As kidnapping spreads like wild fire all over Nigeria, the refrain is that it is no longer safe to presume anywhere or anybody is safe. And that is bad for Nigerian government at all levels.
If the primary duty of a state is to safeguard the lives and property of citizens, the kidnappers have successfully called the efficacy of the country’s security apparatus to question.
It started as a struggle against injustice; against environmental degradation in the Niger Delta. Its terrain was the creeks and only those who operated therein ran a risk. And these were the oil majors whom the kidnappers saw as making a fortune out of the people’s misfortune. The perception was that the oil majors were behind the despoliation of their land.
In that context it was a people’s way of protesting against what was seen as injustice and a self-help to right it. Of course those who indulged in kidnapping knew it was criminal to do so, that they were mere deviants breaking the law and would face the consequences if caught.
All at a sudden it permeated the South East zone, this time not as a struggle against injustice but as a veritable source of instant prosperity. It thrived so well that its rank and territory spread to the extent that it became a menace in Edo State. It got so bad that the Oba of Benin had to place a curse on the kidnappers as life became more and more miserable for the people of the state.
Now it has become an uncontained national tragedy with Lagos joining part of the conquered territory. Its latest victim is Kehinde Bamigbetan, the Chairman of Ejigbo Local Council Development Area for whom a ransom of N15 million is believed to have been paid for his freedom.
That is how daring the kidnappers have been. Yet there are security agencies – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, and others paid to ensure security of lives and property. If they had functioned optimally, kidnapping by now should have been curbed. Poor funding, shoddy planning, wrong policies and inept prioritisation are some of their challenges.
Regrettably, the allegation is that some operatives of these agencies are even accomplices. Time has come for concerted effort on the issue of kidnapping. Government cannot continue to give the impression that it is clueless on issues of threat to lives and property of its citizenry.
A government that watches as ransom is being paid to kidnappers defeats its essence. It exposes its authority and legitimacy to question. As a matter of urgency, government should empower the security agencies to combat crime. Not only must they be properly equipped, their morale should be boosted to make them less susceptible to complicity. In addition, the systemic unemployment must be addressed. There is a nexus between the crime rate and spiralling joblessness in the country as too many idle hands are making the whole country a devil’s workshop.
Furthermore, the political class must ensure optimum and equitable utilization of the nation’s resources in a way that makes no one feel arbitrarily deprived or oppressed or disadvantaged by reason of not belonging to the class or connected to the people in the corridors of power.
They should also be less extravagant in the midst of ravaging poverty that is the lot of most Nigerians. They should do a self-appraisal to see whether they have been just to the people who voted them into office and whether they have not built a mass of discontented and disoriented people who find different ways of expressing their discontentment. Above all, corruption has occasioned a level of anger within the populace hitherto unknown in this society.
The Niger Delta militancy, the Boko Haram insurgency and the wave of kidnappings for ransom, armed robbery and assassinations are manifestations of disenchantment with the style of governance. However, this is no justification to take to criminality.
And those who live by crime should know that there could never be any legitimate reason for their crimes. Kidnapping, whatever the motive behind it, is a serious crime. Nigeria must be rid of it.
Source: The Guardian
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