Kidnapping in Nigeria has become a monster that seems to have defied solution. The menace of hostage taking is being felt by virtually every strata of the society.
This business of stealing humans dates back to 2006 in the oil rich Niger Delta region where oil multinational expatriates were abducted as a means of agitation against the neglect and devastation of the environment as a result of oil exploration and exploitation. But the oil multinationals in order to secure the release of the expatriate had to pay ransom.
At present, the crime has assumed a frightening dimension such that everyone is now vulnerable. The daily occurrence of the blood business has become so worrisome that the rich are no longer the only “valuable commodity” but school children, housewives, the rich and poor and the elderly are not being spared in the dastardly hostage for ransom.
In the past months in Bayelsa State, there has been several cases of high profile abduction in homes, roads and highways as well as the creeks, rivers and the sea. The latest was the news of the kidnap of the state correspondent of The Guardian Newspaper, Julius Osahon. The news caused apprehension amongst members of the pen fraternity and Bayelsans alike, wondering why a journalist whose responsibility is to pin-point the danger posed by insecurity and other criminal activities currently faced by the country and looking at ways to ensure a safe Nigeria for everyone to live.
Osahon and other passengers while traveling to Delta State from Yenagoa in a Sunny Eru bus were intercepted by unknown gunmen suspected to be kidnappers, along the Patani axis of the East West Road, shooting sporadically before being whisked away by their abductors leading to the unfortunate death of the bus driver.
Condemning the kidnap of their colleague, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) Bayelsa Council and affiliate chapels called for the unconditional release of Mr. Julius Osahon, stating that journalists were not rich but rendering service to humanity with meagre pay as they are supposed to be protected instead of being targets of inhumane treatment.
The Bayelsa Guardian correspondent spent about five days in the kidnappers den before he was freed to rejoin his family and loved ones.
Between last year and early this year, there have been countless high profile cases of abduction witnessed in Bayelsa. These include the abduction of the mother of the Secretary to the Government of Bayelsa State, father of the Chairman of Ogbia LGA, Pa Turner, the owner of a popular night club in Yenagoa, an Igbo businessman and owner of Lossy supermarket in Yenagoa, Mr.Jephter Robert Yekorogha, cousin of former president Goodluck Jonathan, Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Mr Federal Otokito, an expatriate that was working at Amassoma-Igbedi road construction and others.
Despite being killed by security operatives in the business of kidnapping, these youths don’t want to hands off this illegitimate business due to huge ransom paid to them by relations of victims.
Given the daredevil manner of their operation and the level of weapons at their disposal, the security agencies should check in flocks of small and light arms and ammunition into the country and carry out special operation to mop up illegal possession of arms.
We are of the opinion that politicians need to play roles in curtailing the vices amongst the youths by making sure that monies meant for projects are ploughed into areas that will help curb unemployment, and take idle persons off the streets so as not to resort to Kidnapping and hostage taking as a means of sustenance.
Since some of the kidnapped victims are held in residential places, as the case of Evans has shown, members of the public should be mindful of who their next-door neighbour is. Also, the alarm bells should ring in everyone when persons with unidentifiable means of livelihood begin to swim in opulence and ostentatious lifestyle.
We insist that government may also wish to collaborate with private security companies in checkmating kidnappers since it has been found that Nigeria is under-policed.
Also telecommunications companies must not fail to let the authorities know of phone lines they suspect are being used for nefarious activities. It is good that efforts are on to stop the sale of the unregistered SIM cards, this must be totally enforced.
Nigerians are well advised to report the loss of their phones and SIM cards to the police and mobile operators so that such lines can be blocked from being used by kidnappers who go about buying mobile lines with which to communicate with families of abductees.