Members of the Middle-Belt Youth Forum will on Wednesday (today) in Abuja protest the rising cases of kidnapping in the region and the insecurity that has ravaged parts of the country.
This is coming against the backdrop of the arrest of 10 suspected bandits by the military.
The President of the forum, Brent Kane, disclosed that the protesters would march peacefully to the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office to demand the declaration of the kidnappers and bandits as terrorists, and an end to the killings and abductions across the country.
The planned demonstration would take place as about 19 abductees taken away by bandits from the Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutsen-Alhaji area in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory last Thursday spent the seventh day in custody of their captors.
The kidnappers are demanding N700m ransom for nine of their victims.
The kidnappers had killed four of the hostages, including Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and 13-year-old Folashade Ariyo.
Nabeeha was abducted alongside six other siblings and as of Tuesday night, the remaining five sisters, including Najeebah, a 500-level Quantity Surveying student and Nadherah, a 300-level Zoology student, are still in captivity.
The siblings were kidnapped with their father, Alhaji Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, from their home at Zuma 1, on the outskirts of Bwari town in Abuja on January 11.
The captors had released Al-Kadriyar, asking him to pay N60m ransom for the release of his daughters.
They later raised the ransom to N100m which they insisted must be paid by Wednesday (today).
Also, Folashade Ariyo’s mother and three siblings are still in captivity.
The bandits reportedly killed their victims over an alleged delay in providing the ransom.
The incident provoked nationwide anger on Monday and foreboding over the fate of the remaining captives.
However, in a memo shared with PUNCH Metro on Tuesday, Kane said the spate of killings and kidnappings in the North-Central region had left families and individuals in despair.
According to him, the kidnappers and bandits operated like terrorists and should therefore be treated as such.
He said, “The primary objective of this peace walk, organised by Africa’s Morning Centre for Public Policy and Good Governance and the Middle Belt Youth Forum, is to compel the Federal Government through the Attorney-General of the Federation to invoke sections 3, 48, and 49 of Nigeria’s Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act of 2022, to declare these wanton killings and destruction an act of terrorism.
“The groups that are kidnapping citizens, wiping out communities, razing down homesteads, farmlands and taking over communities, while indigenous landowners languish in IDPs camps have profited immensely from the subterfuge and presenting themselves as amorphous.
‘’But a careful study of the manner of their attacks will leave no one in doubt that they operate an effective command and control structure and that their activities are in clear breach of Nigeria’s anti-terrorism laws.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director of Africa’s Morning Centre, Chima Christian, noted that the group would partner with the youth forum to demand an end to the killings and kidnapping in the middle belt region, stressing that the Federal Government had remained unconcerned about the plight of the masses.
“The killings are unnecessary and they show that the government has been recalcitrant to the plight of the people. It is high time these kidnappers were addressed by their name which is terrorists. The constitution is clear about it that anybody involved in the act of kidnapping is a terrorist.
“We will be taking the protest to the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office to make our position known and we will not relent in demanding an end to this menace,” Christian said.
Abductee reportedly killed
In another development, a hotel barman taken away by gunmen at the Sagwari Estate Layout has been reported killed by his abductors.
The deceased, whose name could not be immediately confirmed, was abducted alongside a receptionist at the Jutis Hillside Hotel by the gunmen in military uniform.
Our correspondent, who visited the hotel on Tuesday, was informed that the barman was killed alongside Folashade and Nabeeha.
A source said, “Alongside the 13-year-old girl, three people were killed. One was the 13-year-old girl; our neighbour also, and the niece that was staying with them that they picked, they killed her, and then the barman.
“They were murdered last week Thursday, but we didn’t know. I had to call the father of the 13-year-old girl on Sunday morning when I learnt he had gone to pick up his daughter’s corpse.
“So, I asked him if he saw anybody like our barman, and he said yes, that we should go and check. So, with the security man and the barman’s younger brother who was here, and a neighbour also, they found out that he was the one who was killed and then they deposited his body there.
‘’So, we have been in contact with the family, and the younger brother was here yesterday (Monday) to discuss with my boss, and they came to an agreement that they will take his corpse to Benue tomorrow (today).”
She further narrated that the kidnappers had reached out to the family on Sunday to demand N30m for the receptionist, issuing a deadline of Wednesday.
Though the source did not disclose how much the hotel and the receptionist’s family had been able to raise, it was learnt that the kidnappers have been in contact with her elder brother who had been warned to either raise the ransom or come for the victim’s corpse.
“So, the day before yesterday (Sunday), we got a call from them concerning the receptionist, that we should bring N30m before Wednesday which is tomorrow (today). They said if we do not bring the N30m, they will be forced to call us to come and pick up the corpse.
“We are still hoping that we will be able to gather the money, but as it is now, we are only hoping on God that they would reduce the ransom.’’
The hotel worker clarified that the kidnappers had initially demanded N100m per person but later reduced it to N30m, noting however that they were insisting on N100mn for the Ariyos.
In the wake of the abduction, The PUNCH learnt that about five hotel staff had resigned.
To secure the estate, officers of the police force, the Department of State Security and vigilantes have been deployed in the area.
The FCT Public Relations Officer, Josephine Adeh, could not be reached for comment on the ongoing operations to track down the bandits. She did not respond to calls and a message that was sent to her phone.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters has said no fewer than 10 suspected bandits have been arrested in operations conducted in the FCT, hinting that the military had stepped up its operations.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, told The PUNCH that the military would locate the terrorists and destroy them wherever they were hiding
He said, “Our operations are hinged on going after the terrorists wherever they may be hiding and destroying them. It is only by destroying them that we can prevent them from carrying out terror on citizens thereby creating a safer environment for everybody.
“The military as I speak is out there carrying out operations against the terrorists. Operations are ongoing putting them on their heels. This is what is ongoing concerning the recent occurrences in the FCT.
‘’As of last Thursday, 10 suspected bandits were arrested but between then and now a lot of arrests might have been made. “
Buba said troops were currently combing the bushes to flush out the terrorists perpetrating evil in the FCT.
He added, “The recent occurrences have made us step up our operations and we are out there searching for wherever they may be hiding to flush them out. We are not resting on our oars; our troops are out there day and night, and we are very serious about this. Nobody wants such to happen in its nation’s capital neither do we. We are out there.”
Tinubu convenes meeting
To address the security challenges, President Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, held an emergency meeting with the service chiefs and other heads of security agencies to discuss the security situation in the country.
Tinubu gave the men a marching order to address the security crisis.
But speaking at another forum, the President said his administration would know no respite until it eliminates what he called “agents of darkness” fueling insecurity nationwide.
“We will not rest, I promise you until every agent of darkness is completely eliminated,” Tinubu vowed at the official launch of two books titled, ‘Working with Buhari’ and ‘Muhammadu Buhari: The Nigerian Legacy (2015-2023)’ at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
The former, a 30-chapter book, was written by the Special Adviser to the former President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, while the latter, a five-volume work, was a compilation from 100 contributors edited by Dr Udu Yakubu.
Tinubu praised his predecessor’s discipline, highlighting his challenges in his task to secure and govern Nigeria in his two terms in office.
He said, “You assumed office at a very difficult time in our nation’s life. The economy was going into recession. Boko Haram had taken over so many local governments and some parts of our country.
“But if the book is carefully read and taught in terms of substance in our various schools, the job of securing every inch of our nation may not be completed but you did a wonderful job.”
S’South govs meet
In another development, the South-South governors have convened a security meeting for Thursday.
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, will host the governors of the South-South States for the BRACED Commission meeting.
The BRACED (Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Edo and Delta) Commission was established in 2010 under Article 14 of the BRACED Agreement and signed on June 13, 2011.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Edo State Commissioner for Communication and Orientation, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, said the meeting which would be held in Benin, would be attended by the Governors of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, and Delta States.
In the meantime, the Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, has ordered the decimation of insurgents across the country, especially in the Federal Capital Territory.
Egbetokun summoned members of the Force Management Team, tactical and squads commanders to the Force Headquarters, Abuja on Monday night, where they discussed the upscaling of the nation’s security architecture.
During the meeting, the IG mandated the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Department of Operations, to coordinate the up-scaled security strategies put in place to decimate kidnappers and other criminally minded individuals in the FCT, and immediately restore normalcy.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumiyiwa Adejobi, in a statement on Tuesday, said Egbetokun expressed deep concern over the unfortunate events and emphasised the need for decisive action to curb such heinous crimes.
Adejobi said, “In light of the recent incident of abduction in the Federal Capital Territory, and other similar incidents across the country, the Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, convened a crucial meeting with the Force Management Team and Tactical Squads, on Monday, January 15, 2024, to address the rising concerns surrounding insecurity in the country.
“The IG expressed deep concern over the unfortunate events and emphasized the need for decisive action to curb such heinous crimes. During the meeting which centred on a comprehensive review of current security challenges, strategic planning, and the deployment of tactical resources to tackle emerging threats, the IG emphasized the need for a coordinated and intelligence-driven approach to address the evolving security landscape.
“Tactical squads were briefed and directed to intensify efforts on the deployment of proactive measures to prevent criminal activities and protect citizens.
“While reassuring Nigerians, especially residents of the Federal Capital Territory, of improved security, the IG ordered the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Department of Operations, to personally coordinate the up-scaled security strategies emplaced to decimate kidnappers and other criminally minded individuals in the FCT, and immediately restore normalcy.
“In addition to operational strategies, the IG underscored the significance of community engagement and collaboration with relevant stakeholders to gather information, enhance trust, and foster a collective effort in combating criminal elements.”
Abuja residents’ fear
Speaking on the security crisis in the country, the National President, the Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria, Dr. Chris Adigwu, noted that with the spate of kidnapping, schools and estate managements were demanding more private security guards, especially in the FCT and its environs.
Adigwu also stated the PGSC has a very wide presence in the country, stressing that the private guards would be useful during this trying time.
He stated, ‘’Schools and Estates management are demanding more private security guards, especially in the FCT and its environs. We come in handy in times like this because of our spread and numerical strength. Most of the guards are well-trained.
“The Safe School Initiative founded by the NSCDC should engage the PGSC because all hands must be on deck to combat this menace.”
He called for a review of the law setting up private security companies so their personnel can bear arms.
“The Act setting up the Private Guard Security Companies does not permit carrying of arms. However, it is something that has to be done quickly so that PGSC will help relieve the burden on security agencies.
“The Act should be reviewed or amended to give room for the private security companies to bear arms because this rising insecurity cannot be battled with bare hands,’’ Adigwu canvassed.
Worries over security and safety have gripped residents of residential estates in the state, leading some to take drastic measures to protect themselves amid rising insecurity concerns.
A security guard at Sagwari Layout Estate explained that the community had begun to construct a fence at the foot of the nearby mountain to restrict access to the community.
He added, “The community is erecting the fence. You know this is where they came through to kidnap people here, so the community is building the fence. If you noticed too, the main gate is now locked.
‘’You would have to be a resident to drive in, otherwise, you come in on foot like you did. And we the guards now don’t just sit inside anymore; we patrol at least the surroundings we secure. I think the community has also engaged the police, but I can’t be sure.”
A resident, Madam Sarah, lamented the activities of the kidnappers, adding that the residents might soon be compelled to move to the city centre despite the high cost of accommodation.
“I am just saddened by the news. Because it means at 7 pm, you are not safe, and one has to now warn children not to answer the door at such times. What it also means now is that the outskirts are no longer safe to live in, considering the pattern of their attacks. The city centre is now the safer place to live”, she said.
The Chief Security Officer of Peace Court Estate, Abuja, Charles Adams, explained that the security situation had put his men under pressure, adding that they were on duty round the clock.
“We’re working day and night, especially with the rising rates of kidnapping. We are beginning security to make sure everything is put in place,” Adams stated, highlighting the demanding nature of their roles in securing the estate.
David Ajama, another guard, emphasised their efforts in safeguarding the residents, stating, “We do patrol at night and sometimes shoot guns to scare thieves away.”
He emphasised the presence of armed officers on the premises, emphasising their commitment to ensuring the safety of lives and property in the estate.
However, some residents, like Victor Fred, remained unconvinced about the efficacy of the security measures in some Abuja estates.
“I can’t even trust estate security because they don’t look capable of even holding back the threat,” Fred added, reflecting the growing mistrust of the private guards by some residents.
An Abuja resident, Shalom Obafemi, shared the impact of the prevailing insecurity on his life, saying he lives in constant apprehension.
Obafemi, who lives in an estate in the Lokogoma district of Abuja said, “Due to the insecurity, I live in constant fear for my life and this is taking a psychological toll on me. The recent kidnapping that happened in Bwari has put me in constant fear and even when we take precautions to stay safe, we can never be too careful when the enemies attack.
‘’It’s very challenging even trying to find sleep at night because some nights ago, I heard gunshots in our neighbourhood. I only hope the government takes drastic steps to help curb insecurity in the state.’’
As residents grapple with safety concerns, estate managers are also facing challenges in ensuring adequate security for their residents.
The Chief Security Officer at Inspire Homes, Hamza Dauda, stressed the need for additional personnel to effectively secure the residential estate, just as he acknowledged the strain on their resources and manpower caused by the rising incidents of abductions.
“We have three personnel currently at the estate but honestly we need more hands. So, we normally go round at night to check; one person will sleep at night while two will be on duty.” Dauda noted.
In an interview with The PUNCH, Alloy Nwoha, the Chief Security Officer for Page Schools, underlined the strict access control measures they have in place.
“We will ensure that we check your boot as a parent and what you are looking for because we know our student uniform,” Nwoha stated.
“But if someone we don’t recognise come for inquiry, he or she will have to wait and call someone inside; he will then be allowed to sign in and sign out,” he added.
With concerns persisting among residents and security personnel, the need for comprehensive measures to address the growing insecurity in residential estates has become increasingly urgent
Speaking with our correspondent, the administrative officer of a private school simply identified as Mr Emmanuel noted that the school management was aware of the rising kidnapping, adding “Currently, we have two private security guards per week to secure the school for now.
“We have written to the Governing Council on the need to deploy security agencies especially the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps to protect the staff and students of the school.”
Armed personnel demanded
Also, a resident of one of the biggest estates in the Bwari Area Council of the FCT, who spoke anonymously, said there was a need for armed operatives despite the additional deployment of private guards in the estate.
She lamented, “We have over 100 houses in this estate. The truth is that we are not safe. Though more security guards have been employed, it is not enough. We need security men.’’
The Chairman of the Trademore Residents Association, Adewale Adenaike, stated that active measures had been taken to forestall any occurrence of kidnapping or robbery in the area.
As part of security precautions, the association has restricted movement into the estate while conducting enhanced security checks on visitors.
He said, “We have put good security measures in place to secure the estate but can’t disclose them due to their sensitivity. But part of what we have done is to raise the awareness of our residents to these issues and observe methods used by these criminal elements.
‘’We have informed our residents to be conscious of their environment not just within the estate but even when they go out of the area. We have taken steps to mitigate kidnapping and banditry and we are not ignoring it.
“We have also restricted movements of bikes and other vehicular movement to a certain time. Normally, our registered bike men had unrestrained access to the estate but we have restricted the time to 10 pm and of course, our security officials conduct checks on everyone who enters the estate. We follow reports and take every step needed to protect our lives and properties.”
An executive committee member of the residents’ association of the Kurudu Police Estate, who pleaded anonymity, said the residents had requested security and the police had provided some mobile police officers, adding that they had also engaged additional security guards.
“We requested for some, and they gave us some. But you know how police are; we are the ones taking care of them. The police have not demonstrated the kind of commitment to show that everything is intact in terms of security. This is their biggest estate. So, we made a request, and they gave us MOPOL officers that take turns at the entrance.”
Wike meets police
Meanwhile, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, has assured residents of the FCT that there is no need to panic, adding that he and the security agencies are not sleeping, and are aware of the security challenges in the territory.
This is even as the minister on Tuesday, summoned an emergency closed-door meeting with heads of security agencies in the FCT, as well as chairmen of the six area councils
The PUNCH, on Tuesday, reported that Abuja was burning while the minister fiddles with the politics of his home state, Rivers
Addressing the press before the closed-door meeting, Wike said he and the area council chairmen would joined heads together, to proffer solutions to the security challenges in the country, noting that they owed a duty to make sure Abuja was safe.
“All of us are aware of the security situation in the Federal Capital Territory, particularly Bwari and some other areas that have witnessed security challenges.
“Our concern is that for the Federal Capital Territory that has virtually every Nigerian, we owe a duty to make sure that this place is safe, to do all we can, and we assure Nigerians who reside here, that there is no need for panic”, the minister said.
“We are taking every step to make sure that those challenges are things that we must have to resolve. So, this meeting is practically to look into such challenges and see how we can resolve the problems. And that is why we invited all the council chairmen because they also have a responsibility in their various area councils. So, we will put our heads together and come up with solutions. So, for the press, it is just for you to know that we are not sleeping, security agencies are also not sleeping. We will provide every support that they require to allay the fears of the citizens”, he said.
•Additional report: Damilola Aina, Abiodun Sanusi, Stephen Angbulu, Gift Habib, Daniel Adaji, Princess Etuk, Johnson Idowu and Adeyinka Adedipe
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