Participants at the Grow Nigeria Conversation (GNC) have advised the Federal Government to acquire and deploy necessary surveillance technology to tackle the menace of kidnapping in the country.
The participants gave the advice in a communique issued on Sunday in Abuja after a webinar conference, titled “Reversing the flourishing economy of kidnapping and banditry: Immediate and long-term solutions.”
The GNC is a nonpartisan, solution-driven, real-time dialogue series set up to discuss possible people-centric solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting different sectors in Nigeria.
The webinar convened by former Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, was organised and hosted by the Africa Politeia Institute (TAPI) and the Adopt a Goal for Development Initiative (AAGI).
The conversation, according to the communique, featured key speakers including Amb. John Campbell, Matthew Page, Tanwa Ashiru, Kabir Adamu, Nnamdi Obasi, Nabilah Usman, and Cheta Nwanze.
The speakers during the online session noted that Nigeria’s large ungoverned spaces were increasingly being occupied by criminal gangs as bases from which to act.
“As a solution to the problem, the speakers urged the Federal Government to acquire surveillance technology such as drones, satellite imagery and the likes to allow aerial monitoring of these spaces, mobile phone tracking and tracing, and thus make it possible to follow the movements of miscreants.”
The group stressed the need to promote international cooperation in terms of training, technological fit-out and back-up for Nigeria security agencies to enhance their operational efficacy against the menace.
It noted that while the problem of kidnapping and banditry were not peculiar to Nigeria, some countries including Pakistan had recorded varying degrees of success in tackling it.
The webinar discussants advised the Nigerian government to reach out to such countries for lessons and solutions to the burgeoning problem.
The communique also called on states to adopt legislation outlawing the payment of ransoms for kidnapping.
The participants stated that “there is a need to disincentive kidnappers and bandits, by ensuring that the risk they face is higher than at present, and the reward is lower.
“One solution discussed was to lower the maximum sum allowed in cash remittances as a means for making it impossible for cash from ransoms to be used easily.”
The participants, however called for urgent reform of justice system to ensure swift administration of justice in cases of kidnapping and banditry, saying the news of quick court sentences will serve as a deterrent.
They also recommended the decentralisation of the Nigerian Police Force, and the need for the security forces to regain the trust of the Nigerian public.
“The lack of public trust in the country’s various security agencies has been to the detriment of the fight against banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria,” they noted.
They added that the security forces also needed better training and more boots on the ground, if they were to be effective.
The communique also called for transparency in security spending, specifically Armed Forces budgets and security votes, adding that lack of transparency encouraged corruption.
“Transparency here would promote a more effective security architecture as it would allow costs to be weighed up against benefits.
“ Likewise better accountability would help achieve the same goal,” the communique stated.
It added that curbing kidnapping always required the accurate use of local intelligence, thus communications structures between the various arms of the security forces must be improved on.
The participants, who linked the increasing insecurity in the country to high level of poverty, high unemployment rates among young people under 35 years, called for job creation for youths.
“There is a clear correlation between highest unemployment rates and kidnapping/banditry hotspots.
“Therefore, while the above short-term measures might mitigate the situation, solving it requires strong efforts in the form of clear-cut policies geared towards tackling poverty and unemployment in the country.
“Since jobs are primarily created by the private sector, it follows that incentivizing the latter and facilitating business are key in this context.
“Moreover, upskilling under-educated persons is also necessary in order to enable them to have future opportunities.”
Other participans in the conversation were youth representatives: Jude Feranmi, Hadiza Shehu, Ayobami Adekojo and directors of TAPI.