The Punch


● Over 2,900 abducted since January following gadget failure ● Kidnappers of 121 Kaduna students yet to demand ransom, police promise rescue

- Eniola akinkuotu, Stephen angbulu, GODFREY george and PERCY ani

KEy tracking equipment deployed by the police to go after kidnappers, bandits and terrorists has remained inactive since the beginning of the year amid raging violent crimes across the country, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

Multiple reliable sources, who confided in Sunday PUNCH, attributed the downtime to non-subscripti­on and failure to engage the relevant company to carry out system upgrade, among other challenges.

At least 2, 943 people in Nigeria have been abducted across the country in the last six months since the critical tracking technology was down.

Experts have noted that the use of mobile devices by kidnappers to negotiate ransoms makes it possible for law enforcemen­t agencies to determine the movements of the cell phone owners.

Even if users have their location services, cellular data and Wi-fi disabled, tracking system enables law enforcemen­t agencies to have access to the technology that can determine the location of a mobile device at a specified time.

Senior police officers, including two commission­ers of police who spoke to one of our correspond­ents on condition of anonymity, said the platforms used in tracking phones had been bad since January.

They said in certain cases that were of national interest, the police had to rely on the Office of the National Security Adviser in tracking bandits.

One of the commission­ers of police, who spoke to one of our correspond­ents on the condition of anonymity, said the equipment was handed over to the police by the Nigerian government a few years ago during the tenure of IGP Solomon Arase and was installed by a Nigerian company.

“The equipment was given to us by President Buhari. The thing has not been working because those who are supposed to ensure that it runs well have not played their part.

“They claim that they are being owed money for the subscripti­on.” he said.

When asked to explain how the subscripti­on works, the CP said the police had not paid the fees since 2015 and the police had had to rely on the DSS.

He added, “From what I gathered, subscripti­on fees are meant to be paid yearly but you won’t believe that the police have not paid since 2015. Initially, the company gave us a grace period but they have now cut off the police completely. We now rely solely on DSS and NSA office. It’s a terrible situation and it has worsened the insecurity in the country. The Police Trust Fund promised to help but we have not seen any action yet.”

Another police commission­er confirmed the developmen­t but said efforts were being made to restore the equipment.

The police commission­er added that the platform was undergoing a system upgrade which would soon be completed.

He added, “you know this thing is technology just like computer so we do upgrades from time to time. A lot of people on the field don’t even understand how it works. It is undergoing an upgrade because you have new features coming in from time to time. There are new technologi­es that you have to update to enhance their capacity.

“We have some new equipment which we need to adjust so they can link together. Some are still working. It is not as if all components are shut. That is what is happening.”

Efforts to speak with the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls nor a text message on Friday.

Amid the prolonged police tracking system glitches, at least 2, 943 people in Nigeria have been abducted across the country in the last six months even as the police platform used in tracking phones has shut down, making it difficult for the police to track bandits,

Sunday PUNCH has learnt.

Sunday PUNCH also reports that at least 348 students are still in captivity including the 121 students of Bethel Baptist School, Kaduna.

The figure on the abductions is based on data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, and edited by a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell. Some of the data was also verified by this newspaper through a manual tally of media reports from several newspapers in the last six months

The NST tracks violence in Nigeria through data based on weekly surveys of Nigerian and internatio­nal media and only records cases that have officially been reported.

Of all the states that are mostly affected, only the Kaduna State Government has been releasing a quarterly report on abductions and had stated that between January and March alone, 949 persons were kidnapped in the state.

Sunday PUNCH observed that of about 3,000 people abducted this year, not less than 800 are students. The figure doesn’t include the 344 schoolchil­dren of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, and 80 pupils of Islamiyya School, Mahuta, both in Katsina State in December 2020.

Some of the notable mass school kidnapping­s of 2021 include the abduction of 279 schoolgirl­s of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State on February 26; the kidnapping of 136 pupils of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State on May 30; the abduction of 94 students of Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State on June 17 and the latest abduction of 140 pupils of Bethel Baptist School, Kaduna, out of which 19 escaped.

About 39 students at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisat­ion, Kaduna were kidnapped on March 11 while 23 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna were also taken on April 20.

According to the NST, between January and June 2021, the North-west had the highest number of abductions with 1, 405 cases reported. The Northcentr­al witnessed 942 kidnapping­s while the North-east had 210. The South-south witnessed 140 cases of abductions while the South-west and the South-east recorded 169 and 77 respective­ly.

The local government­s with the highest number of abductions were Rafi in Niger State (443), Talata Marafa in Zamfara State (317) and Shiroro in Niger State (225). Maru in Zamfara State recorded 195 abductions while Kajuru in Kaduna State witnessed 145 kidnapping­s within the period.

According to NST, Niger State had the highest number of abductions at 795 followed by Zamfara State which witnessed 523 kidnapping­s. Kaduna had the third-highest number of abductions at 479 while Katsina recorded 289. Borno and Kebbi states recorded 115 and 103 cases respective­ly while Oyo had 63.

According to the data, the month of June recorded the highest number of abductions at 1, 344 followed by February which had 709 cases.

buhari gives military fresh orders to crush bandits

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Saturday issued fresh orders to the military to crush bandits operating across the nation.

He said this while condemning renewed killings in Zamfara and Kaduna States.

This was contained in a statement, titled ‘President Buhari Demanda Crushing Response Against Bandits ,‘ and signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

In the statement, the President noted that the military and other security agencies were now working on new methods and policies that are yielding good results in many of the troubled parts of the country.

The statement read in part, “President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday condemned repeated bandit killings in Zamfara and Kaduna States, urging the nation’s military to respond to the worrying situation in a language that the bandits understand.”

Buhari also said the nation, its military and the entire population, needed to summon the courage required to defeat the bandits and terrorists.

He further condemned some politician­s making utterances on security, advising them to join the ongoing genuine efforts aimed at finding lasting solutions to the challenges confrontin­g the nation.

He expressed the nation’s sorrow over the loss of lives, urging security agencies to do everything possible to prevent the recurrence of attacks with impunity.

utomi, Ekhomu, Sans canvass state policing

A former presidenti­al candidate and professor of Economics, Pat Utomi; senior advocates of Nigeria, Babatunde Ogala and Tayo Oyetibo, and a renowned security expert, Ona Ekhomu, have said the country needs a more community-based police structure to tackle the security crisis in the country.

They spoke against the backdrop of the bill for the creation of state police in the country passing second reading in the House of Representa­tives on Tuesday, July 6, 2021.

The bill which seeks to amend the 1999 Constituti­on to allow for the creation of state police and legalise regional security outfits, was championed by the member representi­ng Etinan/nsit-ibom/ Nsit-ubium Federal Constituen­cy and Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok luke.

luke proposed to alter the Constituti­on to provide for state police and other state government security services to enhance security and preservati­on of lives and properties in Nigeria.

Utomi said community policing was the solution to Nigeria’s security challenges.

He said policemen should not live in barracks but within the communitie­s where they are stationed to track down criminals and protect lives and properties, adding that knowledge of the community allows the policeman to see “something unusual and do something”.

According to him, policing was local and should not be domiciled at the centre alone as police officers would be more effective when policing is decentrali­sed.

Utomi said, “Policing is fundamenta­lly local. Police officers should live within the community. When they do, they will know who the criminals are and who the law-abiding citizens are. When something goes wrong, members of the community will walk up to them and register their concerns. This is what helps their investigat­ion.

“I lived in a small town in America, in graduate school, and that university has its police force. The city has its police force, so do the county and the state. All of them operate within the town I lived in, each having its various functions.

“The concept of the police as an army of occupation needs to change to make policing more effective. you cannot have this (concept) and say, ‘Police is your friend!’ No. Police are your occupiers. You are terrorised by them. But when the police officers are in the community, they become your friends. Everyone will be free to tell them what they saw during a crime and not be afraid of being harassed. that is what policing is about .”

On his part, a security expert, Ona Ekhomu, in his reaction, said the bill was a welcome developmen­t as the current security structure was not adequate to cater to the security challenges of the country and could not provide proper protection for lives and properties in the country.

Ekhomu said, “People are being slaughtere­d all over the country by nonstate actors in a way that appears almost impossible to defend. This bill is long overdue and required.

“What the legislatur­e has done with the passing of the bill is to show that they are an equal member and participan­t in this administra­tion. By taking the initiative to pass this bill now, seeing as they have in times past ceded all initiative to the executive in terms of actions that will better the lives of Nigerians and resigned themselves to playing second fiddle, they have shown they now understand the amount of power they wield. Also, they now realise how to use this power to better the plight of Nigerians affected by killer herdsmen and bandits as they have stepped up to their duties.”

He stated further that the bill is the first step in the long route to progress in the security department of the country.

“Nigeria is still a long way from where it should rightly be security-wise, but the bill that allows the creation of state police is the first step in the right direction.

Also commenting on the issue, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, maintained that Nigeria could not have a centrally-controlled police force if it wanted to be efficient.

He said, “I made a presentati­on to the National Assembly some years back on this issue. you cannot sit in Abuja and police the remotest part of Nigeria. you need the police that would be on the ground and one who has the intelligen­ce from the people to be able to do so.”

“While the Federal police is maintained, the need for state police is necessary. Nigeria is a big nation in terms of landmass and population, so to be able to police the people, we need police that would have their ears to the ground. It is quite obvious that a centrally controlled police cannot successful­ly achieve this in Nigeria”.

Also, Babatunde Ogala, SAN, said he subscribes to community or state policing, because with it in place, it would be easier to curb most crimes committed in various communitie­s within the country.

Ogala added, “Tracking criminals would be much easier as the police officers are part of society and know the people. It would also help to boost the morale of the police officers as fighting crime would be made much easier.”

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