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Kidnapping: A-Ibom takes the lead (2)

By Dele Soboale
“My men are already in the bush and hopefully we will get the kidnappers and free Pa Etuk”.

Walter Rugbere, Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State, in THE NATION, October 19, 2010, p.7.

“You can fool some of the people all the time; you can fool all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time”.

Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, 16th U.S President.

If you believe Commissioner Rugbere, you will believe anything. You are clearly not fit to be an Area Boy. With all due respects, the CP, Akwa Ibom can go and say that to the marines.

Let me quickly give some reasons, which though not meant to embarrass the CP, but which cast doubt on the ability of his “men already in the bush” to perform. Just a few weeks ago, three kidnappers already in police custody, in Uyo, escaped and have not been caught since by the “men already in the bush”.

Before Pa Etuk was snatched, October had already proved to be a busy and profitable month for kidnappers in the state. First, the wife of Group Captain Sam Ewang, former military administrator of Ogun and Rivers states, was taken at about 8.25 am in her school right in front of the kids.

One eye witness in the village, on promise of anonymity was of the opinion that the school bus was not taken with the kids because the kidnap of 15 pupils in Aba had already created an international outcry. Despite the payment of huge sums of money, the woman had not been released.

In fact, the vehicle which went to deliver the ransom money was destroyed and the money couriers seized – also in day light. As of the time of writing this, the “men already in the bush” don’t have a clue yet – or at least that is what they would like us to believe.

And, if you believe that too, then you will believe anything. We have learnt from the Babangida days, when the notorious Aninih, of Edo State fame, used to “fix” people’s properties by removing them, that crime does not continue unabated in a territory without some bad eggs in the Nigeria Police collaborating with the criminals.

There is also unconfirmed report that a close relative of a retired Chief of Air Staff, Nsikak Eduok, was also a victim. Whether or not the “men already in the bush” are on to that one is not clear at the moment; we are following the story closely. The “men already in the bush” as far as Area Boys are concerned remain among the “usual suspects” until they produce the real culprits for each and everyone of these crimes.

That should not be too much to ask from men who spend so much time in the bush; or is it?

It is not my intention to spoil the CP’s Sunday, but he should also remember that an Indian lady, a widow for that matter, is still languishing in kidnappers’ detention since she was taken in Eket more than two weeks ago.

I am aware there is a lot of bush in Akwa Ibom state, but would it be considered unfair to ask the CP if the ”men already in the bush” have a lead on where the poor widow might be residing at the moment?

It is not important at this stage to list seriatim all the people who have either been kidnapped or killed outright in the last one and half year alone. There is still time for that; we are still compiling.

Few have been rescued by the “men already in the bush” and few hoodlums have been successfully prosecuted and punished even though the Governor had signed a law stipulating hanging.

That has made kidnapping a low risk enterprise in the state. In fact, a person is more likely to get caught and jailed for stealing a goat, in Akwa Ibom, than for kidnapping. Apparently, the “men already in the bush” take the loss of a goat more seriously than the disappearance of a human being.

Permit me at this point to leave the CP and his “men already in the bush”; doing whatever they do there. It is certainly not catching criminals; and move to other aspects of the disaster building up in Akwa Ibom before we again make the CNN News.

I hope the President, the National Security Adviser, the DG-SSS, and especially the Inspector General of Police, IGP, who was resident in Abia, as AIG, while the place went to the devil, will this time pay attention. We collectively ignore Akwa Ibom at our peril and we are already playing politics with the lives and livelihood of the people of that state; believe me.

Political crimes, including and especially kidnapping, precede commercial kidnapping. In Rivers, Bayelsa and parts of Delta, as well as the South East, except Ebonyi State, almost invariably the “stalwarts” hired by the politicians for election and who they covered with immunity have turned on the people after the elections with impunity.

They acted in the knowledge that their former godfathers would not dare expose them. In all fairness to the police, the few they arrest are released on “orders from above” and sometimes with a “thank you envelope” from “above”. After a while, the police no longer bother.

As one senior officer told me during the 2005/6 days of rage unleashed on Lagos Island, by the FERMA thugs, when Seye Ogunlewe was Minister of Works, “we arrested over fifty yesterday alone but none is in our custody now; every one had been ordered released by either a PDP or AC big man”.

That, “Siddon look” attitude, allied with the typical police officer’s love for filthy lucre had been responsible for Aba, Imo and now the tragedies in Akwa Ibom. Between them, there is widespread belief among Nigerians that the politicians and the police know the criminals.

We certainly knew those who tormented Lagos Island but with President Obasanjo committed to “Do-or-die” politics, nobody till today got punished. So, again, invariably, break down of security in any state cannot continue for so long without benign neglect by some people in Abuja. We know who was President in 2005, 2006 to May 2007; we know who is President now. Will they continue to play politics with peoples’ lives?……..

My grandfather, late Agbe-Davies, from Ogotun Ekiti, whose ancestors settled in Lagos, was the first Nigerian to attain the rank of Inspector in the Nigeria Police. So, it is heart-rending for me to observe police officers desecrate the uniform, proudly and honourably worn by grandpa. It also gives me immeasurable joy when a police officer makes the force proud by living up to the standards Nigerians expect.

Please meet Assistant Commissioner of Police Suraju Umar, Area A Zonal Commander in charge of Lion’s Building, Lagos Island. Umar is a rare breed police officer and the type we all wish populate the entire police force.
Three weeks ago, armed robbers came to Lagos Island about 2 a.m –which by itself is a rare occurrence. Few robbers dare to invade the den of Area Boys. But, they were obviously acting on a tip off. They went straight to the shop of a recharge cards dealer and carted off over N6 million worth of cards after scaring the vigilantes off with gun shots. While making their escape one of the robbers carelessly dropped the cartridge of the weapon which was retrieved and taken to this marvelous Area Commander……


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