Panic as kidnapping increases in Adamawa

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Many people have been kidnapped in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, and the contiguous towns to the extent that the crime is threatening to become a normal occurrence because they are either not reported or under-reported.  The state was recently rattled when a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) was abducted by unknown gunmen.

It took the kidnapping of the DPO for people to know that a lot more people have been kidnapped within and around Mubi, a major town in Adamawa State.

When Mubi North DPO, Ahidjo Mohammed, was abducted by gunmen a week ago, it was promptly reported.

Yet to be identified gunmen seized the DPO at about 7:00 p.m. last Tuesday while he was reportedly returning to Mubi from the state capital, Yola, where he was said to have gone to see his mother, who was receiving medical attention, in one of the hospitals.

The Adamawa State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Sulaiman Nguroje, had confirmed the incident on Wednesday evening.

He said: “The officer was kidnapped at Mararaba Mubi, following sporadic gunshots and when the police  got there, they found his abandoned vehicle; with his identity card left behind.”

The kidnappers were said to have made contact with some people demanding N50 million as ransom. The PPRO has not confirmed the alleged demand for ransom. He, however, told The Nation last Thursday that he was not aware of any demand from the captors.

As common with all abductions before that of the DPO, the PPRO assured that the captors would be rounded up and brought to justice.

Mubi and indeed, most of the rest of Adamawa, have witnessed numerous kidnap cases in recent weeks and months.

Another resident of Mubi, Alhaji Mahmudu Mbilla, was allegedly kidnapped earlier on November 18, from his Mbilla Village, and the kidnappers allegedly demanded N5 million from his people.

Mahmudu Mbila’s case was largely unheard and unreported like countless other cases before his.

Some of these cases do not get reported because relatives of those affected, who have people in the media, are reluctant to report the incidents.

In a recent case, a relative of a kidnapped person spoke of the kidnappers’ demands for ransom. Not wanting it to keep it secret, a reporter, who got wind of it, wrote a news story out of it.  But when the source saw it published, he got angry and told the reporter that the story could jeopardise the ransom negotiation process and put the life of the captive in danger.

Such is how sensitive kidnapping could be. Those not directly affected may never know what would play out.

Back to Mubi and cases that are rarely heard of. A Mubi resident confided in our correspondent last Thursday and spoke of how two persons close to him were abducted and are still being held.

Relating what he has kept to himself all the while, he said: “My nephew’s wife and daughter were kidnapped last week from their residence in Kwaba (a rural community near Mubi). They are still in captivity because we have not been able to pay the ransom.

“They first asked for N15 million. They have brought it down to N5 million and then N3 million, but we still don’t have that huge sum of money.”

He added that a cashier in the same Mubi was kidnapped a week earlier and that the cashier too was yet to regain his freedom. “Kidnapping happens around here with such frequency that nobody has a sense of safety. It could be anyone’s turn any time,” he lamented.

Another resident of Mubi, Linda Kwala, who also spoke on rampancy of kidnapping around the area,  described it as a helpless situation.

She said: “Yes, kidnapping is a troubling issue in Mubi. We are all jittery. Nobody feels safe because they pick even people just struggling to feed, and they ask for millions of naira as ransom.

“One would have expected them to target people who have money if they have to do it at all. The way they go about abducting people at random makes it so scary. You don’t know if you or someone very close to you will be abducted next.”

Girei, a local government area in Yola North, has become a haven for kidnappers who targets both the rich and the poor people.

Kidnapping of Professors in the Modibbo Adama Federal University of Technology (MAUTECH) located around the council headquarters in Girei town, has kept the dons on the edge.

On November 14, Professor Felix Ilesanmi of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning was seized from his official residence within the university and was released on the evening of Sunday, November 17. It has not been confirmed if a ransom was paid by his family to secure his release.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Sulaiman Nguroje told reporters that the Prof. was released by his abductors due to the heat from police.

Nguroje said: “The kidnappers abandoned Prof. Felix when they felt the intensity of the moves by police and other security operatives to round them up.”

Prof. Ilesanmi’s abduction was the second time in one month that a professor in the same MAUTECH would be kidnapped. Adamu Zata, a Professor of Soil Science of the university, was kidnapped on October 30.

It was a double tragedy for the Zatas that fateful morning as his visiting brother, Sheda Zata, a Veterinary Doctor, was killed by the kidnappers as they were taking the Professor away.

Adamu Zata had, in November last year, been kidnapped by abductors who let him return home after the family reportedly paid N2.5 million ransom. The same sum unofficial sources said was paid again for his release earlier this month.

A businessman, Alhaji Abubakar Bashir, operating at Yola’s biggest all-purpose market, the Jimeta Modern Market, was also kidnapped.

He was abducted by six armed men who allegedly succeeded in collecting a ransom of N20 million from him.

Two of the suspected kidnappers of the businessman, who are in police net, have confessed to the crime.

When the two were paraded by the state PPRO last Monday, one of them, Abdullahi Bello, told newsmen that he was indeed, one of the six who abducted AD Bashir, as the Jimeta businessman is popularly called.

He added that he got N450, 000 as his share of AD Bashir’s N20 million and that he bought 10 cows with the share.

Another recent kidnapping in Adamawa, which readily comes to mind, is that involving six herdsmen in a community in Fufore, a local government area bordering Yola South.

They were picked from their grazing field on October 5, and taken deep into the bush where they spent several days before their respective families raised the minimum ransoms for their release.

The fight against kidnapping was believed to have recorded a major boost in the state some five months ago. In July, the police paraded five people who claimed were repentant kidnappers.

The state Commissioner of Police, Audu Madaki, said at the Police Headquarters in Yola, that the five renounced kidnapping and surrendered their weapons as a fallout of a peace initiative among traditional and community leaders, members of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), as well as another association, Tabital-Pulaku Jonde Jam.

The Commissioner of Police honoured the leader of Adamawa branch of MACBAN, Alhaji Jaoji Isa, and a number of other community and traditional leaders for their roles in the kidnappers’ surrender.

READ ALSO: Insecurity: Gunmen abduct DPO in Adamawa

Madaki said: “In view of the ongoing peace and reconciliation initiative of Adamawa State Police Command, in collaboration with the state government and MACBAN, Adamawa chapter, five kidnappers in the state voluntarily denounced their criminal activities.

“They repented from kidnapping and surrendered five AK 47 rifles and 334 rounds of live ammunition to the command through the state chairman of the association.”

He said the repentant kidnappers promised to assist the police and leadership of the association to identify, trace, arrest and recover more criminals in the state.

The commissioner thanked the people of the state for their support against kidnapping and other forms of crimes, pledging that the police would not relent in their efforts to rid the state of criminals.

Among those honoured for their organizational or personal contributions to the fight against kidnapping, along with the state MACBAN Chairman Jaoji Isa, was the Zonal MACBAN Chairman (in charge of Adamawa South Senatorial Zone), Alhaji Sa’idu Kolaku.

Kolaku was, however, a very unlucky hero, as gunmen suspected to be angry kidnappers or their hired killers trailed and killed him.

The gunmen went for him barely a month later at his residence in Mayo-Belwa, headquarters of Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Southern Adamawa in what was described as a reprisal attack.

MACBAN  Public Relations Officer in the state, Muhammad Jika Buba, said Kolaku killers were those who had been abducting and taking ransom from people in the Southern zone.

According to the MACBAN image-maker, Kolaku was under the surveillance of the killers, who had warned him to stop fighting them.

There is no statistics to indicate that kidnapping has existed in the zone since Kolaku’s death on August 4, 2019.

Adamawa State Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, had recognised the enormity of the security challenge when he promised on May 29, that security would be his priority.

He particularly warned members of a criminal youth group called Shilla Boys to cease their anti-social activities as his government would not tolerate them.

He said: “True change has come to Adamawa State. I pledge to provide leadership that is required to make things work for the people. My aspiration for Adamawa State is for it to be listed among the committee of respected states not only in Nigeria but the world as a whole. The central message is that we will bring development and make Adamawa State a standard to copy.”

He reiterated that security of life and property would be his primary responsibility, even as he warned criminal elements such as Shilla Boys, kidnappers and all, to stop their acts or ship out.

Fintiri’s spokesman, Solomon Kumangar, who is the Director-General of Media and Communications in the Government House, Yola, said last Thursday that the government had taken steps to curtail not only kidnapping but also other forms of criminality as well.

“So, the government is going after the sundry crimes and before long kidnapping too will be reasonably dealt with.”

According to Nguroje, those who hold the view that kidnapping is on the rise are not right. “Kidnapping is not on the increase. We’ve made great gains against kidnappers in recent times. We are very much committed in our efforts to apprehend so many of the kidnappers, thereby making Adamawa State free from incidents of kidnapping” he said.

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