How security forces aid kidnappers

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO'S COLUMN OPINION

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Years back, in Mafoluku, Lagos in my neighborhood, as it then was, there was this commando style armed robbery operation that happened.

As the story goes from the eye witnesses who relayed the information to us then, the gang of armed robbers went from house to house and robbed every occupant of their hard earned cash and took some expensive electronics they found enticing.

So, just before the armed robbers ended their operations which took the better part of three hours without any kind of police confrontation to frustrate the criminals, there was this face-me-i-face-you room the robbers entered and met an obviously impoverished old man who begged them not to harm him as he had neither money nor any expensive electronics to part away with. He said since all hands are not equal, he hoped the unwanted visitors could spare his life since he is a poor Lagos based man struggling to feed from hands to mouth.

The robbers were not impressed by the story of sorrow, agony and frustration from their victim and so the armed men of the underworld did the unthinkable.

They amputated the man’s two fingers and jokingly told him that since he said all hands are not equal, they have decided to equalize his hands.

Then the armed robbers moved to the next house where they met a man and accosted him just as the armed thieves asked him why he called the police whilst the operation was in progress.

According to the surviving victim of that robbery who lived with the man that made the call, the armed robbers told him that he was foolish enough to make a call to the police when the police operatives are their partners in crime. They then shot and killed the man.

That dare-devilry was not the only case of compromise on the side of security forces in carrying out violent crimes by men of the underworld.

The celebrated case of Lawrence Anini in Benin City, in which a very senior police officer was implicated as the supplier of arms and ammunition to the armed robbers brought to the fore, the conspiracies and consistent unholy wedlock  between some rogue elements within the security forces and the men of the underworld. Due to systemic and systematic failure of leadership, no governments in the past and now has thought it wise to confront the demons of conspiratorial plots between men of the underworld and serving operatives of all armed security forces.

Nigeria has failed to put measures in place to ensure that the backgrounds of potential intakes into the security forces are scrutinized. Recently, Nigeria got kicked out and banned by the United States of America from getting immigrant visas because Nigeria has no transparent way of data storage thereby making it almost practically impossible for the United States of America to follow the trail of terrorists who may like to use Nigeria as the transit nation to enter the United States of America.  The lack of good record keeping is the reason why armed robbers and all kinds of convicted felons find their ways into the armed security forces. 

In fact Nigeria does not have reliable data of the number of persons that are in the police force for instance. I am not sure if other arms of the armed security forces have been able to capture the data of all their members.

However, the involvements of men in uniforms in the perpetuation of violent crimes is the reason violent crimes of kidnappings and attacks on communities by armed terrorists have continued to spiral out of control.

Only last year August, there was the case of the involvement of a senior army officer in aiding and abetting kidnappings in Taraba state to an extent that police operatives who arrested the kingpin of the kidnapping ring in Taraba state were killed by soldiers on the direct order of the senior officer.

The alleged kidnap kingpin Hamisu Bala Wadume has said that soldiers aided his escape after he was arrested by the police in Ibi, Taraba State.

Wadume who is said to have built his village mosque singlehandedly narrated in Hausa language how he escaped in a video released after he was rearrested.

Hear him: “I am Hamisu Bala, also known as Wadume. Policemen came to Ibi and arrested me; they were taking me away when soldiers chased them and opened fire, leading to the death of some policemen.  “From there, the soldiers took me to their headquarters and cut off the handcuffs on my hands and I ran away. Since then I have been in hiding before I was re-arrested,” he said in the video.

When contacted to react to the video, Defence spokesman, Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu said the Defence headquarters is still carrying an investigation on the incident in Ibi.

Earlier in a statement, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) said its operatives re-arrested Wadume in the late hours of Monday, August 19, 2019 in his hideout at Layin Mai Allo, Hotoro area of Kano State.

The statement by Police spokesman DCP Frank Mba recalled that the police had been on a massive manhunt for the suspect since 6th August, 2019 when he escaped.

“The suspect, who was appropriately restrained at the time of the incident, was subsequently released by his ‘rescuers’ after they had destroyed the restraining handcuffs,” Mba said.

He added that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, believes that the re-arrest of the suspect will help in bringing answers to the numerous but hitherto unanswered questions touching on the incident and the larger criminal enterprise of the suspect.

Alhaji Wadume arrested inside plaza In Kano, findings revealed that Wadume was arrested at Mai Allo Plaza in a ghetto suburb in Gezawa local government area of the state.

The hierarchy of the Nigerian Army did not sweep the allegations under the carpets just as the Army endured that due process was followed. A board was constituted to investigate the entire scenarios.

The report of the Board of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of three Nigeria Police (NPF) personnel and two civilians by troops of the Nigerian Army (NA) in Taraba State came out with serious indictment of both the police and army over the incident.

The Defence Headquarters in a statement by its spokesman Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu explained that following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for an immediate investigation into the killings along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), and General Gabriel Olonisakin constituted a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to investigate the incident.

Nwachukwu said after a thorough and painstaking investigation into the incident, the BOI submitted its report to the convening authority observing that, there were infractions and poor communication between personnel of the NPF and troops of the NA.

He said it was also observed that there was non-adherence to the Standard Operating Procedure by both parties involved in the incident.

He said the BOI further made some recommendations to the NA and NPF to forestall future occurrence and bring anyone culpable to book in accordance with extant laws.

He said the BOI also recommended that the NA and NPF should further investigate Captain Tijani Balarabe, Sergeant Ibrahim Mohammed, Corporal Bartholomew Obanye, DCO Ibi Police Division, Assistant Superintendent of Police Aondoona Iorbee, and Inspector Aliyu Dadje for complacency and necessary disciplinary measures. He said it was also recommended that further investigation be conducted on Hamisu Bala for gunrunning and possibly kidnapping, in order to prosecute the suspect.

Nwachukwu said additionally, the BOI recommended that the Services and other security agencies establish an Inter-agency Liaison Desk to include senior officers for timely resolution of future misdemeanor.

He said the Defence Headquarters assures the public that the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other security agencies are working in synergy to tackle contemporary security challenges bedeviling the nation.

The seven-member BOI led by Rear Admiral Ibikunle Taiwo Olaiya as chairman comprised one representative each from the Defence Headquarters, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force, Defence Intelligence Agency, Nigeria Police and Department of State Services.

Aside this case which became a major national issue and brought global opprobrium on Nigeria, there have been over twenty dozen cases of involvements of police operatives and rogue elements in the military in the perpetration of kidnappings and other violent crimes. Violent crimes amongst the ranks, files and officer cadres of the armed security forces in Nigeria has reached a dangerous dimension to an extent that it is becoming obvious that Nigeria may collapse if these sophisticated and seemingly unending violent crimes that have taken high tolls on innocent citizens are not checked and these actors in and out of the security forces identified, prosecuted and punished. Here are some few of the plethora of reported cases of involvement of operatives of security forces in violent kidnappings for just last year and now.

The Enugu State Police Command recently paraded 36 suspects including two policemen and a clergy allegedly involved in various crimes in the state.

The Commissioner of Police in the state, Ahmad Abdurrahman, who paraded the suspects before newsmen in Enugu, said the achievement was made by police operatives of Operation Puff Adder and intelligence-led community-policing strategy.

The CP said the command also arrested three suspected kidnappers, who operate in the state but live outside the state.

Abdurrahman said: “Inspector Maaling Peter, 35, of Rijana Police Station, Kaduna State; Sergeant Ojudu Tiny, 34, of 64 Police Mobile Force, Ikorodu, Lagos State and Iheanachor Osuji of Ogui, Enugu State, were arrested over kidnapping. “The three suspects are still under investigation.”

The police boss added that the command on November 9, arrested one Pastor Sunday Egbo, 26, of Christ Mercy Ministry, Ajuona Obukpa in Nsukka Local Government Area for violence and forceful rape of one Miss Blessing Ukwueze. He said the command was prepared for the forthcoming yuletide and there would be no chance or breathing space for criminals in the state.

Recently, the kidnappings in Kaduna state have the finger prints of some rogue elements in the security forces forcing Nigerians to ask that president Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly takes action to restore sanity in the security forces. However, both the President and the National Assembly have so far demonstrated a total lack of political will to confront these monstrous criminal and terror gangsters and are busy engaging in double talks and empty propaganda whilst hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are killed. 

The police in Anambra State have arrested suspected members of a four-man kidnap gang. The suspects allegedly wear military uniform to deceive and kidnap unsuspecting members of the public.

Three of them, including a lance corporal in the Nigerian army, were wearing military uniform and vests when they were nabbed by the police after allegedly abducting one Uchenna Ezeonu in Ekwulobia, Anambra State, the police said.

The suspects, Obasi Peter, Benjamin Nicholas and Ojiegbe Obinna, were arrested alongside three suspected accomplices.

The Nigerian Army said recently that three soldiers arrested alongside some kidnappers in the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno State, have been dismissed from the Force.  The Theater Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, disclosed this while handing over the dismissed soldiers to the police in Maiduguri. Adeniyi said the soldiers were arrested with 22 other suspects by a joint patrol team in the early hours of Sunday at a building in the outskirts of the Borno State capital. 

“The Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC), 7 Division, Brig.-Gen. A.K.Ibrahim, has conducted military procedures. We do not keep armed robbers, kidnappers, and cultists in the army, they had been dismissed. “We gathered here to witness their handover to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) for civic action. They are dismissed, and they are no longer soldiers of the Nigerian Army. “Our code of conduct is strict and high, no evil soldier will be allowed to serve in the army”

Operatives of the Edo State Police Command last November arrested three serving soldiers and a civilian for alleged kidnapping and armed robbery.

The military personnel said to be on the police wanted list for a series of kidnappings in Agenebode, Fugar and other areas in the state, were arrested after a long investigation by the police.

The identities of the three military suspects were given as Corporal Collins Ameh 13NA/70/4960 of 3 Division, Jos; Lance Corporal Balogun Taiwo 13/NA/69/0369 of 35 Battalion, Katsina; and Private Evans Isibor 15/NA/73/1529 of the Artillery Brigade, Owerri on a special duty in Maiduguri, Borno State.  The civilian suspect arrested as a member of the gang was identified as Goodluck Igbenebor.

Corporals Ameh and Balogun were said to have kidnapped one Mr. Joseph Otono on October 30, 2019, in Fugar, Etsako Central Local Government Area of Edo State and snatched his Toyota Voltron car. The victim was reportedly released after payment of ransom by his relation.

An international magazine has also published a scholarly work done by a University teacher who is based in Nasarawa State.

The writer stated that “Frequent acts of violent crime have grown to form a major threat to Nigeria’s national security. These include instances of militancy, insurgency and banditry. Banditry includes cattle rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom.”

“Kidnapping has remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.”

The researcher stated that: “Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases,” he said.

Defining the crime of Kidnapping, the writer said it is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement.

He said that the purpose is an illicit gain, economic or material, in exchange for liberation. It may also be used to pressure someone into doing something—or not doing something.

He said: “In my view these efforts have also failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime; where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence. This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective. Opportunistic and organized bandits: Even prior to the advent of colonialism there were recorded cases of kidnap for rape, ritual or for other purposes in various parts of Nigeria. But kidnapping today is done primarily for ransom – either money or its material equivalent to be paid.”

Kidnappers he said, persist because the benefits of their crimes exceed the costs.

“Each victim has a so-called “kidnap ransom value” which makes them an attractive target. This value is determined by a number of factors. These include the victim’s socio-economic or political status, family or corporate premium on the victim, the type of kidnappers involved, as well as the dynamics of ransom negotiation.”(https://qz.com/africa/1624376/kidnapping-for-ransom-is-nigerias-latest-security-problem/).

However, the President and the National Assembly must make deliberate effort to put in place effective mechanisms for ascertaining the backgrounds of would be recruits into the armed security forces.  The infiltration of criminals into these security forces are often facilitated by the political elite who see recruitments and enlistment into the armed security forces as ways of settling their political thugs who they armed and used in manipulating the electoral process to get to power. So solving this conundrum of involvement of operatives of security forces in the kidnapping business will require a holistic approach and not the usual fire brigade formula government adopts to solving problems.  Nigeria must build a central data infrastructure so all citizens are captured and monitored by way of updating informations should  anyone whose fingerprints are stored in the National central data bank is alleged to have committed crime and is convicted. By so doing it will be easier to minimize the influx of crooks into the armed security forces.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and blogs@www.huriwanigeria.com; www.emmanuelonwubikocom; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com; www.huriwa@blospot.com

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