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24.02.2009 Feature Article

What Amaechi Forgot About Kidnapping

It was when the wife of the former Petroleum Minister, Edmund Daukoro, Gladys, and an INEC Commissioner were kidnapped in Port Harcourt, that it dawned on the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi that it was time to assemble security agencies in Rivers State, on Wednesday 4 February 2009, to come up with a fresh plan to stem the new spate of abductions in the state. Amaechi held a long-winded meetings with security agencies. The state Police Commissioner, Bala Hassan, and some top officers in Government House were among in the assemblage. Amaechi also assembled the State Security Service, Navy, Army, Airforce and Joint Taskforce on Security in the Niger Delta in the evening, after a Executive Council Meeting.

In the words of the Media Consultant to Amaechi, David Iyofor, "The governor is very worried about security situation in the state. The recent abduction is giving him sleepless nights and finding a way to put an end to it is a key priority to him. He is discussing extensively to find solution and the meetings of Wednesday were part of that process. I was not at the meetings, so I can't talk about what was discussed. I can't say anything about any new security measures or plans, but I can tell you categorically that Amaechi is more determined now, than ever before, to support and work with our security agencies to put an end to this spate of abductions and kidnappings and return Rivers State to the path of peace and economic boom."

Yes, Amaechi should be applauded for his gesture to mapping out modalities to putting a stop to the spate of kidnapping in the state, but he should also be cautioned that the state needs more security beefed up than more prisons built in the state. The resultant end of that meeting was for the Rivers State government to pass a law fixing life terms in jail for those found guilty because kidnapping has been on the increase in the state.

Governor Rotimi Amaechi had once called for the death penalty to be applied for convicted kidnappers. It is laughable today that the state government could pass such law as life jail whereas hardly are kidnap gangs ever caught, let alone tried, since militants started kidnapping expatriate oil workers in 2006. Because the security agencies are weakling prompted street gangstars joined the alleged militants in the shameful business, especially of kidnapping. Even the state government and oil companies deny paying ransoms, but how are captives freed if no ransom is paid? If the kidnappers do not make money from the useless business, why are they still kidnapping? Is government telling the people the truth?

The state government can tell us that “Death sentence” is the same thing as “Life Jail”. A lot of things happen in Nigeria that do not meet the eyes. "After all, isn't life in a jail here really a death sentence?" spokesman Ogbonna Nwuke told newsmen. "Now we have sent a message to the kidnappers by setting this sentence, it is up to the rest of the country to get together and work out a way of ending this problem in the Niger Delta.” Patrick Naagbanton, of the Centre for Environment Human Rights and Development asked, “When do they ever catch anyone for kidnapping? These gangs have political connections, they are protected."

What the government is doing could be a mere jamboree. Human rights lawyer Anyakwee Nsirimovu told the BBC the action was a "frivolous publicity stunt". He added, "How can anyone believe legislation is the way to sort out this problem when the police lack the capacity to intervene, or investigate cases?"

The Amaechi-led administration would only survive if it tow the line of transparency as Amaechi had always promised Nigerians that his government is rooted on. It is obviously an allegation that sometimes prisoners in the Nigeria prisons are let out of the hook when the culprit involved has “connection”.

Such culprit could be replaced with an innocent person who would be presented as the original culprit and something may happen. If the politicians were not knowledgeable of what is happening in the state, why are they afraid to pass into law, the death sentence? Perhaps they knew that when water touched the left leg, it would probably touch the right leg.

One expected the Rivers State law makers to also pass into law that any kidnap case in the state that the security agencies were unable to unravel, the security agents within the jurisdiction that kidnap took place would also be thrown into life jail or their salaries deducted for a number of months. As so doing, all and sundry would sit up and the case of kidnapping in the state could be won. It is not only the alleged kidnappers that are heinous to the society but also the security agents are the worst because they can't promise to be checkmating crime, yet crime is on the increase on a daily basis.

Odimegwu Onwumere, Founder, Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), Rivers State. 08032552855. [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2009

This author has authored 586 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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