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THE CITY UNDER SEIGE: CASES OF KIDNAPPING IN BENIN CITY AND ITS ENVIRONS ON THE RISE

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Ambassador Osayomore Joseph

Benin City is synonymous with an enviable culture and history, but the recent tales of kidnapping cast a shadow over its rich past.

The era of the Anini’s and Monday Osunbor’s could not be compared to the dastard acts of present day kidnappers who have robbed many families of their loved ones and bread winners. Several children have been orphaned and women widowed because of their heinous activities.

The city of Benin today accounts for one of the highest cases of high profile kidnappings in the country. Only recently, the Billionaire kidnapper, Evans confessed to kidnapping in Benin and its environs. A popular business tycoon, Uyi Electrical was one of his victims.

Despite the arrest of the kidnap kingpin, the crime has continued to hold sway in the City. Prominent individuals have been kidnapped, including the Manager of Ogba Zoo, Mr Ehanire and the iconic musician, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph. The situation does give one reason for deep reflection.

Public appeals have been made for the release of these individuals, but to no avail. Recently, the family of the legendary musician was able to establish contact with his abductors who are asking for hefty sums of money for a man who has all the years campaigned for justice for his people.  Osayomore’s family told newsmen that their patriarch is not feeling too fine, and moreover is without his medication. They appealed to his captors to release their sick father, so he could attend to his health.

The crime fighting technique of the Nigerian Police is called to scrutiny; as no major breakthrough has been made to track down these hoodlums who have held the City hostage. Victims’ families now bear the brunt of negotiating for the release of their family members from the den of the kidnappers after the payment of huge ransoms. The release of the proprietor of Uyi Technical lends credence to this fact.

Sadly, the way and manner people are kidnapped, even prominent persons with heavy security shows that the security architecture of the state is in disarray. The manager of Ogba Zoo was kidnapped from his office, despite having armed police security. The police officers protecting him were gunned down before his very eyes. Another fact is that criminals from other neighboring states have extended their trade to Benin because of its geographical location and network of roads, which gives easy access to hoodlums to evade been arrested. It goes a long way to show the state’s vulnerability.

The absence of community policing may have made it easy for these criminals to make way with their abductees. This is because the state lacks a police that has a deep rooted policing structure.

The fact remains that these criminals must have trailed their suspects for a very long time. It brings us to the question about the duties of the Department of State Security (DSS), whose primary responsibility is to forestall the incidence of crimes.

Meanwhile, poverty and unemployment have been argued as key drivers of crime in the state. This was noticeable in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s during the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the erstwhile military head of state, Ibrahim Babaginda.  The programme brought with it hunger in the land, it was a time when the phrase tighten your seat belts was coined. It is similar with the present condition, which many Nigerians are facing today.

The disbandment of Community Development Associations (CDA’s) have also compounded the already bad economic situation of the state, taking the knot off the neck of many would be criminals who had hitherto taking to a self styled empowerment through the collection of tolls and levies from land developers. The promulgation of the associations by the State Government without any alternative provision of job opportunities for them is largely one of the reasons behind the upsurge in kidnapping. Some of them had to fall back to their ignoble means of livelihood for survival after their land scrambling activities were outlawed.

Another factor in the rise of kidnapping in the state is the increase in the number of returnees from Libya, with little or nothing to rely on, many of them were easily converted into the cell of kidnappers. To them, kidnapping remain one of the most lucrative and viable business in town.

Sadly, the incidence of crime in Edo State is scaring away would be investors, as no wise investor would want to put his or her money in a place where safety is not guaranteed.

The current security situation in Benin City and its environs call for sober reflection, as it has gone beyond rhetoric. Deliberate actions must be taken by the authorities and traditional leaders to stamp out kidnapping from the land. The police must take the job of securing the people and their properties as a primary responsibility, as well as government tackling head on the issues of massive unemployment.

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