Booming crime awaiting Tinubu’s solution

bbcd buhari and tinubu
bbcd buhari and tinubu

With the increasing rate of armed robbery, kidnapping and other forms of crime, not a few have expressed the fear that the incoming government may bear the brunt of the failure of the outgoing regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to address the problem of insecurity. While the regime has continued to blow its trumpet on how it had reduced insecurity to a bearable level, the rate of killings and kidnapping in the country has continued to swell without abating.

 A total of 12,426 persons were abducted in Nigeria between January 1, 2021 and May 2, 2023, according to a Nigeria Security Incidents Tracker report by Beacon Consulting, a security firm. A recent report by revealed that no fewer than 333 people were seized in some parts of the country within a period of six weeks with over N7m collected by the kidnappers.

The incident, which occurred between February 26 and March 7, 2023, was carried out by gunmen and terrorists in Lagos, Cross River, Niger, Taraba, Rivers, Delta, Edo, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kano, Ondo, Adamawa, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Zamfara and Plateau states. The Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) is not exempted from the territories almost taken over by hoodlums.

The most recent incident occurred at the Kwali Area Council of the FCT where 26 people were reportedly kidnapped by gunmen on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. Also, another report revealed that 792 persons were abducted within three months with the North-Central and North-West part of the country leading in the figure.

This is against the backdrop of the primary responsibility of government at all levels which is to ensure the security of lives and property. In fact, it is the right of every citizen as stated in Chapter 4 of the 1999 Constitution to enjoy security of life and property. Succinctly put, Section 14 states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government.

However, the Nigerian government seems to be failing in its role as a result of the inability to address critical insecurity issues like kidnapping. Innocent Nigerians are attacked and abducted along the road, worship places and homes by gunmen who either demand huge sums of money for their release or kill them.

The upsurge in kidnapping could be traced back to 2014 when 276 girls at Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, were whisked away from their school by Boko Haram members on April 14. This particular incident was seen by many as one of the issues that dented the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and denied the Bayelsa State-born politician the opportunity to get re-elected.

Buhari, who was then the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, while campaigning for the position of the president in 2015, assured Nigerians that the Chibok girls would be rescued when elected.

In truth, after he emerged President, Buhari, in 2016, said he won’t rest until the girls were rescued. Buhari had said in a speech he delivered to the parliament of the European Union Strasbourg, France, “It may interest you to know that in a recent meeting I had with the parents of the Chibok girls, I assured them that the government would not rest until all the girls were rescued alive and reunited with their families.”

However nine years down the lane, the Buhari regime has yet to secure the release of all the girls. Ninety-eight out of the 276 Chibok girls are still in captivity.

In January 2023, the Buhari regime revealed that over $1bn had been spent on the acquisition of weapons from the United States and other countries in the fight against insurgency since it assumed office in 2015.

Buhari said, “When I assumed power in 2015, Boko Haram held about two-thirds of Borno State, half of Yobe State, and a couple of local government areas in Adamawa State. We have been able to retrieve these swathes of territories by investing over a billion dollars to acquire hard and soft ware weaponry from the US and other friendly countries to carry out sustained operations against insurgency since 2015.”

Lamenting the situation, the spokesperson for the Chibok Community in Abuja, Dr Allen Manasseh in an interview recently with said Buhari gave false assurance to rescue the girls.

He said, “No one wants to keep such a horrible memory, but we are left with no option because over 90 of these girls are not accounted for. No one can tell their situation; no one wants to be woken up every morning by a distressed mother asking, ‘Is there any update on our girls?’ And you are left with no answer for them than to join in the lamentation. It is a very terrible situation to be in such a community and as a leader they look up to.”

The crime is often carried out by bandits, gunmen, armed groups of Fulani herders and jihadists who use forests in different parts of Nigeria as hideouts from where they carry out their attacks. Kidnapping, no doubt, has continued to undermine Nigeria’s development and scare away her foreign investors.

The most notorious incidents occurred in March 2022 with the terror attack on Abuja-Kaduna train that led to several deaths, while 60 passengers were abducted. These crimes have continued to make the country a no-go area from many foreign investors.

The United States of America issued a travel restriction published on its website on January 20, 2023, advising people coming into Nigeria to reconsider their stance due to kidnapping and other crimes. It said, “Reconsider travel to Nigeria due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping, and maritime crime. Some areas have increased risk.”

The US identified, “Borno, Yobe, Kogi, and northern Adamawa states due to terrorism and kidnapping; Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states due to kidnapping; and coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime.”

Also, kidnapping has become a booming business for the perpetrators.

According to a report by a whooping sum of N13.662bn was paid as ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria within a period of 11 years, a figure which covered from June 2011 to July 11, 2022. Also, about N653.7m was paid as ransom in Nigeria between July 2021 and June 2022 for the release of captives.

Speaking on the issue, a political analyst and former vice president of Nigerian Political Science Association, Professor Sani Fage, said kidnappers had turned the crime into a business, even as he added that it would take a willing government to address the menace. He also said kidnapping was rising as a result of an increase in poverty level and availability of ungoverned spaces across the country.

He noted that the government has the capacity to free the country of kidnapping but there is a need to strengthen the people by eradicating poverty.

“The issue is far beyond politics. Some people made money out of it. To me, the most important fact that can arise from such a situation is because we have many ungoverned spaces in the country and there is a high level of poverty and that is why some people engage in such crime.

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According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, in its highlight of 2022 poverty ratio, stated that 63 per cent of persons living within Nigeria are multidimensionally poor. This figure makes up 133 million out of about 200 million Nigerians. While 86 million out of the figure live in the North, 47 million live in the South.

This accounts for why kidnapping is so prevalent in the northern and southern part of the country with a few reported cases in the South-East.

Just recently, two Catholic priests, Reverend Raphael Ogigbah, and Reverend Kunav Chochos, were kidnapped at the front of Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Delta State, a South-South region of the country. Also, a lady, Benfica Haruna, was abducted by gunmen in Fadan Ikulu Chiefdom, Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, northern Nigeria. According to the report, the kidnappers who arrived with vehicles and motorcycles whisked the girl away after operating for two hours without intervention of security personnel.

Another aspect of the kidnapping is self-kidnap with a view to get unearned money from family members and sympathisers. In January this year, a Jos-based Pastor, Albarka Bitrus was arrested by the Plateau State Police Command for staging his own kidnap and demanding money from members of his congregation.

The church members, on the other hand, paid N600,000 ransom to secure his release before the police nabbed him and his accomplice.

Fage however said, the government has a lot to do in providing adequate security for citizens. He said, “The government has to do a lot of things; they have to address the issue of poverty seriously. Secondly, they should address the issues of ungoverned spaces. There should be an intelligent report and it should be effectively utilised and whosoever caught should be dealt with according to the law. The incoming government must see to this if we want to eradicate kidnapping and other crimes in Nigeria.”

Also, a security expert and Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice Administration, National Open University of Nigeria, Smah Obadiah, said there was lack of unwillingness on the part of the state to curb the menace. According to him, if the security institutions can be strengthened, there will be a reduced level of crime in the country.

Successive governments enrich their manifestos with many promises to tackle the disturbing level of insecurity in the country.

Speaking further, Obadiah said, “It is part of the failure of the state; I don’t think a politician is directly benefiting from this. It is simply the unwillingness of the state to actually address the issue. It is a state failure; it is a universal phenomenon. Every part of the world is affected by one form of dilemma or the other. It depends on how the state addresses the issue. What is playing out is there are a lot of crisis entrepreneurs that are directly benefiting from the kidnapping because most of the kidnappers as we have seen are not even direct beneficiaries of the ransom that has been paid.

“The whole states are occupied by non-state actors who are wielding all degrees of political, military and security influences on the state and this is again the direct failure of the state to be able to control. Simply put, the state has failed and you are actually having some people who have occupied the space right now. As we can see very clearly, there are economic, security and religious aspects to it.

Obadiah, who expressed worry about the burden the incoming administration would face after the May 29 inauguration, advised the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to seek the support of international institutions. He added that the Nigerian Communications Commission would do well by utilising the SIM registration to reduce the rate of crime.

“There are different approaches to addressing issues of kidnapping and associated fallout of state failure to address security issues. What we have seen is that the state institution can be strengthened and if the new government can seek international support, that will be very important and I think it will work. In that case, there will be no partisanship in addressing it.

“What happens with the Nigerian Communications Commission with all the information that they have and are expected to do with the SIM registration? People are still using their phones to commit all sources of crimes.”

Another security expert and Managing Director of Beacon Consulting Limited, Kabiru Adamu, said the incoming governments at the federal and state levels should take up the responsibility of protecting the citizens. According to him, the security votes given to states should be judiciously utilised and accounted for.

While advising the incoming government to prioritise the welfare of citizens by ensuring adequate security, he said all states should endeavour to set up trust funds to tackle the menace of kidnapping and other crimes.

“Currently it is the responsibility of the Federal Government because security remains an item in the Exclusive List and because of that, it means the Federal Government will have to take responsibility. Until we devolve security to the states, the Federal Government has overall responsibility.

“However, because the state collects security votes, it has a level of responsibility. How is it defending the security votes, it has to be more transparent in telling us. I know the common response is that it is spending it to fund federal operations, but how?

“It can borrow from Lagos State to set up a security trust fund where the process can be transparent. So, it is a responsibility of both levels of government. The huge monthly disbursement of security votes are released to each state governor and council chairmen who use their discretion in spending the funds.

Although there have been calls to scrap security votes, even as the figures have also been made a top secret, Transparency International had maintained that the fund was fuelling corruption.

Adding his voice to the matter, an IT expert, and a Professor of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, Babcock University, Awodele Oludele, advised the incoming government to adopt the use of technology to tackle kidnapping and other crimes.

According to him, drones can be used to fish out criminal hideouts, while trackers can be used to identify their location. Oludele noted that crimes would be reduced if such tools were adopted by the government.

“There is the use of drones which can be used to check hideouts of the kidnappers; there are trackers, location identification whereby as I am talking now, you will know where I am calling from. Once these guys are aware that the location will be identified, then the crime will decrease. In this country, we have good policy but implementation has been poor. This is what we are talking about.”

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