How security forces aid kidnappers

Posted by News Express | 19 February 2020 | 2,014 times

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

As the story goes from eyewitnesses who relayed the information to us, the gang of armed robbers went from house to house and robbed every occupant of their hard-earned cash and 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 the 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 Lagosian struggling to feed from hands to mouth.

The robbers were not impressed by the story of sorrow, agony and frustration from their victim, so they 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 and asked him why he called the police while the operation was in progress. According to the surviving victim of that robbery incident 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 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, a very senior police officer was implicated as the supplier of arms and ammunition to the armed robbers. That widely publicized case brought to the fore the conspiracies and consistent unholy wedlock between 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 scrutinised. Recently, Nigeria got kicked out and banned by the United States of America from getting an immigrant visa because Nigeria has no transparent way of data storage, thereby making it almost practically impossible for them to follow the trail of terrorists who may like to use Nigeria as the transit nation to enter the country. 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 security forces have been able to capture the data of all their members.

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

Only last August, there was a 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 the 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.”

When contacted to react to the video, Defence spokesman, Col 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.

Although Alhaji Wadume was said to have been arrested inside a 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 carpet but ensured that due process was followed. A board was constituted to investigate the entire scenario.

The report of the board of inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding the killing of three Police personnel and two civilians by troops of the Nigerian Army 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 Nwachukwu explained that following the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for an immediate an investigation into the killings along Ibi-Wukari Road in Taraba State, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen Gabriel Olonisakin, constituted a board of inquiry (BOI) to investigate the incident.

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

He added that the BOI 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 board also recommended that the NA and NPF should further investigate Capt 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 gun-running and possibly kidnapping, in order to prosecute the suspect.

Col Nwachukwu noted that the board of inquiry equally recommended that the services and other security agencies should establish an “Inter-agency Liaison Desk”, to include senior officers for timely resolution of a future misdemeanour.

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 bedevilling 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 among the rank and file and officer cadres of the armed security agencies 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 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 the 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 then-forthcoming Yuletide and there would be no chance or breathing space for criminals in the state.

Recently, the kidnappings in Kaduna State have the fingerprints of some rogue elements in the security forces, forcing Nigerians to ask that President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly take 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. Rather, they are busy engaging in political doublespeak and empty propaganda, while hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are killed. 

The Police in Anambra State has arrested suspected members of a four-man kidnap gang. The suspects allegedly wear a 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, 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 on 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 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 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, Chukwuma A l Okoli, Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State.

The writer stated: “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 noted: “Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases.”

The writer defined kidnapping as 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 averred: “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 organised 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.” (Kidnapping for ransom has become Nigeria’s latest security problem.)

However, the President and the National Assembly must make a 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 in solving problems.

Nigeria must build a central data infrastructure so all citizens are captured and monitored by way of updating information, should anyone whose fingerprints are stored in the National central data bank is alleged to have committed a crime and is convicted. By so doing, it will be easier to minimise the influx of crooks into the armed security forces.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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