By Gabriel Ikese
The serenity of Jos is again being defiled by activities of notorious kidnappers running amok and unleashing terror on residents of the Plateau State capital. The Tin city, hitherto, famous for its peaceful coexistence and hospitality is today a besieged city. With the increasing menace of killings by unknown gunmen and other violent crimes such as kidnapping and armed robbery, Jos is progressively sliding into the Hobbesian’s state of nature where life is short, brutish and nasty.
The kidnapping of all manner of persons, particularly children of the age of 4years to 11years has gain ascendancy on the Plateau. A malady previously unknown to the good people of Plateau has rapidly become domesticated. Many years ago, it was the volatile oil rich regions of the Niger Delta that witnessed this phenomenon on a large scale with target being mostly expatriates. But sadly today, many households in Jos now live in utter fear of being kidnapped or killed.
It was about 10.30am on Friday, February 15, 2019, when Alhaji Ismaila Maigworo furiously barged into the office of the Manager of a first generation bank in Jos and demanded to know why his customer was being delayed at the bank. Alh. Maigworo issued a cheque to his customer and because of the amount involved, he was told to wait while they tried to get the Relationship Officer who was yet to resume work for the day to confirm the cheque in line with the bank policy.
Surprised that the Relationship Officer has not resumed and could not be reached on phone, which was very unusual, the Manager dispatched his driver to the house of the officer. That was when the Bank knew that one of their staff was brutally attacked in an unholy hour at their residence in Kwang, Little-Rayfield. Her phones were seized and their 4years old son kidnapped and whisked away. It is unbelievable that such ugly incidents could be occurring in Little-Rayfield which is the seat of power and residence of the Plateau State Governor.
A resident of the area, Mr. Chollom Pam, told our reporter in Jos that a week before, kidnappers stormed a resident at Mazaram topp in Little-Rayfield at about 1.30am and abducted a little girl of 6years. The parent of the girl, who spoke to TheNigerian under anonymity for fear of the unknown, confirmed the incident. He said they informed the Police few minutes after the operation, and after a while, the police came around and told them to cooperate with the kidnappers as all they are after is money. The dare devil kidnappers demanded N10million ransom and following a protracted negotiations, the child was later released a sum of N600,000.00 was paid as ransom.
On Ash Wednesday, Kidnappers invaded another residence at Gura-Topp at same little-Rayfield and whisked away another 8year old boy into the thick dark forest and later called for N20million ransom. The parents, who would not want their names in print, told our correspondent that police was duly informed that night but never came until 7.00am in the morning,. The Police told them not to panic that the kidnappers would not harm the boy and advised them to cooperate with them. The parent had no choice than to gather money from friends and family members to pay N1million ransom before the boy was released.
Dr. Daniel Meshack, the Convener of Plateau Intelligentia, in a radio programme with Rhythm FM 93.7 Jos, said kidnapping is a strange menace that is rapidly on the increase in Jos metropolis. He is worried that government and security agencies in the state are perceived to be unconcerned about the ugly development in the State. Meshack reiterated that security and welfare of citizens are primary responsibility of government. He said from last quarter of 2018 to March this year, Jos has recorded over 20 cases of kidnappings and if allowed to continue unabated, the consequences on the economic activities, peace and security of the state would be catastrophic.
Narrating her ordeals in the hand of Kidnappers, a lady told David King of Rhythm FM 93.7 in Jos how her 5year old son was abducted in their home at about 2.30am. She got home early on Valentine night, February 14,and went to bed early but woke up at about 2.30am following a loud bang at the door. The husband opened the door and was confronted by 4 men assumed to be in their early 30s. They asked for money and with about N10,000 cash at their disposal, their little son was instantly hoarded away. The couple reached out to the Police in desperation, but were told to act wisely and obey the kidnappers. At the end, N500,000 was paid as ransom for the boy. It was a traumatic experience for the couple.
It was a heavy burden for another lady who related her ordeal to Rhythm FM. She told of the trauma when her 8year old son was kidnapped and how she submitted herself and followed them into the forest for many hours until her husband was able to pay the ransom before they were released.
Many residents who called in to the radio programme blamed the government and security agencies for being lackadaisical on the issue of kidnapping in the state. Security of lives and property is one of the issues that should attract the attention of both the media and government.
TheNigerian spoke to the Plateau State Police Public Relations Officer, Mattias Tyopev who did not deny knowledge of kidnappings in the state. He however played down on the frequency and assured that the police are on top of the situation. As at the time of going to press with this report, the Plateau State government has not responded to our calls or text messages through the office of the SSA on Security matters.
Some of the residents that spoke to our correspondent reasoned that the mass media which has a social responsibility to provide the public with adequate information about certain incidents in the society could have paid greater attention to issues bordering on kidnapping and inform the public accordingly. While the broadcast media may not have assigned more air-time to such issues because of too many other programmes, it is assumed that newspaper reports on the kidnappings in Jos may not have been adequate.
However, some concerned citizens under the auspices of Policify Hub lamented the complex and sophisticated dimension kidnapping has assumed on the Plateau. Spokes person of the group, Mr. Liberty Homsuk Dama said the current situation without being told requires stakeholders to restrategise and think out of the box to surmount the menace. He said the need to contain the situation becomes very imperative because of the security implication on residents and the economy of the state.
Policify Hub lamented that the Plateau State government and security agencies , particularly the Police and Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) in the state have allowed the situation to fester on for too long. They encouraged the Police to swing into action to identify and arrest those involved, their collaborators, where and how the incidents happened could give valuable clues that could assist investigation.
The group further noted that the current menace of kidnapping cannot be eliminated without dealing with related criminal activities. More often than not, those who get involved in hard drug selling and consumption as well as armed robbery are prone to insanity. Mr. Homsuk Dama said the solution to the menace of kidnapping must be community driven; therefore the challenge should not be left to only the Nigerian Police. He called on communities to organize local vigilante for community policing and information gathering.
Lastly, the group said the only way out of the current siege by kidnappers was for those in leadership at all levels to meet their obligations to the citizens by defining what they should do at each time and do it well. The police are therefore advised to do detailed threat analysis and intelligence mapping to identify black spots, hideouts, kingpins, collaborators and undertake preemptive raids.
Policify Hub calls for immediate action by the Plateau State Government, Security agencies and traditional leaderships to curb the precarious development which has assumed a very alarming dimension in the State.