*Police Not Tracking Alleged Gunmen
*We Are But It’s Sensitive, Police Insists
By Ernest Omoarelojie/Ade-Ade Bosun
Mallam Yusha Jangeme is a kidnap victim from Zamfara state. He was not affected when bandits invaded his community and abducted seven members. However, in the course of the negotiations with the abductors, his community assigned him the onerous task of taking part of the agreed ransom to the kidnappers. That was how his own ordeal started.
“The bandits negotiated with my community. They agreed on a price and I was mandated to take the money to them which I did. But as soon as I got there, they received the money and refused to allow me to return home, saying that the remaining balance of N1.6m must be paid. Otherwise, they would not release me and the other seven people,” he lamented.
While the ordeal of Jangeme and his co-villagers last, some members of the community handed over to the police the number with which they were negotiating with the kidnappers with the hope that they will use it to track the hoodlums down. Sadly, the police did nothing, either to either trace the location of the bandits or made any other attempt to at least rescue the victims
“The security agents posted to my village knew what was happening. But they didn’t make any attempt to use the telephone number sent by the bandits who kidnapped us,” he alleged
Another victim, Alhaji Sani Gyare, who had his seven children kidnapped, disclosed that as quickly as the bandits invaded his village, the villagers managed to alert security agents. But like the case with Jangeme, no security personnel showed up or came to their rescue until hours after the bandits had concluded their operations and left.
“My seven children were kidnapped by bandits without resistance from the security agents who were alerted on what was happening in Kadauri village. When the bandits entered our village, we quickly informed the police. But they didn’t report to the scene until after three hours when the bandits had left,” Gyare said
Gyare added that soon after his children and other victims were taken away, their abductors called him and demanded a princely N50m ransom which he didn’t have. Confused, he handed over the abductors’ number to the security agents on demand. But according to him, they did nothing up till the time of filing this report.
“The bandits called me and asked me to pay N50m so that they could release my children and I told them that I didn’t have such a huge amount. I gave their phone number to the police so that they could trace the abductors but unfortunately, nothing happened.”
A victim in Katsina who wouldn’t have his name in prints, recalled his ordeals during which all contacts and discussions with his abductors were conducted via his younger brother’s telephone line. With it the bandits negotiated for a N7m ransom. But according to him, though the police were informed, they did nothing.
Yet, another victim, Aminu Sarki, added that he was in the bandits’ lair for 23 days without being assisted by security agents who were well informed of his predicament.
“There was no any effort by the security agents to rescue me throughout the 23 days I stayed in bandits den.”
The cases are too numerous to mention here. Suffice to say however, that banditry, Kidnapping and other forms of organized crimes have since become thriving businesses across the country. In the main, they have been left unchecked as security agents have been accused of looking the other way while the crooks operate with free rein.
Wheras the situation in the southern part of the country may not be as volatile as it is in the north, there appears to be a common thread between the travails of victims from both sides of the aisle. Stories abound of claims by victims to the effect that even when SOS messages are sent to the police, they are, more often than not, never on ground when the are needed most. The victims add that when security operatives choose to be seen, it is only after the perpetrators have successfully operated and disappeared into thin air as narrated by Gyare.
Sections 19 and 20 of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Registration of Telephone Subscribers, Regulations, 2011, mandates telecommunications providers to register all subscribers. In line with the regulation, the NCC directed all telecommunications operators to deactivate unregistered or partly registered Sims. Though the registration process is ongoing, no operator is allowed to activate any sim that is not duly registered and linked with both NIN.
Telecommunications providers say they have lived with every aspect of the NCC act, insisting that they have no hand whatsoever in the inability of security operatives to track calls by bandits or other criminals. According to the service providers, all of their operating lines are registered and are therefore traceable by all authorized agencies. Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, noted that any allegation linking any member of his organization to the challenge under review is unfounded and calculated to cause disaffection.
“There is no such thing. People saying such need to provide more information. There are no unregistered phone numbers working on any of our networks. All numbers are traceable. All numbers are identifiable. People bring this kind of information just to create confusion. So it is not possible. There are no unregistered SIM cards working on the national network and then it has now become a requirement for the operators to ensure that SIM cards are linked to NINs,” Adebayo stressed.
Despite Adebayo’s strident denials however, a security source insists that unregistered SIMs are still available in, for instance, most of the affected areas in the north. According to him, claims by telecommunication service providers and government regulations notwithstanding, unregistered but active lines abound.
“We still have unregistered SIMs, which cannot be traced by security agents,” he stated.
Be that as it may, it would appear that the police in particular have a lot of explaning to do in terms of how, in spite of huge government investment in high tech tracking devices, in spite of the registration of all sims in the country, they are still not able to easily track bandits who still negotiate for ransom with telephone. Check Sunday Punch of July 11 on inactive key tracking equipment deployed by the police.
Indeed, explanations by security sources are still begging the questions. A source that prefers anonymity noted that the real issue has nothing to do with any assumed inability of the police to track calls or trace bandits. The real challenge, he said, is the porous borders around areas where bandits operates. Citing Kebbi, Sokoto, Katsina and Kano as examples, he insists that the borders of some of the affected states are so porous that bandits, most of whom he says are foreigners, easily make it in and out of the country, operate and go away after successfully abducting people and collecting ransom.
“The police have arrested so many in Kaduna but the bandits operating in the state are many. You know we don’t have borders. So the bandits come in to make money and go back across the borders. They just go to their countries and come back. If you go to Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, we don’t have borders there. The borders are open and these people come in to abduct people and cross the borders with the money,” he said.
Another security source attributed the challenge, particularly the refusal of people to cooperate with security agents to the no love lost between the police and kidnap victims. The latter, he says, has lost confidence in the ability of security agents to help them. That, he explains, is the reason why victims would rather pay ransom to bandits than share information with the police.
“Members of the public have lost confidence in the security agencies. Family members of abducted persons don’t report to the police or liaise with security agencies. They simply negotiate with the kidnappers. They don’t pass information to the police.”
He added however, that the loss of confidence on the part of the people is not necessarily the fault of the police. The fault, according to him, is due mainly to the inability of the state to successfully prosecuted kidnappers that have been arrested by security operatives and taken to court.
“It is not as if the police are not working. The arrested kidnappers from Kaduna are more than 500. These are confirmed kidnappers who were apprehended while collecting ransoms. The problem is that the authorities have not been able to prosecute them and the public needs to know what is happening. People are no longer reporting abductions. They prefer to sell their property and give the money to the bandits because of fear that the bandits may kill their loved ones in captivity if they report to the security agencies. In any case, we still have unregistered Sims which cannot be traced by security agents,” he stated.
Force spokesperson, Frank Mba, insists that the victims need to understand that tracking or tracing calls takes a lot more than the victims understand. While he did not expatriate on what the real requirements are, he noted however, that the police is doing everything within its powers to solve crimes. According to him, “Investigations of serious and sensitive cases such as the one under reference are usually not done in the open. In line with best practices, such investigations are discreet, intelligence-driven and target-oriented.
That’s exactly what we are doing in this instance. Our assurance to victims of the crime and their relatives is that we will do everything within our power to ensure the crimes are solved and hostages safely reunited with their families.”
But until his assurances take concrete forms to the advantage of victims, they are likely to have no effect on the perception of the victims. Indeed, it does not appear that the victims are in any hurry to be so persuaded because most of them are convinced that security agents, the police in particular, do not act when expected to.