By Ogechi Okorie
Abuja – Nothing short of N20billion has been paid as ransom by governments and relations of kidnap victims in various parts of the country in the last two years. Information gleaned from an Intelligence Tracking Company in Nigeria also revealed that no part of the country was spared by the activities of the criminals.
The company tracked over 2000 incidences of kidnap and other violent crimes across the country in the past five years. According to the information, Nigerians have paid out billions to kidnappers and bandits in different areas of the country. Investigations revealed that kidnappers and bandits made over N20 billion in 500 attacks they carried out in two years from January 2019 to May 2020.
This is up from the N9 billion which they made in nine months between June 2011 and March 2012. A survey by S B Morgan recently said families of victims and government paid N9 billion. From the North to the South and the East to the West, kidnappers are emboldened daily to carry out their nefarious activities.
It is said that currently, Nigeria has the highest rate of kidnap-for ransom cases besides Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Experts attributed this to the involvement of organised violent groups, such as militants, bandits and Boko Haram insurgents, who use abduction as the oxygen of their insurgency. They engage in single or group abduction as a means of generating funds for their activities.
It will be recalled that families of the recently released students of the Greenfield University said they parted with N280 million to secure the release of 14 students who were kidnapped along with nine others on April 14, 2021. In addition, they also gave eight motorcycles to the abductors who had demanded for 10 and the sum of N500 million as ransom. Currently families of over 130 students of an Islamiya School in Tegina, Niger State are running from pillar to post in order to raise the ransom which the kidnappers of the pupils who are between the ages of four years and 10 years are demanding.
Initially, they asked for N105 million but the parents said they were able to rake in N11 million, but this only irked the abductors to increase the ransom to N200 million. President, Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake, early in the year told a bewildered nation that the members of his community paid N900 million as ransom to abductors across the 12 local government areas in their locality. This, he said, has continued to impoverish them as they can no longer go their farms. He said: “Our poor, vulnerable people paid over N900m as ransom to criminals in 2020.
“This is a minimal and conservative estimate. These are cases reported to us. There is a particular point between Kafanchan and Kwoi which came up recently and over N60m was paid there in less than two months. Our people are being impoverished every day by kidnapping and abductions,” he said.
There are fears that the figures may be more than this as there have been more cases of abduction after then. For instance, 65 people were kidnapped on the night of 22 April, 2021 in Adara. Ten of them were able to escape.
For this the abductors demanded for a sum of N350 million. Also, one time Super Eagles Head Coach, Samson Siasia’s mother, Madam Beauty Ogere, who spent 10 weeks in the den of her abductors, regained her freedom after the family parted with N15million. After the release of over 300 students of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, who were abducted on December 11, 2020, the federal and Katsina State governments denied paying ransom. However, students and abductors involved in what was dubbed Kankara abduction contradicted the official denials.
Reports had it that Katsina State government paid N30million to secure their release. Over N200m ransom paid in Ekiti. Although, it is difficult to say the exact amount that has been paid in ransom in Ekiti, but an estimate families of victims of kidnapping which has been on the rise in the state since 2019, have paid, will be not less than N200 million. In early 2019, two staff of Emure Local Government Area, simply identified as Pastor Onaade, an accountant and Dr. Fasina who headed the Primary Health Care Centre were kidnapped. Their abductors demanded the sum of N10 million for each of them from their families. They were released one week after.
The Ekiti State Police Public relations officer (PPRO) ASP Sunday Abutu and State Commandant of Amotekun Corps, Brigadier General Joe Komolafe (rtd) in separate interviews said his release was secured at Obbo Ayegunle, Ekiti Local Government Area, Kwara State. However, they neither confirmed nor denied that any ransom was paid.
In April 2020, then Commissioner of Information and Values Orientation, Muyiwa Olumiluwa, announced the release of his counterpart in the Ministry of Agriculture, Olabode Folorunso, who was released, unhurt after he was kidnapped. Also, he did not mention that the state government paid the N15 million the abductors of Folorunso demanded, but stressed that government would do all possible to “rid the state of criminal elements.”
A Chinese and one of the contractors the state government engaged to construct the new Ado Ekiti- Iyin – Ekiti road was also abducted late last year. The gunmen killed one of the policemen attached to the contractors, while the victim was released four days later at Ilawe – Ekiti road after payment of N100m ransom. Families of victims in Ondo State were always eager to secure the release of their loved ones whenever they were kidnapped. Findings revealed that over N14m was paid as ransom between December 2020 and May this year. In January, this year, a 35-year-old man, Olatunbosun Johnson, was abducted within Uso Community in Owo Local Government Area.
After spending one week in the kidnappers’ den, he regained his freedom, but not without his family parting with the sum of N10 million. Also, a couple who were kidnapped on their way from Ebonyi got their freedom after the payment of N2million ransom. The couple, Mr. and Mrs. Gbenga Ibikunle, was kidnapped at Uso along Owo- Akure highway.
Similarly, two reverend sisters, Perpetual Idowu Apo and Bukola Roseline Familade alongside their driver Yohanna Zibai, who were kidnapped at Onipetesi axis of Ondo State along Benin-Ore-Lagos expressway, paid N1m to secure their freedom.
The victims were held hostage for 11 days in the bush, until the ransom was paid to secure their release. Oyo State is a hot bed of kidnapping, especially the Okeho in the northern part of the state. On April 24, 2021, some unknown gunmen kidnapped a hotelier, Olukunle Oyedokun, and his nursing wife, Juliana, at their hotel in Ajaawa, Ogo Oluwa Local Government Area of the state. The sum of N15m ransom was demanded by the kidnappers who got a sum of N2.5million upon negotiation.
On Sunday May 23, 2021, wife of the Oyo State All Progressives Congress (APC) youth leader, (Mogaji Isiaka Ajibola Areokuta), Dr. Mrs Arikeade Oni-Salawu, was also kidnapped by some gunmen. She was kidnapped in front of her residence while she was driving and her husband was driving behind. As she got down to open their gate, the kidnappers who had lurked around, swooped on her and whisked her away. In Kogi State, there were not many cases of kidnap this year except the recent abduction of Yagba West Local Government Chairman, Mr. Pius Kolawole that led to the killing of the Commissioner of Kogi State Pension Board. Though he had since reunited with his family, it was learnt that the kidnappers had demanded for N50 million ransom. It was not certain if the sum was paid before his release. (News Express).Follow Us on Social Media for Latest news