Kaduna State is in a big mess. This aptly describes the raging insecurity in this state, where kidnapping and banditry have become big businesses. The last four years have been horrendous. Daily, scores of hapless people are kidnapped for ransom in communities across the state, while security agents and Governor Nasir El-rufai display so much incompetence. Traumatised residents of Rigasa, in Igabi Local Government Area of the state, were on the streets last Monday to protest the high rate of abductions in their community. They also visited the state’s House of Assembly to seek the intervention of the lawmakers over their plight.
“Our people are being kidnapped on a daily basis; some of the residents have fled their homes for fear of being captured,” leader of the protesters, Shehu Sanusi, told the lawmakers. According to him, more than 50 persons are currently in captivity, including a pregnant woman. “Ten of the victims released are with us in this protest. None of these victims was released without a ransom, and we are tired. The community has been abandoned to face these problems alone in spite of the fact that we have representatives in the assembly,” Sanusi added.
I wonder why Rigasa community took their case to the lethargic legislators. All the lawmakers care about is their salaries and running cost. No member of the House has ever visited to commiserate with the people of Rigasa or speak about this problem. Even the lawmaker representing the local government area has been mute. Sanusi lambasted them, saying: “We voted you to represent us but you are sleeping at your homes comfortably. We are tired of this situation; you should please come to our aid.” The languid Speaker of the Kaduna House of Assembly, Aminu Shagali was seen assuring the protesters that the Assembly would take action to bring about a lasting solution to the problem. It was the usual rhetoric. Nothing will happen afterward.
It is not just Rigasa that is feeling the anguish caused by kidnappers and bandits in Kaduna State. There is blood, tears and pain across the whole state. Few weeks back, kidnappers walked into Engravers College, Kakau Daji, Chikun Local Government Area of Kaduna State and cherry-picked six female students and two staff of the college. There was no sign that security agents ever got close to the kidnappers. In fact, the girls and their teachers spent 23 days in the dungeons of their captors. The victims eventually secured freedom, largely based on the efforts of the parents, concerned indigenes of the state and a retired Army officer, who mobilised N13.6 million to meet the demands of the kidnappers. Security agents and the Kaduna State Government were obviously lackadaisical about freeing the victims and the concerned indigenes had to come in.
Now, 16 days after the release of the Engravers girls and their teachers, no word yet on apprehending the abductors. Like in previous cases of abductions, it may never happen. Those who inflicted pain on those children, their parents and teachers are enjoying their loot. What a country!
Many will never forget the story of late Jeremiah Omolewa, who was the resident pastor of Living Faith Church, Romi New Extention, in Kaduna. Jeremiah, and his wife, Oluwakemi, were abducted along the notorious Kaduna-Abuja Road on August 10. He was murdered by his abductors while his wife was held for five days and finally released after the payment of an undisclosed sum of money as ransom. Oluwakemi was terrorised. She was not even aware that her husband had been murdered until she returned home. As at press time, security agents were yet to apprehend the killers of Jeremiah as promised. No news yet on the arrest of the bastards that killed this clergy and extorted money from his widow. The pain inflicted on the Omolewa family is massive.
What about the abduction of Pastor Elisha Numan of Nagarta Baptist Church and his son in Angwan Makiri, near Udawa, in Chikun Local Government, back in August? Numan, in his 60s and a father of six, was bashed by the bandits as they dragged him into the bush. Elisha was taken away with his son, Emmanuel, who was later released to go and mobilise the church for the payment of N20 million as ransom. Close to N3 million was paid for Elisha’s freedom by the Kaduna Christian community.
Last September, thousands of residents of 17 villages in Igabi Local Government became refugees in their state for weeks, no thanks to Fulani militias which the Kaduna State Government prefers to call bandits. Scores of well-armed attackers invaded these communities, killing and maiming. Homes and property were destroyed by the rampaging militias. Many had to flee Igabi because security agents failed to respond appropriately to their distress calls. Some of the villages affected then were Tura, Unguwan Gebi, Unguwan Dangauta, Unguwan Nayawu, Unguwan Makeri, Jagani, Sabon Gida, Dallatu, Unguwan Alhaji Ahmadu, Sabon Gari, Kusau, Gidan Sarkin Noma, Unguwan Pati, Unguwan Tofa and Sauran Giwa. Thousands of people from these communities were forced to live in squalid conditions at an emergency refugee camp located at Birnin Yero Primary School. They have since returned to their homes but the militias, who have turned some parts of the local government to their homes, are yet to be fully cleared for peace to reign.
Another Kaduna community persistently attacked by bandits and kidnappers is Kajuru. Apart from kidnapping for ransom, here, herders and locals are persistently at war, leaving hundreds dead and so many families bereaved.
The Kaduna State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Joseph Hayab has been persistently lamenting about the raging insecurity in his state. I can vividly remember Hayab saying that the church had spent over N300 million on payment of ransom in the last four years for over 500 Christians abducted within the period.
Last September, Hayab said: “In the past four years, Christians in Kaduna State have suffered a lot, paying ransoms to kidnappers, to ensure the release of either their family members or church members or neighbours or someone they know. In Kachia, a Reverend Father was abducted three months ago, and a ransom of N1.5 million was paid, but he has not been released, an indication that he might have been killed.
“In many of our villages along the Abuja-Kaduna road, people have abandoned their homes and relocated to places like Buwaya, Gonin- Gora, Romi and other suburbs around Kaduna metropolis as a result of activities of kidnappers. They are suffering because no effort is being made to tame kidnapping in Kaduna State. Our people cannot continue to live in fear, even in their homes. Three weeks ago, kidnappers went to Marraban Rido, broke into three houses and abducted three women. I can go on and on to tell you incidences of people being frequently kidnapped and we keep on looking for money to pay the kidnappers.”
Hayab’s cries have not changed anything. In fact, kidnapping and banditry in Kaduna State have since assumed a more deadly dimension. El-rufai and security agents persistently fail these people.
Last Monday, the Kaduna State Governor was seen distributing operation vehicles to the police. Solving the Kaduna challenge requires more than just sharing vehicles to the police. This governor must start using his security vote astutely. He must also work with the leaders of security agencies to overhaul the entire security architecture of the state. This is pertinent. Besides, Governor El-rufai must show greater commitment to ending the kidnappings and banditry by running the state dispassionately. The pounded communities see this governor and security agents as having compromised. El-rufai has to show leadership, amend his ways and learn to govern without favour.
By now, the Kogi State University, Ayingba, ought to have been shut for total overhaul, if the government in that state is a thoughtful one. Unfortunately, the Yahaya Bello-led government is only interested in holding on to power. In this institution, secret cult members roam freely, inflicting pain on innocent students. There was bloodbath in the university last week, after one of the cult groups in the school allegedly attacked and killed a kingpin of another cult group from the Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja. In the reprisals, several Kogi State University’s students were killed on campus and outside the school.
The police have verified the killings, listing the casualties to include Justice Keke, who was killed on campus; a yet-to-be-identified student killed and dumped in an uncompleted building behind the university; Andrulraman Usman, a 200 level student of History killed at his father’s lodge; Olaruntoba Godwin, a 400 level student and Ajileye Richard, a 200 level student, who were picked inside the bush behind the Harbor Bay Hotel in Ayingba. In all, five students were confirmed killed in the cult war.
Unfortunately, several days after the incident, the police are yet to make a single arrest. The Kogi police only said crack detectives had been drafted to the school to put an end to the crisis. For now, tears are unending in the homes of affected parents after receiving dead bodies of their children. For how long will parents continue to bury children sent to this school for academic purpose? Governor Bello must rise and end this madness at Kogi State University. The school should be shut and all identified cultists thrown out before it is reopened. The cultists are well known on campus in Ayingba.
Bill to Regulate Social Media?
Senator Mohammed Sani, APC Niger East, sponsor of the Social Media Regulation Bill, reintroduced on Tuesday in the Senate, says it is aimed at curtailing the spread of fake information. The bill is seeking a three-year jail term for anyone involved in what it calls the abuse of social media or an option of fine of N150, 000 or both. It is also proposing a fine of N10 million for media houses involved in peddling falsehood or misleading the public. The bill, which has already passed first reading is entitled, “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019.”
For me, Senator Sani must be high on something. Only God knows what it is. I hope that he does not contaminate his colleagues. I am embarrassed that this Senator does not understand that social media is a form of expression. What the bill is seeking is unconstitutional because it aims to infringe on the constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of expression and speech. This bill contains elements that will affect the right to free expression of internet users in Nigeria. It aims to restrict the ability of Nigerians to use social media tools to communicate, connect and seek independent information. The real targets of this absolutely unnecessary bill are people critical of government policies, programmes and corruption in the corridors of power. The threat of jail aims to create fear among these bloggers and online activists, so that they won’t post critical materials.
Recall that in 2016, a similar bill was introduced but the Senate was forced to withdraw it following public outcry. The 9th Senate must avoid repressive laws that will serve Nigerians no good. The social media gives everyone a voice, irrespective of class and position. Everyone now has a voice at virtually no cost. The elites in Nigeria are not happy about this and aim to curtail it with the Social Media Bill. Nigerians must vigorously challenge this unconstitutional and obnoxious bill, by putting pressure on their representatives to oppose it. Anyone aggrieved with a social media report can always drag the offender to court for libel.