After the Kuriga Kidnapping

After the Kuriga Kidnapping

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Kuriga Kidnapping 

Thank God that the children who were kidnapped from the Primary and Secondary School in Kuriga, Kaduna State, have returned physically safe. Their mental health must however, be taken care of, having suffered such a traumatic experience. I’m not sure that the one or two days of psychotherapy that was given to them, is sufficient; they need more attention. I watched an interview of Journalist, Donu Kogbara on Arise TV’s Perspectives last weekend, where she narrated how her kidnap experience traumatised her, and the lasting psychological effects it had on her late Mother and herself. While Ms Kogbara admitted that being kidnapped has different effects on different people, from the insight she gave from her experience, it appears that the nasty experience could have a lasting effect on victims. Ms Kogbara mentioned a man who kidnappers forced to sleep between the corpses of his two colleagues that were kidnapped along with him, and  murdered. Because he lay between them as their corpses started to decompose, he now suffers from a condition of which he cannot forget the smell of their decomposed bodies. 

Unfortunately, Kuriga School Teacher, Mallam Abubakar, didn’t survive. One of the students who was interviewed, said their Mallam Abubakar was beaten (the children were beaten too) and tortured, and this led to his death. May God have mercy upon his soul. 

While the controversy rages on about the actual number of children that were kidnapped, 287 or 137, and whether it seems incredible/fishy to some that the rescued or released children were all adorned in asò èbi (family cloth aka uniform) sewn in 24 hours (people shouldn’t forget that the Government already has aso èbi tailors on standby, as they have been on hand to sew matching outfits for bandits/insurgents who are forgiven), the details of the children’s return which seem sketchy with many unanswered questions, may not be particularly sinister. And, for one, the details of their return being shrouded in secrecy could be for security reasons – that Government has decided to keep the details of the children’s return close to its chest, particularly if it is a winning formula that can be used again, and is better left unpublicised, so as not to give criminals a sneak preview/heads up that may assist them to further their nefarious activities. 

Sections 11 & 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 (FOA) provide for exceptions in which public institutions can withhold information from the public in certain circumstances, like in those that may be injurious to the defence of the country, or to ongoing criminal investigations or proceedings, or can interfere with law enforcement agency proceedings; where the injury that will be done in revealing the information, outweighs the public interest of knowing the facts. Maybe these provisions may be applicable to the details of the Kuriga kidnapping release.

Erosion of Trust

Unfortunately, because over the years, the trust between Government and the governed has been seriously eroded, and rightfully so too, some people are quick to condemn  President Tinubu, tarring his administration with the same brush of lollygagging, lack of will and the wherewithal to tackle insecurity like the administration of President Buhari. I cannot say that this negative rating about President Tinubu’s administration vis-à-vis insecurity is correct, though I must admit that the choice of some of the persons occupying some key positions with regard to State Security may leave one wondering why they were even put in those positions in the first place. For example, I saw a news report on social media the other day, in which it was alleged that the Governor of Zamfara State, Dauda Lawal, accused the Government of being in secret negotiations with the Terrorists in his State, without his knowledge. Was Mr Lawal, in a roundabout way, trying to complain that his predecessor who failed woefully in the area of security in Zamfara while he was Governor and is now the Minister of State for Defence, is behind this negotiation that he disapproves of? After all, it was during the tenure of Governor Maitawalle in 2022 that notorious terrorist gang leader, Ado Aleru was conferred with the chieftaincy title of Sarkin Fulani of the Yandoton Emirate in Zamfara State.

Fallout from the Kuriga Incident 

Following the Kuriga incident, my attention was drawn to two particular issues – 1) our warped security operatives and 2) our so-called Governors and their under-performance. 

1)Our Warped Security Operatives: The Anjarwalla Escape Example

Call it tautology, reiteration, repetition, reduplication, echoing or ceaselessness, I have always maintained that some of our security operatives across all the law enforcement agencies, are compromised and complicit in all that has gone wrong concerning security, and if this administration doesn’t find a way to get rid of them and complete the rejigging of our security architecture, achieving the primary purpose of government, that is, the security and welfare of the people will be impossible – see Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2023)(the Constitution). Also see the case of Tanko v State (2009) LPELR-3136 (SC) per Pius Olayiwola Aderemi, JSC. Playing ostrich, or the Tinubu administration burying its head in the sand instead of facing this fact, will only result in more kidnapping and a more heightened state of insecurity. 

The escape of Africa Regional Manager of Binance, Nadeem Anjarwalla, from a safe house in the custody of the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), said to be guarded by soldiers, is a prime example of the compromise, corruption, and lack of accountability that unfortunately, exists amongst some of our law enforcement agents. And, it is incidents like this that surely make the people view our law enforcement agencies and agents with suspicion, and also lose confidence in them. How was Mr Anjarwalla able to escape, if not with the connivance of some of the operatives supposed to be guarding him? 

Furthermore, allowing religion to play a role that it doesn’t have, in matters where it shouldn’t feature, has also been the bane of Nigeria’s problems. See Section 10 of the Constitution. If Christianity, and more so, Islam, had not been exalted to positions that the Constitution certainly does not accord, a detainee would not be able to use going to the Mosque for Ramadan prayers as an excuse and means of escape. Meanwhile, we all thought that detention means a temporary loss of liberty/freedom of movement. See Sections 35(1)(c) & 41(1)  of the Constitution, particularly Section 41(2)(a) which permits the imposition of restrictions of movement on a person who is reasonably suspected to have committed a crime, in order to prevent the person leaving Nigeria. Also see the case of Lufadeju & Anor v Johnson (2007) LPELR-1795(SC) per Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, JSC (later CJN). Soon, with a little bit of motivation to the Prison Guards,  inmates of Ikoyi Prison will be allowed to troop across the road to the Syrian Mosque for Jumat Prayers or to celebrate Eid!

Again, in the USA and many other countries, telephone conversations between those in custody and the people that they speak to outside are monitored, and sometimes, it is through these monitored conversations that the authorities obtain confessional statements and proof beyond reasonable doubt to augment their thorough investigations, and not by means of torture and intimidation as is the practice of the  Nigeria Police and other law enforcement agencies here – see the toothless Anti-Torture Act 2017. How is it that, in a safe house where detainees are held, they have limitless access to their phones? And, in the event that for some unknown reason they are given such access, should it be ongoing unfettered access, and should their conversations be unmonitored? I think not. Furthermore, if Mr Anjarwalla speaks a foreign language not understood by the security operatives, should they not have insisted that he carried on his conversations in the English language? Carelessness, ineptitude or compromise? This is only one example of how our law enforcement agents are prepared to compromise, bend the rules, or outrightly commit crimes, if the price is right. 

My point? As a matter of urgency, just as Government has set up several Task Forces on the issue of Nigeria’s economy, so also should there be a similar initiative on Security. Section 153(h) & (k) of the Constitution establish the National Economic Council (NEC) and the National Security Council (NSC) respectively. Despite the fact that NEC exists, the President saw it fit to establish Economic Task Forces. I submit that it is just as necessary to establish Security Task Force(s) even though the NSC exists, as the importance of security, the first leg of the primary purpose of government cannot be overemphasised. While the economy can be put under the umbrella of welfare of the people, security was put in the first position by the framers of the Constitution, to underscore its position as the most important purpose of government. The Security Task Force(s) should include retired officers and operatives – those who were known to be the best hands in the security sector when they served the country, whose knowledge and experience can be brought to bear on this insecurity wahala, and some who are presently serving. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but collaboration for the greater good. A few years ago, Transport for London (TFL) employed the ‘Train Daddy’, former New York Subway boss, Andy Byford to come and run TFL. The French are seeking assistance from other Governments in the area of security, for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris this summer. Mark Carney, a Canadian (British and Irish citizen too) who was the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 2008 – 2013, also became the Governor of the Bank of England from 2013 – 2020. 

2) Governors’ Failure

When anything goes wrong, we blame only the President. What about the Governors? Why are they never held accountable, when Section 5(2)(a) of the Constitution vests the executive powers of the States in them, just as the executive powers of the Federation are vested in the President? After all, the responsibility of Governors are simply those of the President for the Federation, replicated on a smaller scale in the States.  

Let me explain. When I saw the videoclip of the Kuriga School where the students were kidnapped from, I was appalled. The so-called School resembled a group of dilapidated uncompleted buildings, with one building particularly looking like a dangerous hazard, as if it can collapse at any time. How can anyone learn in such a horrible environment? While Section 18 of the Constitution sets out the Educational Objectives of Government, and Items 29 & 30 on the Concurrent Legislative List put education in the hands of the States as well, the Governors provide sub-standard education for pupils and students in their States, while their own children are trained in private institutions in Nigeria and abroad. Nobody questions them. Why? For example, former Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello who was known for owing workers salaries for years, stands accused of paying a large amount of money, allegedly in excess of $700,000, to American International School, Abuja, for his children’s school fees, years in advance until their graduation. A Governor who clearly has no confidence in the educational system of the State which he runs, preferring to opt for the American system because he knows fully well that the education he is providing for the indigenes of his State, is sub-standard.   

If the State Governments spent the scandalous Pension packages paid to Governors and Deputies on their schools and education instead, not only will the institutions be in better physical condition complete with modern equipment and facilities, Teachers’ salaries and their conditions of service can be improved thereby attracting a better crop of Teachers and raising the standard of education, instead of continuing with the many Teachers who are unqualified and have been proven themselves to be little more than semi-illiterates, à la the Teacher who couldn’t read her age declaration certificate and was caught out by Senator Adams Oshiomhole while he was Governor of Edo State. Apart from Governor Zulum of Borno State, how many Governors have paid all their outstanding pensions to their retired workers? 

Concluding Questions

Is Government just going to sit around and wait until the next kidnap extravaganza, or are they going to take proactive steps to prevent the reoccurrence of such ugly incidents? Is Government going to wait until Nigerians die of starvation as a result of the inability of Farmers to access their farms or cultivate their crops because of insecurity, before decisive action is taken against marauding criminals? What does it matter if the Herdsmen, Bandits or Insurgents that are causing all this mayhem are from Chad, Ibadan, Enugu or London, as long as they are annihilated? The issue of kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria, is totally out of hand. Terrorism and the Herdsmen forcibly grazing their cattle on people’s farmlands, is also just as bad. I ran into someone who owns a farm in Ogun State, last week. She said she hadn’t farmed in years, because the Herdsmen regularly burn the grass in her farm, so that there can be new growth for their cattle to feast on! Show me a country that is suffering from this level of insecurity, and is thriving economically! 

Nigerians are placing a lot of hope in the Tinubu administration, to extract the country from the worsened, weakened and highly dysfunctional state she finds herself in. The previous administration’s somewhat lukewarm lackadaisical attitude towards insecurity and corruption, must not be carried forward. 

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