Daily Archives: December 14, 2010

Against Kidnappers!

Soldiers

The year is almost over folks, isn’t it? It is that time of the year again in the Igbo corner of the country called Nigeria when people do their best to get their finances in order; yes for the great Christmas holiday season. The end of the year period is a time when most Igbo people from far-flung places troop back to their ancestral villages and towns to be with their loved ones, family and extended relatives. It is a time of great festivity; of marrying and giving to marriage; of insane partying, wining and dining with kith and kin; of showing off to others how one has been successful in one’s undertakings in those distant places from which one made the long journey home. Usually, Igbo people would start this yearly migration around the 20th of December and remain in their ancestral lands until the end of the first week of the New Year.

Afterwards, many people would return again to the cities where they lived and worked in for the rest of the year—after having made great resolutions for the year. Therefore, it is not surprising that to keep up with the Joneses, terrible crimes are committed around this time of the year as some people undertake desperate things to make enough money for the annual end of year jamboree in Nigeria’s southeast. This is usually the time that one hears of terrible robberies or terrible news of people participating in one money-making ritual or the other.

In recent times however, the Southeastern part of Nigeria (Igbo land) has been gripped by a bigger fear; there is an even bigger, more present and scarier problem. This is the menace of kidnappers. This is a scourge that is not limited to the seasonal end of year spike in violence—this problem seems to be an ongoing one.

“So what is this kidnapping business?” someone might be tempted to ask.

The stories are legion. You have heard many of them—as have I. You might have even read some of these horror stories or seen TV clips focused on this issue

There is general sense of insecurity and fear in Igbo land because of a number of factors some of which include the paucity of effective police deterrent to crime; an appalling lack of a sense of duty on the part of the local police; a benighted dismantling by state governments of previous vigilante groups which protected local communities from the scourge of robbers and assassins; general unease and suspicion by members of a terrorized community of other members of the community;  and finally, a poor and ineffective means of coordinating efforts designed at confronting the issue by members of a targeted or traumatized community. The end result is that desperate and cruel kidnapper gangs have arisen in many parts of the Igbo southeast.

They started out by targeting the rich.  For instance, a rich person or his /her relative, spouse or children could be kidnapped. The kidnappers would then call the rich person on the phone and try to negotiate the release of the kidnapped by threatening to inflict bodily harm or murder unless the rich person brings a whopping sum of money to some secret place where the swap would take place. If all goes well, the kidnapped relatives of the rich would live to see another day. If the rich person refuses to comply, then these kidnappers would escalate their actions by murdering the rich man’s kidnapped relative and kidnapping an even more important and closer relation of that rich person. This vicious spate of extra-judicial kidnapper killings could go on for a long time until the rich person eventually succumbs to pressure and goes on with the extortion scheme.

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