The time was some minutes to 3 a.m and I woke up to two missed calls on my phone. A third ring woke me up. Worried as to the lateness of the time and the importance of the caller, I could tell something was out of place. The caller, my friend was seeking financial help, and when I asked what the problem was, his next words almost made me drop the phone.
“My uncle has been kidnapped,” he said.
I was and felt helpless and could tell how much more helpless he was at that point. The abductors had reached out to the family and demanded a N20m ransom ($52,600).
His abducted uncle, a medical doctor had been on his way back home from work, alongside a nurse when both were abducted by the kidnappers.
Luckily, they were released three days after their abduction, but with gory stories to tell. And they are two of the very few lucky ones.
The growing spate of kidnappings in Nigeria raises the hair on the back of everyone’s neck. It gives a mixture of frustration and helplessness, one that disregards societal class or status. Almost every Nigerian today knows someone who has been kidnapped. It’s a thriving industry; one that keeps growing by the day.
What started in April 2014 as an occurrence of global magnitude has become distressfully regular. When 276 school girls were abducted in Chibok, Borno State, Northeast Nigeria, more than seven years ago, it was strange. With more than 100 girls yet to regain freedom seven years on, and daily reports of kidnap cases, Nigerians have become accustomed to the harsh, biting and the ominous reality of its regularity.
The possibilities that a Nigerian will be kidnapped today is higher than a citizen’s chances of making more money. It is an industry of daredevils and people with evil streaks that operate regardless of culture, tribe or religion.
Kidnapping has made the rounds in Nigeria. Its presence permeates the waters, and land. People of varying societal statuses and financial power have either been abducted and or killed.
Most recently, three students of Greenfield University, Kaduna were killed after being abducted alongside other students of the school. Their families have been left in eternal grief, as their pursuit of education can be summarised as the cause of their end. It’s as disturbing as it looks and sounds.
Last week Sunday, still in Kaduna, a church was attacked; five people were kidnapped and one was killed in an umpteenth attack on unsuspecting Nigerians. Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai continues to maintain his hard stance on not negotiating with kidnappers, but despite his vocal invectives and the usual “condemnations”, tangible action against the kidnappers remain consistently non-existent while kidnappings and killings continue in the state.
When Education Becomes The Prey
On the 11th of December, more than 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were abducted and just a few days after, 80 students of an Islamic School were also kidnapped. While majority of these students have been freed, their fears for returning to school are existential.
The abduction of about 400 schoolgirls in Kagara, Niger State and Jangebe, Zamfara State are also high-profile abductions perpetrated by terrorists or community militias called bandits.
Nigeria currently has 10.5 million out-of-school children and with the spate of kidnap cases making the rounds on a daily basis, there are strong indications that the number can increase.
The Safe School programme, launched after the abduction of Chibok girls, too, has been a victim of Nigeria’s biggest flaw – corruption with $30m still at large.
Education has become a threat even in the presence of security in schools and this doesn’t bode well for a country that is working to grow its literate population.
South-Western Roads: Where You Can’t Lose Sleep
In the Southwest of Nigeria, abductions have never been more rampant, as the bushes house criminals who never stops disturbing travellers.
In a chat with Afolabi, a banker, he said, “I’ve moved within Kwara State and Lagos at least 20 times in the last two years but on every occasion, I’ve had to go by air, which is naturally against my wish. I like to travel on road, but I’m afraid of being kidnapped.”
Ibadan-Akure and Ife-Ibadan roads are major hotspots used by kidnappers with the Oke-Ogun and Ibarapa axis of Oyo State also heavily present with the daredevils.
With poor roads littering the region, kidnappers have field days harming travellers. Going out and coming back home safely is considered a privilege in Nigeria.
Many people have been blamed to be those fanning the embers of insecurity in Nigeria, with politicians blamed for their inactions and veiled encouragement of banditry in Nigeria. Growing youth unemployment, currently standing at 33.3% is also one of the highest in the world and fingers have been pointed to it as Nigeria’s biggest challenge.
Kidnappers are hardly touched in Nigeria and they are at the mercy of hardened criminals who are like their victims, victims of a country crumbling under its own weight.
The Presidency – Of Open Condemnations & Closed Commendations
The Nigerian Presidency is now known to always “condemn”, above everything else, any untoward LG action perpetrated in the nation. Usually, this is just another reaction in response to the army of social media commentators who seek a response.
Response has so far been absent, or too little to be effective. Recently, “repentant terrorists” were clothed in fine clothes and were forgiven for their actions.
Of everything a Nigerian can cling on to in the face of worry, the government isn’t one of the first, yet holds the key to the solutions to these challenges.
It’s high time a difference is made. Nigerians are losing their dear ones to Nigeria, not death.
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