Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has identified the increasing spates of kidnapping in Nigeria as a threat to development, and has vowed to stamp out the practice. According to the Nigerian police, more than 300 suspected kidnappers, mostly in the Igbo ethnic community have been arrested since February.
Speaking to the leaders of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Abuja, the president said the situation in the southeast of the country was so alarming that the government could no longer accept it.
“I am saying now that we will spend the last money government has to crush this terrible menace because without security we can’t even develop. The issue of kidnapping is a problem that the government must tackle frontally and I have decided that we will tackle it frontally,” President Jonathan was quoted.
Observers say kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs is no longer restricted to the country’s oil-producing south, but has spread to the southeast Igbo region. In February, southeastern states, Anambra, Enugu, Abia and Imo emerged as hotbeds of commercially-motivated kidnapping.
Reports claim that kidnappers now specialize in kidnapping members of royal families and traditional rulers of big towns, high profile business tycoons and politicians, children and relatives of wealthy politicians.
“We can no longer continue to live in a society where even if your wife is going to church, you have to look for an Armored Personnel Carrier to follow her. If the children are going to school, you have to look for machine gun-carrying security people to follow them,” he added.
The capital city of Abuja has also joined the kidnapper’s map, and there is the fear that the hoodlums may overrun the country. With an ineffective and unreliable security machinery to stop the kidnappers, many people in the South-East now live in perpetual fear of kidnappers.
According to reports the increasing spates of kidnapping in Nigeria has curtailed the freedom of movement of the people, forcing prominent citizens to travel to their respective villages with full mobile police escorts.
Kidnapping was first unleashed in Port-Harcourt on February 18 2006 by militants to press home their demands for oil benefits but has now become a veritable tool in the hands of money-seeking hoodlums.