As the spate of kidnapping continues to rise in the country, EROMOSELE EBHOMELE takes a look at the involvement of the police in the crime as a bigger challenge

The abduction of Nkiru Sylvanus, a Nollywood actress who won the heart of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo state, southeast Nigeria, to become his Special Assistant on Public Affairs came as shocking when the news broke recently.

Nkiru Sylvanus

Miss Sylvanus had been kidnapped more than 24 hours before the world became aware and the police initially claimed it was in the dark as to the kidnap incident. Like in many other cases of kidnap across the country, the Imo state government and family members of the victim, who was abducted close to the famous Concorde Hotel, Owerri at 2.30 pm on Saturday did not see the need to incident the case with the police.

The kidnappers immediately opened communication with some officials of the state government and stakeholders in the Nollywood industry demanding N100million as ransom.

But rather than involve the police to search and rescue her, the actress’ friends resorted to self-help, using social media like Facebook, Twitter and the Blackberry Messenger to propagate the information. And soon, like wild fire, the incident became  public knowledge. The police came into the picture much later.

The initial refusal of friends, family members as well as the Imo State government to bring the police into the picture regarding this recent kidnap may have stemmed from the impression many Nigerians now have of the force.

Over time, it has been discovered that some of its officials have direct links with the kidnappers. In this case, they make every information relating to the efforts of their colleagues known to the perpetrators of this crime which has now become a booming business where millions of naira is made with ease.

Where the police also decide to regain its lost glory by making sure the victim is rescued, its officials end up either jumping to conclusions while investigations should still be on-going. As a result, they often get the wrong people arrested over such crimes or give out information that could best be described as impressive falsehood in a bid to earn some positive rating.

For example, in the wake of the release of Professor Kamene, the Queen mother of Ogwashi-Uku and mother of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, the police continued to churn out claims which some Nigerian analysts said were ridiculous for a security body that has hardly been able to rescue kidnap victims in the country.

Prof. Kamene Okonjo

First was the arrest of many people in connection with the incident only for Nigerians to discover that the suspects were innocent afterall, judging from the Minister’s confession indicating that unnamed indicted oil marketers were responsible for her mother’s kidnap.

Aside this, the police claimed that they were able to track down and kill the suspected leader of the gang that abducted the 82-year old woman after men of the force invaded their hide-out somewhere in Asaba, the state capital. According to the law enforcement agents, Nwaze Nwosa, aka Bolaji, was killed, four other gang members escaped with bullet wounds while another gang member was arrested.

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With such interesting testimony, it would be assumed that the police would rescue the octogenarian. However, a fresh angle evolved when Prof. Okonjo, was reportedly brought home by a motorcyclist after she regained her freedom in Kwale, a town within Delta State.

Delta State Commissioner of Police, Ikechukwu Aduba, who had earlier given information as to how the police was closing in on the kidnappers, confirmed later that the Queen Mother was freed by her abductors five days after her kidnap and taken home on a motorcycle from Kwale, which is 50 kilometres away from her home adding that the man who brought her home had been arrested for further investigation into the issue.

Nigerians would continue to wonder how the invasion of a hide-out in Asaba relates with Professor Okonjo’s release in the Kwale area of the state.

Reeling in self-praise, CP Aduba had told journalists at the command headquarters in Asaba that the release of the victim involved the combined efforts of a team of policemen deployed by the Inspector-General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, and the proactiveness of men of the Special Anti-Crime Squad (SARS).

“The Delta State Police supported by a crack team from IGP’s Special Task Force on Terrorism, Abuja, consciously and professionally with due caution collated intelligence on the activities of the hoodlums and struck their hideouts in Asaba,” he said adding that efforts to get the fleeing members of the gang had begun.

He also displayed items including an ash-coloured Golf 3 car with registration number DELTA ASB 697 AA, saying this was the vehicle they used to transport the Queen Mother out of the palace and a white Toyota bus, labeled God’s Delight Church International, with registration number ANAMBRA KPP 64 XA, which he said the gang had been using.

This attempt was again countered by the some journalists after they learnt that Nwosa had been declared wanted even before the kidnap of Prof. Okonjo.

These may be why citizens of the country are taking with a pinch of salt the denial that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the victim even though it is well reported that N10 million was paid out to the kidnappers.

IGP, Mohammed Abubakar

One kidnap incident that is challenging the police in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital has to do with Mrs. Titi Rotimi, wife of a former military governor, General Oluwole Rotimi. She was kidnapped at about 6.30pm in front of her company, AOK Logistics Limited, located on old Ife Road in Ibadan just a day after the kidnap of Professor Okonjo. While Professor Okonjo is out, Mrs. Titi is still being kept, thus devastating the family members and with the police unable to track down the suspects, who allegedly demanded for N200 million as ransom.

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When Nigerian international midfielder, Christian Obodo, was kidnapped by four men in front of a church in Warri, Delta state, sometime ago, it was the Nigerian police that quickly tried to douse the anxiety that pervaded the country by announcing that its men were on top of the situation. His kidnappers had demanded a ransom of about $188,000.

The next day, the police in their usual chest-beating habit, rushed out to announce to the world how they were able to rescue the footballer.

“He has been rescued and we have five suspects in our net as a result of it,” the Delta state police spokesman, Charles Muka, said adding that to successfully rescue Obodo, the police officers staged a raid on the gang’s hideout after trailing them to a location which he did not mention.

He said in addition to the arrests, an AK-47 rifle was recovered from the gang.

The police story was, however, shot down when a vigilance group, Emevor Vigilante Group, quickly rose against the security agency and expressed disappointment over the claims of the police saying that they (the vigilante) effected his rescue.

Members of the vigilance group said the police should have at least given them credit for a job well done instead of attributing same to themselves, as according to some members of the group, Obodo was taken by the kidnappers to a local food canteen for dinner and that where he raised an alarm that attracted those who called members of the group.

In an incident that has created a special resentment for the men in black uniform, a senior staff of the Lagos State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, told P.M. NEWS that when his son was kidnapped and the kidnappers had contacted him for a ransom of N600,000, he rushed to the police to inform them and get them involved in the rescue process and possible arrest of the abductors.

“So I contacted the police and gave them details of our discussion as well as the bank account number that they gave to me. We agreed that I should pay the money into the account so they could monitor it and get anyone who came to withdraw it.

“But later in the evening that day, the kidnappers contacted me again and replayed everything that happened between me and the police earlier that day and our plans. They said they were sure I did not love my son.

“I was so shocked that I rushed back to the police station to tell them to hands off the issue that I would handle it myself. I had to beg seriously before they agreed to collect the N600,000 because they increased it after I told the police.

“They told me another way to make the payment and I had to go and collect it in Ibadan with my son with them all through till they were satisfied.

Analysts believe that the current strategies adopted by the police to combat this crime in the country can never yield positive results as long as they engage in propaganda at every opportunity they have and the fact that traitors exist within them and have continued to reap from assisting the kidnappers.

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In April this year, the leader of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Delta State Police Command, identified as Mr. Dickson Adeyemi, was arrested in Asaba by a crack team from the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID) and taken to Abuja on suspicion that he had aided kidnappers in the state rather than help reduce the scourge.

Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, while making the announcement, said Adeyemi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), was arrested with some of ‘his boys’ in response to preliminary investigations into the upsurge in the kidnap-for-ransom incidents in the state.

According to the governor, the police officer and his boys were arrested for their alleged involvement in kidnapping and related criminal activities. “They are greedy people who are common criminals, so poverty and hunger are no excuses for engaging in the crime,” he said.

The governor, who admitted that the rising cases of kidnapping in the state had become a problem to the government, added that security investigations have uncovered the huge impact of insiders in the success of the crime.

Apart from foreigners who have been kidnapped in the country, which now earns the reputation as one of the most notorious countries where kidnap-for-ransom has become a booming business, Nigerians who have been kidnapped and for whom ransom huge sums were paid keep growing. The brother of Everton defender Joseph Yobo was kidnapped in 2008 and freed days later; father of Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi, was also abducted in Jos, Nollywood actors Pete Edochie, Ikem Owoh among others have once been victims.

Though recent statistics have not been released, between 2008 and 2010, Nigeria recorded 887 kidnap cases, according to the then Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, showing that records available within the period proved that the incidents were very high in Rivers State with 216 cases, followed by Anambra with 191 cases, Edo 166, Akwa Ibom 100, Delta 85, Abia 68 and Imo with 61 cases. Today, Delta could well be described as the headquarters of the crime with many of the kidnappers smiling to the bank. They no longer need to face the hassle of robbing banks and other big institutions when it is now very easy to make the money.

And as it is now, the police are still handicapped. Nothing can be done effectively by them until they purge themselves of the bad eggs. Not even the death sentence being proposed by some states of the federation.