started with the kidnap of white expatriate workers by so called Niger Delta activists, who we now know (from their activities), to be essentially criminals, then to traditional rulers and children of top government functionaries including infants as well as their aged parents. On each occasion, a huge ransom is demanded, often running into millions of naira. Though the release of the victims was always effected, Government always claimed it had not paid any body the demanded ransom. Perhaps taking a cue from the largely successful exploits of their brothers in the Niger Delta, the youths in the South East soon adopted the trade and it soon became common news to hear of the disappearance of business magnets and notable persons with the accompanying demand of some millions of Naira. The trade has even assumed a dimension in which one didnât need to be white, or to be a politician or a business mogul to be a victim, just any body with a hostage value whose relatives can raise some money were kidnapped including priests and religious leaders. It has even been speculated in some quarter that some people now arrange to be kidnapped so as to either force money out of their parents or their employers. So has the kidnapping business become so lucrative under the nose of a Government that claims security is one of its agenda. Never have we heard that the kidnappers were rounded up by security operatives and the hostages released. All we hear is about some negotiations and subsequent release with a claim by Government that the demanded ransom was not paid. How then was the magic done? We all knew the government was instead of uprooting this weed from its root busy taking the easy was out of negotiating and doing business with kidnappers. It is thus safe to state that the Government legitimized the kidnap trade and because it was that good, many more youths joined in and now we have a monster that threatens to do us all in. All along, many commentators had called on the government to take drastic steps to end the trend to no avail. The advice was borne out of the strong fear that if the kidnappers ventured out of their bases in the south south and south east and succeeded, we might as well have on our hands a problem in the magnitude of post Saddam Iraq. The first indication that we have clearly gotten to that level came yesterday (Thursday feb 12th) in the kidnapping right here in the hitherto thought safe capital city of Abuja of the daughter of one of our Federal Law makers from her base at the University of Abuja. With the kidnap came the demand for 100million naira and characteristically, the family and our security operatives are currently negotiating-beating down the price- to secure her release, instead of utilizing every machinery at their disposal to track down these rascals. I suspect that a fair enough price would soon be reached and the girl will be released. While I understand the anxiety the family of the victim are enveloped in and how satisfied they would be to have back their daughter at whatever cost, I fear that such a successful trail will open the doors for many others as it will boost the confidence of the kidnappers who would now conclude that Abuja was not a âno go areaâ after all. The consequence is better imagined. It means that virtually all our political office holders who have moved their aged parents and relatives with any hostage value whatsoever to Abuja for safety might as well begin to seek for alternative measures. Think also of the Children in primary and secondary schools, and their working wives. Perhaps they would soon be requiring the services of armed police men to escort them every where. This is really not the kind of society you want to live in whether or not you fall into the category of people that could be kidnapped. Insecurity of lives and property is a matter that affects all and now that we are having it happen very close to those whose duty it is to fashion ways of stopping it, shall we now expect a proactive response? Kidnapping has remained attractive because it is lucrative. If the kidnappers never get their demands no matter how beaten down during the so called negotiation process, they would not remain in the trade. And because our security operatives have showed utter incapability to in the process of discussing with these hoodlums round them up, none is discouraged to join. I however wish to opine that if the demands are not paid, kidnapping will stop. All we need is some courage on the part of both Government and the families of victims. The people doing these things are normal human beings not some lunatic or mentally deranged persons whose actions can not be predicted. Because they do not have any motive other than to make easy money, I donât believe that they will harm their victims in any way and reports till date does not indicate that any hostage has even been at the least maltreated. In addition, stiffer penalties must be spelt out for kidnapping. A few days ago, the River State Governor whose domain is sort of the safe haven of kidnapers suggested a death sentence which I wish to agree to. Until kidnappers understand that the penalty for what they do is that heavy, they would not be discouraged. But it does not stop there. Laws have to be made operational and you can only test a law when you have a suspect and this is where our security operatives come in. kidnappers are criminals and I do not believe our laws allows for criminals to be pampered. They must be hunted down and made to face the law if we hope to end this senselessness. These persons live among us in the society, they make phone calls that can be traced, and they lodge their loot in bank accounts and spend same here in the country. The police, SSS , Civil defense Corps and indeed the Army must wake up to their responsibilities of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians. If we can not handle this, what then is the justification for the huge sums voted to these organizations yearly? With our daily crude output dropping from 2.5 million barrels to about 1.4 million barrels and oil companies pulling out expatriate oil workers out of the Niger delta for good as a result of the activities of kidnappers, the challenges we face as a nation especially in the face of worsening global economic meltdown which has seen crude prices drop to as low as 35 dollars per barrel can not be over emphasized. Mr. President and his team must now show Nigerians that security is not just another accidental idea of one of his personal assistants who drafted the seven points, but a genuine carefully thought out objective of this administration. It wouldnât tell well of this administration if we all are forced to go hiring personal body guards for our security just like we now depend on personal generators for power. Sylva Nze Ifedigbo

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"Coming In From The Cold" - J.O.J.    Pomona, California, U.S.A.    February 17, 2009
Thank you Mr. Sylva Nze Ifedigbo. I have read a couple of your articles and you are one out of a few Nigerians that I dearly and truely respect.

I only wish someone like you can get into a position of power and help do the right things for our nation. You seem to be watching and very concerned with a lot of societal problems Nigeria faces.

I like your intelligent analyses of these problems and the solutions that you proffer. Thank you.

President Yar'Adua doesn't have time to solve our nations' problems as he is so consumed with taking care of his health. All he does is, once in a while, issue some rhetorics to show semblance of being concerned, but with no follow up.

The bottomline is that Nigeria has a foundational problem. The problem is rule of law and its enforcement. As long as we have this centralized Nigerian Police Force (NPF), we will go nowhere. The NPF WILL NOT and CANNOT work, period.

How can it work? Up till today, the NPF has not been able to fish out the criminals who killed Chief Bola Ige, the number one law enforcement officer of our nation. And you think they don't know?

Each state MUST have it's own PF for adequate law enforcement. It can be designed so the state governor cannot use the state police to intimidate his or her opponents, which is what most people fear about state police.

But we know the people who don't want that to happen; and we know why. They know that, with state police, there will no longer be domination, manipulation and intimidation from the center, and each state will be able to develop and progress at a different but progressive rate.

Any state with adequate law enforcement will curb crimes better, protect lives and property better, have peace, encourage investment, progress faster, etc. There may be some downside to having state police (nothing is perfect), but progress will be enhanced.

The people at the top are enjoying the rot and the inadequacy of our current system. What do you expect from a government that lies about how they negotiate with these kidnappers?

Nigeria remains the laughing stock of Africa. We are supposed to be the nation that should dictate the tune in Africa. Nigeria remains the colossus with the feet of clay. When Nigeria sneezes, no country in Africa catches anything; instead Nigeria itself has headache.
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