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Kidnapping a la Akwa Ibom

SOME groups in Akwa Ibom State are re_inventing kidnapping, at a time the penalty for the crime in the State is death sentence and kidnapping is on the decline elsewhere.

The motives for kidnapping in the State have become subjects of speculations with opposing camps accusing each other of being responsible for the upswing of the crime. Either party points at political motives.

First, the State Government accused its opponents of staging the kidnaps to create the impression that the State was not safe. There are even insinuations that those who lost out in the State’s power game want a state of emergency in order to re-arrange the cards for the 2011 elections.

Opponents of the government fired back. According to them, the State was responsible for the kidnaps and wanted to use them to divert attention from issues affecting the people and to terrorise political opponents.

The two positions leave one wondering where the security agencies stand. Why is it impossible to get to the root of this matter? Why are the security agencies not doing more?

Agreed the police arrested a former Commissioner in the State, who some suspects allegedly implicated, that is not enough. The kidnaps have continued. It would be important to see if those arrested can be tried under the anti-kidnap law the State House of Assembly passed last year.

Obviously, there are many who know more about what is happening than they are saying. The claims and counter-claims on who is responsible for the kidnaps would not be as effective as concerted efforts to apprehend suspects and try them. Have these claims been formally passed to the security agencies?

The State Government has threatened to punish traditional rulers in whose domain kidnappings are rampant. Prayers have been offered in churches for suspects to be arrested. Some traditional rulers at a gathering last year rained curses on kidnappers and their sponsors.

None of these has worked.  The kidnappers seem to work with the certainty that they would not come to any harm, during their operations or if they are arrested.

Their operational methods have seen victims taken at home, at work, on the streets and most recently in the church. The demand for ransom tends to reduce the kidnaps to a transaction with the motive simply being pecuniary.

Whatever the motives, kidnapping, if unchecked, has the potentials of making the State appear unsafe and denying it the investments various government projects are targeting. The losers would be the people; their livelihood depends on jobs new investments would create.

If those already apprehended, investigated, and found wanting are treated as sacred cows, kidnapping would be used as a political tool to destabilise the State. It is therefore important the security agencies set out to make the point emphatically that kidnapping is really a crime by fighting it and diligently prosecuting those apprehended.


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