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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Night life revellers jittery over increasing kidnapping in Lagos


As perpetrators of kidnappings in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous commercial city become more daring in their acts, the jollity and fun that characterise night life in the city have turned to an effort that requires cautious tact.
In a city where families of every kidnapping victim are forced to shell out millions of naira in ransom,Saturday PUNCH found out that night life has become a risky venture that continues to attract revellers but with restricted movement.
“I remember one day, my two friends and I went to three different clubs in one night. We left Ikeja GRA for a club at Ikorodu. From Ikorodu, we decided to go to another club on Lagos Island. We were all bankers and just wanted to unwind that weekend. It was a wild weekend,” Adeolu Oribamise told our correspondent.
The kind of revelry that Oribamise described is not strange to many people in Lagos. But since kidnappers no longer discriminate in the kind of people they grab for money, many revellers are now forced to choose between having a “wild night” with risk of abduction or simply staying at home and sipping  a can of beer.
“It is not that I no longer go out, but there are some areas I dare not go anymore. I cannot imagine going as far as Ikorodu for clubbing any longer when I live in Ikeja. If something happens, won’t people even blame me for such a stupidity? In fact, I don’t see any point going as far as Lagos Island when there are many relaxation spots and clubs in Ikeja,” Oribamise said.
According to him, his decision is not just about clubbing. He said a late night visit to any area of Lagos he is not familiar with has also become a no-no.
Considering the number of kidnappings in Lagos in the last one year and how much families of victims are forced to part with as ransom, such decisions as Oribamise’s cannot be seen as mere paranoia.
As this report was being prepared, news broke that the pupils and teachers of Lagos Junior Model School, Igbon Nla, Epe, Lagos, who were abducted on the premises of their school by gun totting criminals on October 6 had been released.
After the abduction of the victims – Isaac Adebisi, Okonkwo Emmanuel, Abu, and Jeremiah; a teacher, Lukman Oyerinde and the Vice-Principal, A.O Oyesola, a N30m ransom was demanded for their release.
The families were said to have negotiated and reduced it to N1m for each victim before their release.
Their abduction came seven months after a similar incident in which three schoolgirls of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu, Lagos, were abducted on the premises of their school in March, forcing their parents to cough up N5.6m as ransom.
In some cases, the ransoms demanded are simply mind-boggling.
For instance, in April 2016, the families of two abducted businessmen in Amuwo Odofin Local Government area of Lagos, cried out to the state government for help, revealing that two months after they paid about N490m as ransom for them, their abductors had not released them.
In August, kidnappers released the abducted traditional ruler of Iba land, Oba Goriola Oseni, after three weeks in captivity and N15.1m ransom paid by his family.
In September, nine gunmen attacked five landlords jogging along the road at Lekki Gardens Estate, Isheri, a border community between Lagos and Ogun states. The abductors demanded N300m during the period of ransom negotiation. It is unclear how much was eventually paid for their release as their families refused to talk about it.
In another kidnap, 15 gunmen stormed two poultry farms located at Egan, Itoki area of Ikorodu, Lagos in July 2016 and kidnapped the owners, Alhaji Oyebanji Wasiu and Alhaji Isiaka Owolabi along with the manager of the two farms, 43-year-old Abiodun Adeniyi.
Their families were said to have paid N22m for their release, yet, the kidnappers killed the manager of the farms.
There are many other cases such as these that are enough to put fear in carefree and free-spirited night crawlers.
Like Oribamise, 35-year-old Julius Achums, recently made a decision to slow down on his night crawling habit.
But for him, it was not just because of numerous reports of kidnappings in the state that scared him.
His neighbour, a businessman, was kidnapped in Ejigbo, Lagos in August 2016 and it was a turning point for him.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that like most victims, the family of Achum’s neighbour had to scramble around to gather N2m which they paid for his release.
He said, “Being involved in the case from the day he was kidnapped till he was released gave me a new perspective on our security as people. No one is safe in this country. Your safety is in your own hands and if you live a life that frequently puts your life at risk, then you have yourself to blame.
“My neighbour was kidnapped at gunpoint when he was driving from work to the house. It was not as if his car was too flashy to have attracted the kidnappers. In fact, he drives a 2008 Toyota Camry.
“If he could be kidnapped on a road at about 8pm in an area that was not isolated, what about people like us who go to clubs frequently and leave very late or early in the morning? I am not saying people should not go to clubs. But if you go to any location that is too secluded, what is the assurance that you would not encounter criminals on the way back in the dark?
“I think kidnappers in Lagos have realised that it is not easy to make millions through armed robberies anymore, so kidnapping is becoming very popular. Have you ever heard of anybody kidnapped and rescued by the police without payment of ransom?”
In August 2016, Victor Adamolekun, an IT specialist with a company on Victoria Island, Lagos, was on his way back from a club where he had attended a friend’s birthday shindig when he was robbed by a five-man gang of robbers.
According to him, they locked him in the boot of his vehicle at Surulere, where he was taken and driven round Lagos till he was dumped at Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
When our correspondent spoke with him, he said he recovered his vehicle three days after the incident.
He said, “They abandoned the vehicle at Sango Ota. The police were the ones who even informed me that a vehicle that matched the description of mine reported snatched had been found.
“I remember when the robbers first took control of my vehicle at gunpoint and sandwiched me between themselves in the back seat, they were discussing my fate among themselves. That was before they later put me in the boot.
“One of them said maybe they should just transfer me to ‘base’ and collect ransom for my release. That was when I realised they were not just robbers, they were kidnappers too. But they decided that they still had many operations that night and dumped me when they had the chance.
“But it made me realise, apart from being robbed, I could have been kidnapped that night. That is more frightening for me because my family and friends would start running from pillar to post to find millions of naira that they do not have.”
Adamolekun said since that traumatic experience, he had not found the courage to venture out late at night anymore.
“It was a bitter lesson for me. I am not saying that I would never go out at night again but at least for now, I don’t think it is wise with the way these Niger Delta militants are kidnapping people in Lagos.”
Pointing accusing fingers at Niger Delta militants as responsible for the increasing cases of kidnappings in the state may not be far-fetched considering suspects who have been arrested in some of the cases.
Lagos-based security expert, Mr. Richard Amuwa, said they are indeed responsible for the spate of kidnappings in Lagos considering their affinity with creeks and water.
 “They are taking advantage of the fact that Lagos is accessible to Niger Delta by sea while there is hardly any form of sea patrol, so it has become an easy kidnapping route for them. There was also a case where a man was kidnapped from Lagos and driven straight to Warri in Delta State,” he said.
In the wake of the kidnap of the school pupils and teachers from Epe few days ago, the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, also said kidnappers, suspected militants and criminally minded persons often seek refuge in such shanties close to the waterfront, from where they use the waterways to ferry their victims to other locations, in most cases to another state.
 “You will see that most of the issues that we have with kidnappings are actually being brought up by those who are illegal settlers by the waterfront. We will commence demolition of all the shanties around the creeks in Lagos State and also around our waterways in the next seven days. I have given directives to that effect to the appropriate agencies,” Ambode said.
Our correspondent spoke with some security experts on practical ways residents of Lagos can avoid being kidnapped.
According to the President, Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria, Mr. Davidson Akhimien, individuals need to be security conscious and identify threats to their personal life.
He said, the level of poverty in the land makes increase in crime inevitable. He said this is a reason Nigerians should avoid ostentation.
“This is not the time to go to a party and spray dollars because the kidnappers there would follow you home.
“Ensure your going out and coming in are planned. Let your relatives know where you are going. If you have a personal vehicle, make sure it is tracked and not just for the security of the car but for your own security. In the event of a kidnap, even if they transfer you to another vehicle, at least investigation can show where you where you were last.
“Schools should take security more seriously now because things have changed. The physical and electronic security should reflect the seriousness of the times. Who comes to pick children? What forms of protocols are in place? These are things that security policies in schools should focus on.”
Chief Executive Officer, Security Watch Africa, Mr. Patrick Agbambu, advised that Lagos residents should pay more attention to things happening around them and individuals they encounter every day.
According to him, people should make efforts to report any strange movement or incidents around them.
Agbambu said, “Before kidnappers or any other sort of criminals strike, they do what other law enforcement agencies do – surveillance. If people are very conscious, they can avoid some incidents. If you have a security man, he has to be observant of the vehicles that pass through your area several times because they could be doing surveillance to know when you are around or not. Also try to know your neighbours so that you can easily determine when a stranger comes around.
“But people are also kidnapped in transit. In that case, you have to be very observant of vehicles trailing you or overtaking you.
“Random kidnapping is what is now in vogue. Kidnappers just grab anybody on the street and hope it would be a big catch. In that regard, there is not so much an individual can do to prevent it. What to do is to remain calm and not struggle with them so they don’t become violent.”
Agbambu condemned the security unpreparedness of many schools in Lagos.
According to him, the era of leaving school security to the “gate man” has passed in the light of security challenges in the country that has led to kidnappers attacking schools and abducting students.

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