It was in May, 2012, that Philip Amadi, a friend of mine, experienced his worst nightmare — being kidnapped. He was driving home from work when he was intercepted near Fancrid Hotel Omoku in Rivers State by armed men in a car. Within seconds, they whisked him into their vehicle, leaving his car abandoned. Before he could react, he was blindfolded and being driven away. He was terrified.The next morning Philip came to know that he was ‘somewhere’ in Ahoada also in Rivers State and his family has been asked to pay 10 million naira for his safe return. An engineer by profession and coming from a humble background, Philip was home a couple of days later but only after paying 1.6 million naira following a series of phone calls between the kidnappers and his family negotiating the ransom amount; his family never reported the incident to the police.
December 2012 was also a nightmare for Nollywood Actress Nkiru Sylvanus. The light-skinned actress was kidnapped in Owerri by gunmen wearing police uniform and using a tinted glass siren blowing SUV. When the news of the kidnap in Owerri of Nollywood actress, Nkiru Sylvanus hit the airwave, I was worried sick and downcast. I am a huge Nkiru Sylvanus fan. She is a talented actress. I think the last few movies that she’s featured have been terrific. I am so fond of her that I always watch any movie that she featured. I try to think of ways I could meet her . I love her cry baby roles especially in the movie ‘A Cry for Help’ where she cried from the beginning of the movie to the end. I have always wished to see her in person. We were told by the police that her family paid 8 Million naira ransom to her kidnappers to get her freed.
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defined kidnapping as the act of taking somebody away illegally and keeping them as prisoner, especially in order to get money or something else for returning them. It is a violation of human rights as stated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It violates the right of association, freedom of movement and the right to life. It is a crime against humanity.
In Nigeria, Kidnapping used to be a word in the dictionary. It is now a reality and threat on our South South and South Eastern streets. We do not only read about it in newspapers, but we sometimes get to know the families of the victims. The kidnappers sometimes abduct their victims from urban areas and transport them to rural areas or bushes while they conduct negotiations. They use more violence to frighten those negotiating to pay up quickly. Some of the victims are murdered after ransom negotiations.Of great concern is the negative picture the menace of kidnapping has created of the Nigerian society at international level. This has affected virtually all aspects of life of the people.
Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha to me is working hard to stop this monster in Imo State. He has made aggressive moves to arrest what seems like a looming apocalypse: the state government introduced community policing and enacted a law which stipulates death penalty for kidnappers and which also empowers the state to acquire and destroy properties belonging to suspects. The law was made deliberately ruthless to tackle the menace of kidnapping, a crime that virtually brought business activities and social life to its knees in the state.
Okorocha’s efforts made the crime rate of Imo state decreased, and is now at its lowest point. The number of reported kidnappings in Imo significantly decreased from 89 percent to 32 percent , a remarkable percent decline. Statistics showed that the security operatives in Imo State was able to solve so many kidnapped cases and apprehend so many members of various kidnap gangs. I appreciate the governor’s efforts in this war against kidnapping in Imo State and that is why I choose to shun traders of specious rumour who are tongue lashing Owelle over the kidnap of Nkiru Sylvanus recently in Owerri and are dismissing the governor’s effort in the fight against kidnapping in Imo. I don’t believe in blind criticism.
Politics, as we know, is generally assumed to be a dirty game. Indeed, it is dirty in so many ways and senses to the extent that most politicians and their gullible followers often pretend against positive steps and distinguished achievements so as to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. In spite of this unfortunate political trait of some people, truth is always clear, constant and unblemished. No amount of gossips can erase the solid facts that Okorocha is working hard in this fight against crime in Imo. Like any other politician ,he has his own weakness of which I am one of those who criticized him severally but the fact still remains that when he does well we should shun politics and praise him so that he can do more.
The abduction of Nkiru Sylvanus in Owerri we know is an indication that Imo still have more work to do. Okorocha in his year-end report to Imo people confirmed it that Imo has more work to do in this fight against kidnapping and vowed that next year, the state will proceed with phase three of its anti-criminality program. “We can build all the bridges, all the roads, all the beautiful houses and homes, all the industries, all the schools and Universities but all these will become useless if the security of lives and property cannot be guaranteed’’ the governor said. To me this is good news.
In year 2013 we should intensify efforts through a joint police and vigilante group patrol of our roads and streets . This brings us back to the issue of community policing. We must take community policing more seriously. Community policing is very important. Community Policing remains the best security tool to stamp out all shades of criminal practices. Vigilantee groups should be equipped.
We should intensify manhunt operations against identified target groups and criminal syndicates .People from the communities know these kidnappers and they can help us smoke them out from their holes. We must go after the kidnappers. We must not wait for them to strike again before we pursue them. Whether we are using Operation Rescue or Operation Sweep, Operation Wipe, Anti-Kidnapping Squad or Joint Military Task Force ,all Squad must take the battle to whatever hide outs of these kidnappers and crush them.We should also use the media too for sensitization of the populace on the need to be security conscious. Yes, government should educate people on the need to be more security conscious, especially high profile individuals, and those who are playing vital role in governance.
Let us not forget to tackle unemployment in year 2013. We should introduce economic empowerment projects and create enabling environment for private sector businesses to thrive in order to create job opportunities for young school leavers and graduates and make the youth busy and away from the trappings of crimes. Some of these restive youths may have been forced into criminality for survival. Bringing them back to the path of rectitude would therefore require providing them with jobs or sending them to acquire skills. God bless Imo State.
Kenneth Uwadi, Mmahu-Egbema,Imo State, Nigeria