• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Which is of lesser consequence: Payment of ransom or killing of victims?

Insurgency-Nigeria

The poor governance in Nigeria has created all manner of criminality in society. Everybody points to the activities of politicians that gave rise to the Islamic sect, Boko Haram insurgency in 2009.

There is still the allegation that the current wave of banditry and kidnapping began after the 2015 general election. The narrative goes that some politicians had assembled dangerous elements from Niger and Chad, and had armed them with dangerous weapons ready for full scale war should the then president Goodluck Jonathan refused to relinquish power.

It was said that when Jonathan intuitively said that his ambition did not worth the blood of any Nigerian, and consequently conceded defeat, those who had engaged mercenaries to do war were carried away with the joy of victory and forgot to settle the dangerous elements and also did not mop up the weapons in their possession.

These mercenaries were said to have decided to use what they have to get what they do not have. They were said to have taken over every forest across the country, kidnapping and demanding hefty ransom in return.

The high rate of unemployment in the country and worsening poverty situation have also combined to give impetus to criminality.

Moreover, when the Federal Government declared it was going to pursue a dangerous policy of issuing passport to foreigners when they had already entered the country, it inadvertently opened its doors for more terrorists.

When the government, in the name of ECOWAS protocol on free movement decided to leave the borders open for all manner of elements, including herdsmen from neighbouring countries to move in with their cattle, with dangerous arms, it did not realise it was culturing a monster.

Today, government is running from pillar to post seeking help because the fire it stoked is trying to consume everyone.

Now, a government that openly supports the activities of herdsmen and has told Nigerians to either leave their ancestral land for herdsmen or get killed, is lamenting that payment of ransom to free unfortunate victims is not condoned.

The Boko Haram elements, bandits and kidnappers are dangerous beings that have no mercy. They dance and make merry any time they see people cry and weep over their relations in captivity.

So, when they kidnap a victim, the target is the money they hope to get via ransom. They do not mind if their victim has a terminal illness, or on medication, or cannot survive the adverse weather condition he/she is being exposed to and other inconveniences.

For any government, state or federal, to insist on no ransom payment, especially when that government lacks the powers to bring the terrorists into subjection, is mere grandstanding.

In the last few weeks, many parents have suffered heartache in Kaduna over the abduction of their children by terrorists. Five of the students of the Greenfield University were gruesomely murdered by their captors.

The parents would have preferred to sell off everything they had on earth, if they were assured that would help save the lives of those youths.

The attitude of government to the ransom payment portrays a serious I-don’t-care feeling.

The advice by Sheikh Gumi to the Federal Government that the Central Bank of Nigeria should pay N100million ransom to the terrorists to free the students was in order. Why not?

If a government can no longer guarantee the protection of lives and property of its citizens, and if government has failed in every department of governance and for which reason criminals are all over the place abducting people at will, government should be responsible for whatever ransom is demanded.

Many Nigerians believe that neither the Kaduna State government nor the Federal Government is saying the truth on the “no ransom” stance. According to them, that position is only taken when it has not involved a government official. If it is a government official, government does everything possible to secure the release of such an individual.

A public affairs analyst, Anthony Ogor, told BusinessDaySunday that government was not being sincere in dealing with citizens of Nigeria.

“There have been cases involving government officials and before you say Jack such government officials would have been released. Either because the government knows where the terrorists are or ransom is paid in such cases. I strongly believe that there is something going on between the government and terrorists that we do not know; but I believe one day, every secret thing shall come to the open.”

Expressing sadness over Governor El-Rufai’s current stance on payment of ransom to free abducted victims, Ogor said: “I am very sad at the turn of events in Kaduna. The other day I stumbled on a post on one of the WhatsApp groups I belong to, where El-Rufai was lashing out at former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying that it was wickedness for Jonathan to have abandoned the Chibok girls after they were kidnapped. He said in that video that he could give anything and everything to secure kidnapped victims because nothing is as precious as life. If you put that side-by-side with his actions now, you will realise that these people are just playing on the intelligence of Nigerians. You would also come to a grim realisation that we have no leader in the country.”

Many Nigerians say that payment of ransom would not have been necessary if the Federal Government of Nigeria had all it takes to put terrorists to rout.

This view was also shared recently by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when he advised against payment of ransom.

He said that government must develop means to deal with kidnappers and bandits heavily in place of ransom payment.

He noted that the governments of both President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari paid ransom to kidnappers but they denied it.

Obasanjo said he does not believe in payment of ransom to kidnappers and bandits, saying it encouraged criminals indulging in the act.

“Some people are still reaching out, and hoping that lives can still be saved. But a situation whereby anybody thinks paying ransom is the way out, that person is folly. He is a folly. This is because when you pay ransom, you encourage. But if you are not going to pay ransom, you must have the means to deal heavily with it. You must have the stick to deal with it.

“Government has always paid ransom. Not only this government, even during Jonathan (administration). They paid ransom, but they denied it.”