Filed under: National Issues |

It is now far too common in Nigeria to hear of bombing, gunmen on rampage, kidnapping or one form of terrorism here or there that it is no longer news. On a daily basis able bodied Nigerian men and women are hacked down by these heartless, lawless anti-state elements called terrorists who do the same to innocent citizens too. When they strike, the media both print and electronic are inundated with condemnatory press release from eminent Nigerians, government officials, politicians, religious leaders and even hypocritical affiliates of the terror group. At best we hear the president saying ‘we are on top of the situation’ or security agents parading what I called innocent bystanders in the name of suspects. After which the tempo dies down again until another blast is heard and the cycle continues again. How long will these orgy of atrocities continue.
In my imagination I had always wondered the caliber of men and women that make up our SSS, police force, military and other security apparatus of state that have become mere salary earners without any result to show for their clueless outings characterized by mounting fiery check points with stern-looking and gun-wielding security personnel. I do not intend to spite the security agents on this forum but I wish to remind them that they may soon outlive their usefulness if they do not improve. The era of wielding weapons and use of force as the main backbone of security is gone, and the central point now is to use intelligence and technology to outwit criminals and terrorists as would be illustrated. Security is not all about sheer show of intimidation. While the security agents live in the 17 th century, the unwholesome criminals live in the 19 th century.
Let me begin by addressing the issue of kidnapping which to me is a child’s play and can be tackled headlong if our security agents are serious to embrace technology. It is absolutely homicidal if not genocide to invade a whole community just to secure the release of a kidnapped victim, a method which many of our security agents still adopts. The following approach will force the kidnappers into a tight corner:
1. As soon as the security agents are alerted to the kidnap of a victim, the minimum information required from the scenario include
-The type of car
-The colour of car
-The plate number of the car if available
Next is to mount check point(not for intimidation) on all major routes leading out of the Local Government/town and all routes leading out of the state looking for the specific description of the car above. They need not search all vehicles but search should be limited to the specific car type/colour even if the criminals are smart to change car immediately; this is to reduce hardship of law-abiding citizens if all commuters are to be stopped and searched.
2. It is obvious that the act of kidnapping is almost exclusively for economic reasons, and negotiation for ransom can be used to track these criminals. I consider it extremely foolish for police officers to dissuade Nigerians from paying ransom because in my view the AIG who made this suggestion would pay ransom if his associate /relative was the victim. Rather I am of the view that the ransom should be used as a bait to track them to their hideouts. It is on record that all phone numbers are now registered with Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and it is easy to trace the identity of the phone number used to demand for ransom:
-Identity of the caller: Even if the number is hidden (private number), call logs of the recipient from the network provider can unravel the hidden number. If the kidnapper uses multiple phone lines each line will be tracked for identity. If he decides to call from another phone (e.g phone booth), he can be tracked to a particular location or near it. If the phone of the victim is used then his location can be traced. If he decides to use pre-registered line at least his location can be tracked.
-Physical location of the caller: With mobile tracker, it is possible to know the exact location of the caller and the security agents can condone off the area for a search moreso if the victim is within that vicinity also. No matter the phone number in use(personal or phone booth), the location will be known. If the individual decides to switch off the line after use, at least his last location is known. This narrows the search and focal point. The negotiation can be prolonged while the security agents in conjunction with mobile providers close in on the kidnappers at the same time as the conversation is in progress. Another dimension is to hack the phone number of the kidnapper and copy the entire phone book, analyse his call log to find out his favourite number and callers. The search can be extended to these individuals.
-Ransom as bait: As soon as ransom is agreed, this is the easiest point to apprehend the criminals. First surveillance(tiny) cameras can be mounted in the vicinity where the money is to be dropped with disguised(and not within view) security agents not far from the area so that whoever is coming for the money will not suspect anyone around. Peradventure they may wait to come for the money in the night, infrared cameras can be used instead. If the criminals ask that the money be paid into banks, this would be suicidal for them as the account holder can be easily traced in addition to freezing the account even if the money is paid.
-Small denominations should be used(NGN100, NGN50, NGN200 but not NGN500 or NGN1000) to pay for the ransom to make it more bulky. This will make spending difficult that they will need a bank account to lodge the money. These monies can be marked like the Farouk/Otedola scandal, and banks alerted to the presence of these monies so that anybody coming to lodge in bulk such money should be referred to the bank manager/security agents. Marked foreign currencies too could be used instead and the individual must change same to be able to spend. Any individual seen with such monies would be arrested for interrogation to ascertain whether he is 1st, 2nd ,3rd ,etc spender. Almost certainly anybody with large chunk of the money is either the kidnapper or has direct dealing with the kidnappers and may be useful in tracing other accomplice.
A very precise location tracker designed like one of the currency can be placed among the naira notes. Others could be in form of zip or other parts of the bag could have these trackers embedded. HERE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ESCAPE THE WATCHFUL EYES OF THOSE MONITORING THEIR MOVEMENT.
If all these are put in place it is certainly almost impossible for kidnappers to succeed in their once lucrative trade. If they get the ransom it will certainly be recovered from them when the victim has been released. The security agents must ensure utmost confidentiality in this hunt. The SSS and police must stop forthwith from spilling secrets on media. One of the prime suspects fingered in one of the deadly bombing was holed up in Borno state government house using one of the techniques enumerated above. Highly skilled terrorist like Osama bin Ladin knew the power of technology in tracing him and that was why he had no internet or phone within the vicinity of his compound.
I have read disappointingly where state executives (Governors) are campaigning for death penalty as punishment for kidnapping. Even though this has received overwhelming support in public opinion, I do not think that will curtail the menace; rather it will make payment of ransom extremely expensive at least so that the kidnapper will have enough money to prosecute the legal battle. The human psychology in response to criminal laws is built in such a way that deterrence is borne out primarily of the fear of being caught and not on the gravity of the punishment. That is people obey the law because they are afraid of being caught doing otherwise and not because the punishment is too harsh; the harshness of the punishment is secondary. If we were to ask Nigerians what is the punishment for taking somebody’s car, it is almost certain that majority will not know but surely they will all acknowledge that it is a wrong that deserves some punishment. Therefore even though we tag death sentence for kidnapping, these kidnappers will not be aware of this but they know it is wrong and, so would not be deterred. Security agents should as matter of urgency deploy technology and intelligence so that almost all kidnappers end up being caught and prosecuted accordingly.
Another angle to the argument is that the fact that the penalty for armed robbery is death sentence, this has not eliminated or reduced armed robbery because majority are never caught. In fact many of the robbers now have the courage to invade police stations for arm caches and even rob banks. If the proposal for death sentence scales through for kidnappers who do this to make ends meet fraudulently and to have a fair share of the national cake which the political class has denied them through poor governance and looting, I would want to see slow death(like burning alive, burying alive, drowning, death by butchering) or even annihilation as penalty for public corruption by government officials who through embezzlement of funds for roads, education, hospitals, water project and electricity have killed/murdered massively through road accidents on bad roads, killed dreams of educationally bright Nigerians, dysfunctional hospitals, disease and poverty. This is not to suggest that I hold briefs for kidnappers or I have any sympathetic leaning for this hated crime; I consider the ruling elites more of threat to the society than these petty kidnappers and that the solution lies with the security agencies and not with law.