Last Wednesday’s revelation by the Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. John Joseph Hayab, that a ransom of N250 million was paid to secure the release of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna who were kidnapped by bandits is another national embarrassment. Ejiofor Alike reports that for bandits to keep kidnap victims within the Nigerian territory for as long as two years until a ransom is paid without any trace by the various security agencies is an indication that government has lost control of public spaces
Despite the claims by the various government agencies that the registration of SIM cards and the National Identification Number (NIN) would curb kidnapping and financial crimes, kidnapping has remained a booming business for bandits and other criminals, who collect ransom from abducted Nigerians and foreign nationals, without a trace.
The silence by the promoters of SIM registration and NIN in the face of this unabating criminality has shown that most of these programmes of government serve the pecuniary interest of the implementing agencies without delivering any public good.
Several years after the SIM registration by subscribers was made compulsory, pre-registered SIM cards still flood the Nigerian markets for use by kidnappers and other unidentified criminal elements.
More worrisome is the fact that in most cases where ransom involves millions of naira, kidnap victims are kept within the Nigerian soil for many years, while contacts are being made with their families through phones without the security agencies successfully tracking the location of the victims or their abductors.
Another frightening dimension is the direct and indirect involvement of some agents of governments in the negotiation, and supervision of payment of ransom.
In most cases, such as the case of the eight Akwa Ibom State graduates kidnapped in Zamfara State on August 17, while they were travelling to the Sokoto State NYSC Orientation Camp, the parents and relations of the victims are abandoned to their fate to negotiate and pay ransom to the bandits.
The parents of the eight corps members had resorted to fasting and prayers on the fate of their children when the abductors initially denied them freedom after receiving N13 million ransom.
Another corps member, Miss Esther Akande, who was kidnapped on Wednesday, August 16, while on her way to the NYSC Permanent Orientation Camp in Magaji Dan Yanusa Keffi, Nasarawa State, and released on Saturday, August 19, had revealed that the sum of ₦1million was paid to secure her freedom.
However, in the case of the victims of the March 28, 2022 Abuja-Kaduna train attack, the Chief of Defence Staff Action Committee (CDSAC) had secured the release of the last batch of 23 kidnapped victims after almost six months in captivity.
The setting up of the high-powered committee to secure the release of the victims after the alleged payment of an undisclosed amount of ransom was because some of the victims were high-profile Nigerians.
In June 2022, 11 of the abductees were released, while in July 2022, seven more abducted passengers, including Sadiq, the son of the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof Ango Abdullahi, were freed.
Last Wednesday, the Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. John Joseph Hayab, revealed that a ransom of over N250 million was paid to secure the release of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna who were kidnapped by bandits in July 2022.
Bandits had in July 2021, stormed the school owned by the Nigeria Baptist Convention (NBC) in Damishi, Kaduna and abducted 121 students.
However, the NBC President, Dr. Israel Akanji, last week confirmed that the last victim, Treasure Ayuba, escaped from captivity on November 2, 2023.
Speaking while leading Ayuba’s parents on a courtesy visit to Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State, the CAN chairman in the state, Rev Hayab, noted that a total sum of N250 million was paid as ransom to rescue the 121 students.
“We are here to welcome back Treasure Ayuba, the last of the kidnapped students of Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna, matched out while in their sleep in the school hostel and kidnapped on the night of July 5, 2021 by bandits.
“To the knowledge of CAN, over N250 million was paid as ransom to get the 121 kidnapped children out from their captors, but for Treasure, his story became a heart-breaking one, further made worse by distorting the truth that the boy did not want to leave the den of the kidnappers,” he explained.
Hayab added that: “To add salt to injury, on more than one occasion, the kidnappers abducted the persons sent with the ransom to get Treasure out of their hands, making his stay to become an infinite time of agonising pain until God intervened.
“Accordingly, on Thursday, November 2, 2023, I received a call from Treasure’s parents that the boy returned home safely after being in the hands of his captors for 28 months,” Hayab explained.
The residents of the state had witnessed unprecedented killings and abductions between 2015 and 2023 when bandits, some of whom were believed to be state-sponsored, unleashed mayhem on the state.
However, the residents of the state are beginning to experience relief under the administration of Governor Sani.
In Borno State, most of the 276 schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 from the Government Girls Secondary School in the village of Chibok by Boko Haram militants, have remained in captivity for nine years.
Two of the schoolgirls – Hauwa Maltha and Esther Marcus – only regained their freedom in May this year with one having a year-old baby while the second gave birth to her second child a few days after her freedom.
In the South-east, rampaging gunmen kidnap and collect ransom for the release of their lucky victims and harvest the organs of unlucky ones for rituals.
Mrs Bianca Ojukwu, wife of the late Chief Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, had on Tuesday disclosed the existence of a mass grave in Anambra State.
The former Nigerian Ambassador to Spain, who did not disclose the location of the grave site, added that about 322 persons were verified as killed or dead as a result of violence as testified by the witnesses who appeared before the Anambra Truth, Justice and Peace Commission.
The Truth, Justice and Peace Commission was constituted by the state governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, in June 2022 to inquire into the violent agitations and restiveness in the state and the South-east.
As kidnappers and bandits hold sway across the country, the heavily-guarded political leaders deploy state apparatus against opponents who are killed in state-sponsored terrorism while others are hounded and detained without trial by security forces who display maximum show of force on unarmed civilians and peaceful protesters.
For these kidnap victims to be held in captivity within the Nigerian soil for years without any trace by the various security agencies is an indication that the government has lost control of the public spaces.
Many have wondered what the job of the Department of State Services (DSS), the police and other security agencies is for this predicament to constantly befall Nigerians if not to gather intelligence needed to wipe out the criminals responsible for nefarious crime.