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Tinubu on ransom payment to kidnappers

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BANKING on the docility of the state, terrorists have, in recent times, been inflicting the worst pains on their victims across the land. The political leadership, high on rhetoric and weak in concrete action to stem the menace, has been talking tough as usual. President Bola Tinubu, reacting to the recent kidnapping of 287 students of Government Primary School and Government Secondary School, Kuriga, in Chikun Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State, declared that no ransom would be paid to secure the release of the students and their teachers from their captors. Addressing journalists after the Federal Executive Council (FEC)  meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Minister of Information and National Orientation, Muhammad Idris, said that President Tinubu had renewed his instruction to the military authorities to ensure that the captives are retrieved and returned home safely. He said that the present government was committed to combating abduction and other criminal activities in the country, and that the president had declared his opposition to paying ransom to kidnappers. He said that kidnapping, especially mass abductions, would not be allowed.

Of course, the outlaws recognised the president’s statement as a mere declaration of intent. Barely five days after the Kuriga incident, the terrorists struck in Buba village  of Kajuru LGA, abducting 60 persons. This week, the outlaws kidnapped at least 86 persons in Tantatu and Aguba communities in the Kufana District of Kajuru. They broke into shops, ransacked houses and looted foodstuffs and other valuable items.  According to reports, that was the eighth incident of kidnapping in the state in one month. On February 18, they had invaded Gindin Dutse Makyali village in Kajuru LGA, killing 12 persons and razing 17 houses. On February 29, they invaded Angwar Auta in Gonin Gora under Kakau Ward of Chikun LGA, killing two vigilantes and abducting 10 residents. On March 12, the terrorists took at least 30 villagers hostage in Budah village, also in Kajuru, while  on March 13, one person was killed and eight others abducted when bandits invaded the Banono settlement under the Angwaku community in Kajuru. That was not all. On March 16, 2024, the outlaws invaded Dogon Noma-Unguwan Gamo community in the Maro ward of Kajuru and kidnapped 14 villagers.

The latest incident happened a day before the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, visited the Kaduna State governor, Senator Uba Sani, at the Government House in Kaduna, assuring that the 287 students and others recently abducted would be rescued. The CDS declared that the military and other security agencies were working tirelessly to free the hostages. His words: “Whatever is happening, it is a matter of time; it will not last forever. We are working tirelessly to ensure the security of the state, the country and the citizens, especially to free the abducted ones, both the schoolchildren and all others abducted. We are happy with the directive given by the president, based on the unfortunate incident in Delta State, he will give us all the support that may be required, which is the mandate that we need. We came to reassure you that we are not sleeping, that we are taking more actions to ensure that we safeguard and bring them (children) back as quickly as possible. These are children and leaders of tomorrow. We will not allow them to go through this trauma. Let them not feel they have been neglected. For those individuals who have sworn that there will be no peace, they will have no peace. We will ensure that we follow them wherever they are. For those sponsoring them and encouraging them to do the same, for their own good, they should stop.  We will ensure that anybody who stands in the way of getting peace in the state and Nigeria will be brought to book.”

Of course, the military is trying its best in the circumstances. But the optics are far from encouraging. To be sure, what President Tinubu himself has said is something Nigerians would naturally expect if the government had not been shirking its responsibilities. The government should ideally not deal with terrorists from a position of weakness but from a position of strength. It should have taken the battle to them and punished their criminal activities very severely, making it clear that  while it is ready to listen to whatever grievances any group of people across the country may have, the resort to criminality would not be tolerated under any guise. The reality, however, is that for years, Nigerians have heard the kind of rhetoric mouthed by the president  and the service chiefs without the government backing it up with action. The inevitable conclusion, though grim, is that the government has not shown that it is able to secure life and property. That is a tragedy, given that security of life and property is the raison d’etre of the state.

Just so we are clear, the payment of ransom can only encourage criminals and should never be encouraged. However, it is also a fact that the criminals are only waxing bolder by the day because the government has not gone after them, meaning that the victims of terrorist attacks and other forms of insecurity have been left to their own devices. And they have internalised the government’s clear message that they must carry their own cross. That being the case, saying that the government will not pay ransom amounts to playing the ostrich; no weight can be attached to the government’s word. Are the families of the victims supposed to fold their arms and do nothing?

In case the government needs any reminding, the only way to discourage the payment of ransom is to be proactive and stop the criminals. It should do so and stop making empty statements.

Also Read: Strike: We’re fully compliant — UNILAG SSANU, NASU


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