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Nigerians devise self-defence strategies as kidnap epidemic deepens

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Many citizens are taking to self-help to combat the recent spike in kidnapping and killings across the country, especially in the urban centres.

Some residents of the Federal Capital Territory as well as Taraba, Kaduna, Borno, Katsina and Plateau states, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, said they were making life-changing adjustments, including forming neighbourhood guards and vigilantes, to be able to resist the criminals who had shattered their peace and caused them unprecedented loss.

In the FCT alone, over 200 violent attacks have been recorded across the six area councils since President Bola Tinubu assumed office on May 29, 2023.

The incidents led to the death of no fewer than 87 residents of the FCT, while over 176 were kidnapped within the period.

The figures, which were sourced from Beacon Consulting, a local firm monitoring security issues in the country, and several media reports on violent attacks, showed a dramatic spike in kidnapping for ransom in the FCT and other city centres.

Since the assumption of office of the Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, on August 16, 2023, there has been a rise in violent attacks in the nation’s capital.

The FCT is facing an alarming surge in insecurity, prompting concerns among residents and the authorities.

The capital city, once considered relatively immune to the prevalent security challenges in other parts of the country, is now grappling with an escalating wave of criminal activities, particularly kidnapping.

According to a 2020 report by SB Morgen, Abuja was ranked 11th among locations with frequent abductions, a stark revelation of the evolving security landscape in the region.

Data from January 2021 to June 2023 showed that the FCT recorded over 40 kidnap cases with over 236 victims, who were either released after ransom was paid or killed even after payment.

Between October and December 2023 alone, there were 13 recorded kidnap incidents, impacting 80 victims.

From Gwagwalada to Kuje, Lugbe, Pegi, Abaji, Keti, and Kwali, the daredevils operate with naked boldness.

Vigilantes to the rescue.

A resident of Kuje, who gave his name only as Michael, noted that while the area had seen relative peace in the last couple of months, residents were taking no chances.

He stated, “There haven’t been any attacks recently in Kuje but it doesn’t mean we will just relax and wait for that to happen.

We are taking our safety into our own hands and doing the best we can to protect ourselves from this epidemic.

“We have employed local vigilantes to protect the area every night. And with this new police squad inaugurated by the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetoku, I’m sure we will be safer.”

A resident of Kpegyi, Mr Salisu, called for the sustenance of the police squad, noting that while kidnapping was on the rise, other crimes were thriving.

I’ve lived in Kpegyi now for almost a decade. Kidnapping is the more popular vice, but armed robberies have gone on unchecked. We still have robberies, car thefts and what have you.

I like that the security agencies have been gingered, but I hope and pray it’s not just a show that will last one month and it goes back to normal,” he said.

However, Mallam Ahmed Yinusa, who lives in Kubwa, said the show of force by the special squad was unnecessary, adding that community policing was the best model to combat crimes as it would be easier for residents of an area to identify strangers.

“I think the display was unnecessary. These bandits move in silence, why can’t the police?

There’s no need to announce what you will do. You just go ahead and do it. However, I still think community policing is the best idea.

That way, it is community-centred, and we can identify anyone who isn’t one of us,” Yinusa said.

Speaking on strategies for safety, some residents said their communities had erected gates to control movement, especially at night, while others had taken up personal security measures

In my area, we erected gates since 2022. Motorcycles are not allowed after 7pm. Cars do not access the area after 9pm.

We may have to review that with these developments, but it is better safe than sorry,”  a resident of Karu, who gave his name simply as Adams, told the News Man.

A corps member, who gave her name as only Favour, said she no longer goes out after 8pm for any reason.

“I just make sure I’m home before 8pm. Of course, these people attacked a compound at 7.30pm, but I think I will feel safer in a familiar environment than somewhere else.

I might also consider keeping maybe pepper spray or a taser around,” she said.

A resident of the Area 1, Mrs Justina Okeke, said, “We are raising fences in my estate. We might add barbed wire or electric fences.

For my kids, maybe they will start taking self-defence classes. We can’t take any chances.

I cannot even imagine what parents of kidnapped children are going through.”

Roadblocks in Kaduna.

Youths in Kaduna State have resorted to mounting roadblocks in their communities following the renewed insecurity in the state.

Checks by one of our correspondents in the state capital indicated that youths in areas like Sabon Tashi in the Chikun Local Government Area of the state had resorted to blocking the roads at night with used tyres as a way of
defending the communities from the daredevils.

Governor Uba Sani had on several occasions expressed concern over the renewed activities of bandits in the state, forcing him to summon traditional rulers and heads of security agencies as well as other major stakeholders to a security meeting in the state to find ways to tackle the renewed insecurity.

At the meeting, the governor disclosed that as part of efforts to tackle the renewed insecurity in the state, he had pushed for the establishment of more military formations across the state.

He said, “I have been pursuing the deployment of more boots on the ground through more military formations.

I am happy to inform you that very soon, there will be establishment of some Forward Operating Bases in the state.

One of our correspondents, who went around, observed the youths, some of them bearing dane guns, catapults, machetes, and barricaded link roads with stones, while conducting stop-and-search operations of motorists entering their communities.

Some of the youth were paid through community efforts, while in some cases by tips offered by appreciative residents.

One of the leaders at the Ungwan-Pama area, simply identified as Ifeanyi, told our correspondent that each compound was charged a token as a security levy to boost the morale of the vigilantes.

At the Post Office Road junction in the Sabon-Tasha area of the state, some of the fierce-looking youths told Sunday PUNCH that they were rendering voluntary services as a way of “defending our community.”

At the Barnawa GRA area, it was observed that residents of the low-cost estate built during FESTAC ‘77  had built gates as a way of preventing intruders into the estate.

One of the guards manning a gate leading to the estate, said, “By 9pm, the gates are shut to visitors.”

Some areas are also manned by members of the Peace Corps. An official, who gave his name as Akpati, told one of our correspondents that the members were posted to the homes of prominent citizens in the state to secure their lives.

The State Commissioner of Police, A. D. Ali, called on members of the public to avail themselves of security agencies’ hotlines for any situation requiring prompt response.

Vigilantes in Taraba.

Communities in the Yorro, Jalingo, Takum, Karim-Lamido, and Bali local government areas of Taraba State have engaged the services of local vigilantes and hunters for protection against kidnappers and bandits.

This move to complement the efforts of security personnel followed an upsurge in the kidnapping and banditry activities in the affected areas.

In Jalingo, the state capital, no fewer than 10 persons were abducted in the past few days after weeks, forcing residents to re-enforce the local security arrangements.

Mallam Nasir Mohammed, a resident of Wuro Sembe in Jalingo Local Government said, “We have contributed money and we are paying vigilantes to keep watch over our community.

Just last week, over 10 persons were kidnapped from our community and the neighbouring Sabon-Gari.

We cannot continue like this. Instead of contributing money to pay ransom, we have decided to contribute to pay vigilantes to keep watch over our community.”

The situation in Wuro Sembe is similar to that of Gollum, Lassandi, Mayo-Dassa, and Shavon, where residents said the police and other security agencies could not be solely relied upon for protection.

Mr Zaku Adamu, a resident of Shavon, told one of our correspondents that many communities in Jalingo and its environs were threatened by bandits, and it would take the combined efforts of the Air Force, the Army, the police, and local vigilantes to deal with the situation.

“We are playing with a serious security situation and the state government must take proactive steps to deal with the situation, or else our communities will be overrun one day,” he said.

Meanwhile, worried by the deteriorating security situation and abduction of some pastors, the Southern Conference of the United Methodist Church has vowed to resort to self-defence if both the federal and Taraba State governments fail to ensure the immediate release of their members from kidnappers’ den and end banditry activities in the state.

The conference also alleged that the banditry activities, particularly in the Yorro Local Government Council, were being targeted at eradicating Christians in the area.

They insisted that both traditional rulers and political office holders, past and present, in the area should come out with clear proof that their hands were clean to counter the video in circulation where the key leader of the kidnapper alleged that they had the backing of some leaders and the people in the area.

President of the TEKAN/ECWA, Rev. Micah Dopa, who addressed a press conference recently, lamented the continued detention of their pastors and members of the Yorro community by kidnappers for almost one month after ransom was paid.

According to Dopa, the church had paid N11m in ransom for its abducted pastors, but the kidnappers decided to release only the Muslim victims.

Taraba NSCDSC reacts.

Reacting to the security situation, the Taraba State Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Adamu Salihu, said the NSCDC and other sister agencies were on top of the situation.

Salihu said, “Recently, we arrested six persons suspected to be members of terror gangs operating in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, and Mutum Biyu in the Gassol Local Government Area of the state after a long period of intense investigation and diligent intelligence gathering.

“I want to urge the public to stay awake and always report suspicious actions or persons to men of the corps for quick response as the criminals are often among the public and are known for who they are.

Let me also advise our young people to shun the life of criminality and embrace legal means of making ends meet as the end is always disastrous for criminals.”

When contacted, the Taraba State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Eribo, said the command had already mapped out strategies to flush out bandits in the state.

Nasarawa  Residents lament.

Residents of Nasarawa State have lamented the neglect of the Federal government and the Nasarawa State Government on the numerous challenges of insecurity in the state.

Ondo Amotekun.

The Ondo State Security Network Agency, also known as Amotekun Corps, said it had put in place necessary measures to prevent a possible influx of criminals and terrorists into the state.

The state Commander of the Amotekun Corps, Akogun Adetunji Adeleye, said the government was on top of the situation in terms of security of lives and property of residents.

Adeleye said, “Our men and officers, the police, the NSCDC, the DSS and other security agents are working together in ensuring that the safety of lives and property in Ondo State is not compromised. We fortify our borders and our patrol team is always on the road to prevent the

criminal elements from coming in. No room for terrorists in this state.

“Many have been arrested and will be prosecuted. In the same way, we have apprehended those who were involved in the illegal possession of firearms on our watch list.

“But all of these people will be profiled and will be arraigned in court any moment from now. All these suspects will be thoroughly investigated and they will be brought to justice.”

Kidnapping continues.

Daredevil kidnappers operated with ease in Ondo, Enugu and Oyo states and the FCT on Saturday, abducting several people in the process.

A resident of the FCT, Abdullahi Sabo, was said to have been abducted as he drove home with his wife.

The gunmen, Sunday PUNCH gathered, intercepted his vehicle at the Sabon-Lugbe area of the Airport Road and whisked him away.

The victim was said to be driving a Lexus SUV with the number plate ABC 769 TP when the incident occurred.

Eyewitnesses said the victim left the city centre and was heading home when the attackers in an unmarked Golf car opened fire and deflated his

vehicle tyres and made away with the man.

Although the FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Josephine Adeh, said she would investigate and get back to one of our correspondents, she had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.

SOURCE: PUNCH NEWSPAPER

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