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Abduction epidemic spreads nationwide

•Kidnappers move from expressways to Lagos, Ogun, Abuja city centres

•Abductors kill two young victims, demand N700m ransom for nine others

The scourge of abductions which has strangulated social and economic activities in the North-West has spread nationwide as bandits and other criminal elements have moved their operations into the major cities across the country.

The hoodlums, who hitherto operated on highways and in rural communities, have in recent times escalated their attacks on residents of Lagos, Abuja, and other urban centres.

The killing of four abducted victims from the Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutsen-Alhaji area, Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, ignited a groundswell of anger on Monday, as the bandits who kidnapped seven family members demanded N700m for their release.

The hoodlums had Friday killed Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, over alleged delay in providing the ransom, generating a firestorm of anger across the country and on social media.

As of Monday night, the remaining five sisters, including Najeebah, a 500-level Quantity Surveying student, and Nadherah, a 300-level Zoology student, are still in captivity.

The siblings were kidnapped alongside their father, Alhaji Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, from their home at Zuma 1, on the outskirts of Bwari town in Abuja on January 11.

The captors had released Al-Kadriyar, asking him to pay N60m ransom for the release of his daughters.

It was learnt that the bandits later raised the ransom to N100m for each captive which they insisted must be paid by Wednesday.

However, in a bid to secure the release of the hostages, the Al-Kadriyar family sought financial support from Nigerians.

The bandits also murdered in cold blood 13-year-old Folashade Ariyo abducted alongside her mother and three siblings.

Two unidentified hostages were also killed by the blood-thirsty criminals and their bodies were dumped around a former military checkpoint behind Idah junction along the Bwari-Jere SCC Road in the Kagarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

Reports said Folashade had been buried on Sunday while her mother and siblings were still with their captors.

13-year-old killed

Meanwhile, the bereaved father, Oladosu Ariyo, has pleaded with the leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association to intervene in the rescue of his family members facing death threats.

Ariyo’s appeal was shared on X (formerly Twitter) by a user known as @kcuzoka, who said that the message was copied from a lawyers’ WhatsApp group platform.

In the shared post, on Monday night, Ariyo stated that he was a lawyer, and narrated that the kidnappers killed his 13-year-old daughter, despite having raised N7m out of the N60m they demanded, through the donation of friends and family, which the kidnappers had refused to collect.

He added that the kidnappers were threatening to kill his wife and his three remaining children, who were minors and were still in captivity while calling for the intervention of the NBA.

The post read, “Dear seniors & colleagues, most respectfully, I’m Oladosu Folorunso Ariyo, a lawyer working in Abuja. On Sunday evening the 7th of January 2024, around 7:30 pm, a band of kidnappers dressed in full military camon invaded my home located at Sagwari Layout Estate in Dutse, Abuja.

“They kidnapped my wife (who is also a lawyer) & our four children. The kidnappers called and demanded 60-million-naira ransom, out of which through generous donations from friends and family, I’ve been able to raise the sum of several million naira which they have vehemently refused to collect.

‘’As of today they’ve, killed my first born Michelle Ariyo (age 13) and dumped her corpse on Kaduna Road while threatening to kill my three remaining children (who are all minors) and wife, who are still in captivity. Please and please sir, I urgently need the intervention of the NBA. When will these kidnappings end, when will the government pretend to be serious about this insecurity in our country? God help us all.”

Meanwhile, no fewer than 9,754 were killed while there were 4,049 abduction cases across the country between January and December 2023.

This is according to the 2023 Nigeria Security Report by Beacon Consulting, an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence consulting company.

Also, no fewer than 10 passengers travelling along Ette – Umuopu Enugu-Ezike Road in the Igbo Eze North Local Government area of Enugu State were kidnapped on December 15, 2023.

On December 12, a total of 23 residents in the Dei-Dei community in the Bwari area of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, were similarly abducted while a nursing mother and three children were also taken away by gunmen in Abuja on December on the same day.

About six days later, a musician and band members were kidnapped on December 18.

On September 17, 2023, 19 people were kidnapped in Abuja while gunmen took away 20 residents of Madaki, Manasseh, and Gambo communities in Kuje, Abuja.

About 10 residents of Grow Homes Estate along Kuchibiyi in the Kubwa area of the FCT were also abducted on March 12, 2023.

On January 10, bandits kidnapped a director in the centre for research of the Federal University Gusau in Zamfara State, Malam Bello Janbako.

Janbako who is also a senior lecturer in the department of Islamic Studies of the university was kidnapped in his residence in Damba Gusau, the state capital.

A resident of the area, Nasamu Garba told The PUNCH that, the bandits broke into the residence of Janbako around 2 o’clock in the morning and whisked him away.

Comparison of fatalities in each geopolitical region for the year 2023 showed that the North-East topped the list with 3,412 cases, followed by the North-West zone with 2,290 fatalities; the North-Central with 2,002 fatalities; the South-West recorded 774 fatalities; the South-South recorded 698 fatalities; and the South-East recorded 558.

For the abductions, the North-West recorded 1,728 cases, followed by the North-Central with 1,006 cases; 795 in the North-East; 186 were abducted in the South-South; 169 in the South-West; and 165 in the South-East.

According to an intelligence report released on August 23, 2023, entitled, ‘The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry: Follow the Money,’ by SB Morgan, kidnappers’ activities have spiralled out of control over time.

Between July 2022 and June 2023, 3,620 people were abducted in over 582 kidnapping incidents in the country, with a reported ransom demand of at least N5bn and an actual ransom payment of over N302m, a figure that could be higher due to underreporting, the SB Morgan report says.

Although the report noted that the North-West and North-Central regions exhibited higher-in-kind cases of this abduction, the trend of kidnapping is now shifting to some South-Western states, with Lagos and Ogun states experiencing a similar situation.

Early December 2023, the family of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Miracle Adereti, called on the police to locate the whereabouts of their daughter, who was kidnapped by an unknown gang in the Ikotun area of Lagos State.

Miracle was said to have been kidnapped while returning from school, and it was gathered that the kidnappers trailed her to school in the morning and waited till the closing period.

The gang, who parked a short distance away from the school premises, thereafter abducted Miracle while she and her sister were walking home.

Another case in Lagos was that of a car dealer popularly known as Ejike Conversion in the Ladipo Spare Parts Market, which occurred in mid-December.

Ejike was said to have been taking an inventory of his newly imported goods in front of his plaza around 12am when some armed men swooped in on him and his workers.

While his workers fled for safety following the sound of gunshots, Ejike was not so lucky as the armed men attacked him, dragged him into their vehicle, and drove off.

Lagos businessman

In a similar development, a yet-to-be-identified businessman was allegedly kidnapped in early January in the Ago Palace area of the state while the kidnappers demanded a sum of N500m.

A project architect, Daario Naharis, while narrating his experience on Wednesday via his X handle (formerly Twitter), said he was almost abducted in the area in November where the abductors blocked his vehicle while in motion.

He wrote, “I had this experience firsthand last month in this same Ago. I was coming home around midnight when some guys with 2.4 Camry blocked me on the motion. I bashed into their back bumper, alighted immediately, considering the way they drove, and bolted away, seeing four doors opening in an instant.

“My saving grace was that I was riding on a heavier vehicle as the impact devastated them. Before they could reconcile it, I decided in a nanosecond and crossed to the other road. If they were just robbers, they would have ransacked or taken the vehicle along.

 “I have never dared to speak about my experience that day except seeing this tweet. I never knew what made me go into them with such speed, which turned out to have saved me in that situation. Those guys were properly armed and casual.”

Meanwhile, in the Ijebu area of Ogun State, there was a report of an abduction of a 70-year-old piggery farmer and elder with a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, simply identified as Pa Adeife Ifelaja.

The aged man was kidnapped at his residence on December 31st while preparing for a Crossover service to usher in the new year.

His abductors also held him captive for nine days and demanded N50m ransom.

Also, no fewer than 10 passengers travelling along Ette – Umuopu Enugu-Ezike Road in the Igbo Eze North local government area of Enugu State, Southeast, were reportedly kidnapped on December 15, 2023.

On December 2, 2023, gunmen abducted a Catholic priest, Kingsley Eze, alongside his driver in Imo State.

On January 8, 2023, men armed with AK-47 rifles kidnapped more than 30 people from a train station in Edo State.

The police said in a statement that armed herdsmen attacked Tom Ikimi station as passengers awaited a train to Warri, an oil hub in nearby Delta state.

Gunmen also killed eight people and abducted at least 60 others in two communities in Zamfara State on September 24, 2023, according to Reuters.

On August 23, 2023, a group of 42 peasant women were kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists in Borno State.

The First Lady, Oluremi Tinubu urged security agencies to intensify their efforts in rescuing five sisters still held hostage by kidnappers and to address the cases of kidnappings altogether.

“I implore our security agencies to intensify their efforts in addressing the pressing matter of kidnappings and insecurity in our nation. The safety and swift return of the Al-Kadriyar sisters and others in captivity should be our paramount concern,” said Mrs Tinubu in a personally signed statement on Monday.

First Lady pleads

In her statement, the first lady said, “It is with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the devastating loss of Nabeeha and extend my deepest condolences to her grieving family.

“In difficult moments like this, I urge the nation to join in fervent prayers for the safe return of these girls. Let us hold the families close to our hearts in prayers.

“To the parents, especially mothers, I appeal for intensified prayers for our children and for peace to prevail in our beloved country. May the Almighty God comfort the Al-Kadriyar family for their loss and may God bring the other children back home safely.”

Reacting to the kidnapping trend, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the just-concluded election, Atiku Abubakar, decried the long reign of the bandits and kidnappers’ horrific activities.

Atiku added that the worsening poverty and hunger in the land are contributing to the insecurity menace in the country, particularly Abuja, FCT.

“The escalating violence and lawlessness in our nation deeply distress me as bandits and kidnappers continue their reign of terror unchecked.

Our youths and innocent citizens are being murdered daily. Just last Saturday, we lost Nabeeha to her captors. Yesterday, the tragedy deepened with the murder of more victims, including Folorunsho Ariyo, a 13-year-old student. Folorunsho was one of ten people kidnapped from Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutse, Bwari Area Council of the FCT, on January 7th, 2024.

“It is obvious that the worsening poverty and hunger in the land is escalating the level of kidnapping and insecurity in Nigeria, particularly in Abuja, the federal capital,” he wrote on his verified Facebook page.

The former Vice-President further extended his condolence to the deceased families while urging the Federal Government to fulfil its constitutional obligations of protecting the lives and property of citizens.

Meanwhile, efforts made by our correspondent to reach the Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, and Lagos police spokesperson to react to the spike in cases of kidnappings across the major cities were abortive.

They failed to respond to several messages seeking their comment on the efforts being made to address the situation.

Commenting on the epidemic of abduction in the FCT, the Chairman, of the NBA Bwari FCT chapter, Paul Dauda, urged the government to tackle the issue of insecurity confronting the nation’s capital.

He said, “It is a pity that this is happening because the warning signs were there. They say they have been working and averted different attacks but the current situation in my jurisdiction is alarming. I have reached out to the Minister, he said he has set up a joint task force. Anything that must be done must be done fast because we do not sleep at night. “

A security expert, Chidi Omeje, knocked the government and security agencies for keeping silent amidst the rising cases of insecurity especially in the Federal Capital Territory.

“The issue of kidnapping in this country is just incredible. People who travel by road are in fear. The government does not seem to understand that there is an issue.

“I am perplexed because every day there is a kidnapping incident in one state or the other.

“We have the NSA, Service Chiefs, Police, and NSCDC and they are doing nothing to address the situation. The Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike is more interested travelling to Rivers State for rallies and campaigns. Nigerians are traumatised. People cannot travel safely. It is unfair.’’

He advised the government to “prioritise security because, without security, Nigeria has nothing.”

 The Chief Executive Officer, YouthHub, Rotimi Olawale, said, “The FCT is not only affected by the kidnapping incidents. It has spread to neighbouring states such as Niger, Kaduna, and Benue among others. If not properly handled, the ugly incident will spread to more states.

“The security agencies need to deploy intelligence to deal with this issue. If the kidnappers know that they will not go scot-free once apprehended, the criminal acts will reduce. They need to always act swiftly whenever the need arises.”

 The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani said nothing changed since the Tinubu administration came on board.

He said, “Comparing between the Buhari and administration and this, what has changed? Nothing. Bandits and terrorists are still very active. Abuja is becoming unsafe, even under Buhari we did not have the mass abductions witnessed in Abuja of late what can you say has changed? Let nobody deceive himself that there has been progress made so far. The government has to redouble its efforts.

Speaking on the security crisis, the Chief Executive Officer of Beacon Intel, and security expert, Dr Kabir Adamu, advised the federal and state governments to collaborate in dominating the forested and other ungoverned spaces, which the gunmen use as safe havens and to keep their victims.

 He added, “Individuals and corporate organisations must understand threats and the inherent risks; a necessary prerequisite for adopting the appropriate risk treatment. As security threats are transient, the approach should be dynamic and forward-looking.”

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