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ABIA AS THREAT TO OTHER STATES

By NBF News

Using her phone, the kidnappers contacted her under-aged son asking for a ransom of N160M. As at Thursday last week, they have gradually come down to N30M but denied her access to her drugs and any care. This is the calamity and agony that has befallen her under-aged children who look up to their mother for food in a country like Nigeria. Ironically, Mrs Wokoma's case is one in a million as even the media is tired of reporting kidnap cases in the South-South and South East. It is a crime that knows no borders. The old, young, rich, poor, children etc are now targets of kidnap in these zones of the country.

Nigerians are now suddenly pretending as if the issue of kidnapping which started in the Niger Delta since 2006 is a recent development. Rather than arrest this ugly trend , the federal government and security agencies looked the other way and allowed kidnapping of innocent persons to thrive. While the respective government operatives have consistently denied payment of ransom to secure the release of kidnapped persons, the truth is that relatives of the victims have always paid money to affect their release.

Nigeria likes to govern by reaction. Thus, the abduction of four members of the Lagos NUJ team at Obingwa, close to Aba in Abia State has forced Nigerians to react as usual. The IG of Police seems to have practically relocated from the high-rise office setup in Abuja to the dingy surroundings of Aba town.

More than 10,000 policemen may be heading to the eastern region, special tracker-policemen may have been hired from wherever to track down the journalists, more guns and communication equipment may be procured and distributed to policemen around Nigeria especially in the south-east, etc.

The situation has also forced Nigerians to look harder at the kidnap scenario as a new form of crime in our clime. For example, for months, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State has been shouting that Abia State had become a threat to peace and security in Rivers State, but this was regarded as a Rivers matter. Some even described his call for joint security collaboration as the ranting of a frustrated governor who is not at peace with his former boss. Soon after, governors of Imo and Akwa Ibom joined in this cry, and even reported the situation to the presidency, who we gathered, promised to bring the affected governors to a round table discussion.

Most of the other governors decided to take some proactive measures to save their indigenes living around boundary towns close to Abia State who were being captured daily like in the days of slavery, but for ransom. Some of the states created special spies (vigilantes) who alert joint security teams stationed nearby in the event of raiders from Abia.

Gov Amaechi in particular sounded so injured that he pleaded with the FG to permit him to walk into Abia towns and simply pick out the kidnap lords already isolated by security surveillance. He had in public said he was not getting enough cooperation from his Abia counterpart.

This is not to say that the government in Umuahia had folded its hands while commercial kidnapping took over in the state. The state governor had invited special security teams to man major roads and spots in the state, even procured helicopters for routine surveillance, granted amnesty etc, but the more he tried, the worse the case seemed to become.

What has been lacking is the courage to look some kidnapping kingpins in the face and put them behind bars. Also, there has been no effort to conduct combing exercises. Everybody in Abia knows that the kidnappers have relocated to the bushes and forests in the area. They raid the highways and neighbouring states and take their captives to the bushes using their victims' cell phones to make calls to their relations to avoid being traced. Some use their victims' ATM cards to siphon their accounts dry to raise easy cash before the main ransom would come.

Abia is so centrally located in the south-eastern region that many must pass through it to Port Harcourt, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Enugu and Ebonyi. The all-important federal trunk, the Enugu - Port Harcourt Expressway, passes through Abia State and Aba is central in this network. Now, Aba is a centre of commerce in Nigeria. Many traders come from all parts of West Africa to buy goods and locally fabricated products sold around the west coast of Africa. Trucks move foodstuff from the north to south-east and south-south. All this has been destroyed, just in one fell swoop.

So, while Abia is exporting kidnappers to other neighbouring states in the form of raiders, the state is also strangulating commerce in eastern region, not only because businessmen and corporate executives have been chased out, but also because no sane executive or corporate functionary ever goes there.

Now, having successfully destroyed itself, the state is now moving ahead to destroy its neighbours. Else, how could delegates from Uyo (Akwa Ibom State) fare well in their host state only to face abduction (some lucky NUJ teams merely escaped the kidnappers) in Abia State.