4th October, 2010
Over the last few years, the media had reported and warned over this scourge overrunningÂ the entire nation but little seemed to have been done to stem the tide of kidnapping.
The militants in the Niger Delta started the trend by kidnapping expatriates working inÂ the oil and gas sector and demanded millions of naira for their release. Many a victimÂ died in the process and the government tried to arrest the situation. Some of theÂ kidnappers were killed while others were arrested. The security forces too sufferedÂ casualties but the biggest problem is that nothing seem to have happened to theÂ kidnappers that were caught.
Consequently, kidnapping has become to these heartless people, big business. Our lawsÂ seem ineffective and the House of Representatives is preparing to introduce a bill toÂ curb the menace. The lawmakers even expressed support for capital punishment for anyoneÂ found guilty of the offence.
Not a few Nigerians have expressed the opinion that except stiffer punishment is metedÂ out to such criminals, the trend will continue.
What began in the Niger Delta as a form of protest against unequal distribution of wealthÂ has today snowballed into a situation that is threatening the very fabric of society.
We believe these kidnappers have turned abduction of innocent people into a boomingÂ business. Millions are paid to these abductors almost everyday to release friends,Â colleagues, wives, husbands, breadwinners and children among others. The business hasÂ become so lucrative in Abia State that most unemployed youths have turned to kidnappingÂ for ransom.
Recently, a medical doctor was murdered by kidnappers even after his family had paid theÂ N30 million demanded by his abductors. This is just one of several cases where kidnappersÂ have killed their victims to prevent being identified after they are released.
In the last few years, Abia State has become a hotbed of kidnapping. Almost daily we haveÂ stories of abduction in that part of the country, the peak being the kidnapping of 15Â children on their way to school. They have since been released unharmed.
To arrest the situation, the Abia State government, on 23 September, 2010, announced anÂ amnesty to the kidnappers to lay down their arms and be part of government programme toÂ provide them with work and the basic necessities of life. But they refused and last week,Â the government revoked the amnesty.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Anthony Agbazuere said on FridayÂ while announcing the cancellation of the amnesty programme that: â€œThey want to challengeÂ the state, they will see the powers of the state, it is now a war situation.â€
But can the state really stand up to these criminals? Will the Federal Government doÂ something about this disgraceful act? Will both chambers of the National Assembly deem itÂ fit to enact laws to deter the criminal-minded and the criminals themselves?
Will the government address the imbalance which, in the first place, created room forÂ kidnapping? Will the judiciary expedite action on kidnapping cases? Will the police braceÂ up to the challenge?