Written by Olakunle Agboola
Published on 12th February 2021
The kidnapping business in Nigeria has continued to expand beyond its shores, as it has become a national concern. For decades in Nigeria, the peculiarity of kidnapping has been dismissed as a business in the south-eastern part of the country not knowing it would soon become a national pastime.
This has now spread to the entire southern part of the country perhaps because kidnappers were emboldened by the rather tepid reaction by the judiciary and officers of the law to the seriousness of the crime of kidnapping. The huge amount of money people are being forced to pay to secure the lives or freedom of loved ones proved a magnet of attraction for young and unemployed people (including students) who formed gangs or acted solo in the business of kidnapping.
What became a crime that was initially domicile in the Southern part of the country has now metastasized into a national disease now mainly carried out by gangs of dispossessed Fulani Nomads roaming the rural space of both the north and the southern parts of the country. Some of these Fulani, on losing their cows to rustlers or their grazing grounds to the ever-expanding urban settlements, take to brigandage. Initially this was happening in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states but has now spread to all parts of the north and some parts of the south where cow rustling has become a phenomenon. Others have of course joined in what seems a lucrative business.
We have had several instances where people are kidnapped and millions are demanded from relatives but after serious negotiations the demand is reduced and once the money is paid the victim is released after suffering several sleepless days in the kidnappers’ den usually in the bush. On the contrary, some are killed after a huge ransom has been paid leaving their families in a big colossal loss.
Chief Olu Falae former Secretary to the Federal government had the unenviable experience of being kidnapped by Fulani nomads on his farm and spirited to a bush on the Owo-Benin road.
He was not released until appropriate ransom was apparently paid. The most dangerous aspect of the kidnapping phenomenon is its possible ethnic exploitation. This was the case in Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara where kidnappings became manifestations of ethnic hatred apart from its economic dimension between Hausa and Fulani.
In the South, Yoruba and Igbo and others see kidnapping especially by Fulani nomads as part of the warped political structure of the country where some people seem to be treated as sacred cows when they commit crimes. They come to this conclusion because Fulani criminals seem to go unpunished. In some cases, there are allegations of police refusing to take criminal complaints against them as seriously as the cases demand. The result of this is the accentuation of ethnic differences which have led to violence in a few instances.
The forests both in the north and the south have become refuge for criminals and the Fulani who over the centuries have known their ways through these forests in grazing their cows and moving them from the north to the south use this knowledge to their advantage in criminal activities. This is why as soon as people are kidnapped, they are immediately spirited to the forests which serve as prisons for their unfortunate victims.
A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sanya Adeolu, who were kidnapped by gunmen along Oyo/Ibadan road also related their horrors to African Voice Newspaper. Sanya Adeolu said they were released after spending four days in captivity and payed N2m ransom. He narrated, “It was around 4pm on the fateful day when we were approaching Ibadan, about six gunmen emerged from the bush, shooting sporadically in the middle of the express. Other vehicles turned back but it was too late for us to make a U-turn as we were already in their den. We were asked to lie down as we were forcefully thrown out of the vehicle.
I have never been beaten the way they did to me all my life. They beat me and my wife, ransacked our car and dragged us into the forest, leaving our two children in the car after collecting their phones.
The children cried but they took us away. They ransacked my car and made away with N900, 000. They tied my wife and I together as we walked for hours into the bush. While walking, we crossed a river where the water was so deep that it reached my chest. We got to the place where they keep their victims around 10 pm.
They were Fulani and they knew the terrain very well. The way they operated inside the bush; it was as if they were brought up in that domain. Even the guns they carried were intimidating. The place we were kept was not a camp. It was just under a big tree and we could clearly hear farmers working on farms nearby.
When we got to their hideout, they removed our wristwatches as well as jewelries we had on us. They tied our legs and hands. They also covered our mouth with clothes and blindfolded us. After doing that, they began to beat us. We were seriously beaten.
Later in the night, our phones began to ring because our relations expected that we should have arrived Ibadan. The following day the kidnappers asked us to look for N20 million before we could be released. They told our relatives to bring N20m to secure our freedom but, at the end of the day, they agreed to take N2million. They collected the N2m ransom from my brother on the road very close to Abaodo. The money was not dropped in the bush; they physically collected the cash before our freedom was secured’’.
Mr. and Mrs. Sanya Adeolu are just few out of many who survived such ordeal of seeing members of their family again. A lot of people have lost their lives as the activities of Fulani herdsmen and kidnappers has become a national interest which needs to be tackled head on. President Buhari has been asked to address the nation and find a lasting solution to the activities of Fulani herdsmen and kidnappers, if he means well for the security of 200 million Nigerians.