June 7, 2009

No Kidding, No Napping

By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
IF kidnapping for any reason is split into two words, it would become – kid napping – a child relaxing, or simply sleeping. Kidnapping has nothing to do with napping, except that most people are caught napping, yes, unready for the millions of Naira they are asked to shell out for their freedom. Another connection is that kids are mostly nabbed, or kidnapped, the criminals depending on the sentimental attachment of parents to their off-springs, to wring millions of Naira from the hapless parents. More exploratory kidnappers take about anyone who in their stretching imaginations can produce the million of Naira they want.

Militants are not the only kidnappers

Militants are not the only kidnappers

Kidnapping is not a child’s play, and definitely not the type of game any child should be the victim. In the parts of the country where kidnapping is rising, society is bearing the brunt of the greed of a few. Kidnapping is haunting millions of Nigerians, who are shocked about how quickly the crime is spreading.

Children have been known to organise their own kidnaps to extort money from their parents. On their part, some parents in their love triangles kidnap their own children. There are no stories of kidnaps that are impossible these days. Some of the stories do not make sense, as if it makes sense that one human would want take another for money.

There are parts of the country, outside the Niger Delta, that have excelled in this crime. In those places, nowhere is sacred, nowhere safe, no measures are protective enough. Kidnapping defies age groups and gender.

In one community in the South East, people have been kidnapped in churches, at wedding ceremonies, funerals, and from business premises. Business disputes are resolved through kidnaps. New places under construction have been abandoned by their owners, who are targets after their workers have been taken.

Those who are not wealthy are not immune to kidnaps, if they have a rich relation, no matter how far apart the relationship is, they are taken and their relations asked to pay outrageous ransoms, some  as high as N500 million!  Experts, who can knock the figures down to more reasonable ones abound. From a ransom of N500 million, N15 million may be finally paid, yet it does not guarantee that the kidnapped would make it back home.

An elderly woman was taken at early morning mass, weeks after celebrating her 60th wedding anniversary. A man who served as chairman of his church harvest committee received a note as the bazaar was going on – he almost fell off his seat.

Some kidnappers were in the church, the ones who were in custody of his uncle. The note mocked him about throwing his money about in public while his uncle was held. He raised the money in days and freed his uncle.

People no longer give freely in church. New projects are dead. Ordinary repairs to leaking roofs, or anything that portrays wealth, or means, is on hold. Economic activities are dying – there are ominous indications of the consequences.

Those who can afford it are moving their parents to the cities, supposedly away from the itchy fingers of kidnappers. Soon there would b empty villages or those that would not have economic activity going on because its productive members or those who have the resources to make a difference in rural Nigeria would have been scared away to other areas in Nigeria with better security.

Whatever the cause of kidnap could be, whoever are involved, whatever they believe in, the truth is that governments have failed to act decisively against the crimes. Governments’ attitude has spawned stories about kidnappers having the backing of top people in government who use them, sometimes to score some political points. You cannot kid these criminals, nor nap while they are on the prowl. There are great concerns about governments’ unwillingness to act on the matter now. If governments acted many yesterdays ago, they would have made all the difference. Today we run high risks of kidnapping being a way of life, maybe a culture.