By Faith Igbudu, Denen Achussah and Martin Iyonguvihi
The Benue State Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Akpen Leva has opined that the rate of kidnap for ransom cases in the state is being aided by lack of employment for the teeming youths.
Leva who disclosed this in an exclusive chat with The Voice said the youths indulge in the unlawful act due to their evil intentions to make quick money.
The Chairman’s disclosure is coming on the heels of rampant cases of kidnapping in the state and the inability of security operatives to permanently arrest the situation.
“We as a body condemn the act. It is diabolic. A situation where someone is forcefully arrested and kept against his wish, insisting on a ransom, is a sin against God and humanity. So, CAN totally condemns the act.
“We appreciate the efforts of the security agencies in clamping down on some of these kidnappers, like the recent case of Ann Unenge, wife of the state commissioner for Lands and Survey, who was rescued by security operatives. We encourage them to do more.
“We also call on our people to be vigilant, so that when they see something suspicious, they can help security operatives with the information. People should also be security conscious. They should avoid lonely and dark places which are easy spots for kidnappers.
“Of course the lack of employment has contributed greatly to kidnapping. Apart from the evil intentions of our youths to make quick money, many are idle.
And like the saying “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” that is how some have taken up this unhealthy lifestyle.
“If some of them are meaningful engaged, they won’t have time to take on acts like kidnapping. So we advise the government to do the needful by getting the actors of this act employed or set up businesses so that these boys can go in and start working and not be kidnapping people to get money,” Leva stated.
Police don’t pay ransom to kidnappers, PPRO insists
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Benue State command, DSP Catherine Anene has insisted that “for every kidnap case that police rescued victims, there is no ransom paid.”
Anene who spoke to The Voice said it is “a matter of policy that the police don’t pay ransom to kidnappers.”
“Like the last case opposite BIPC quarters, ransom was not paid. If anybody pay ransom, we are not aware. Paying ransom is to encourage kidnappers in that act,” she stated.
According to her, “in the last six months, kidnapping was brought to the barest minimum until last month when this syndicate came in. The police got three of them and the others ran away.”
“At the moment, we don’t have kidnappings in Makurdi. But we had a case in Ado where kidnappers were arrested recently. People have seen this as an opportunity to try the police. They wake up and form groups to see if the Police will allow it. But we can’t allow it. There are too many legitimate things for the people to do than wake up to say they will try kidnapping,” Anene stated.
However, the PPRO assured that the police is after the ring of kidnappers and would stop at nothing in ensuring that they are arrested and prosecuted.
Kidnap victim narrates ordeal
A victim of kidnapping, Sewuese (surname withheld) has told The Voice that she is left traumatised following her sordid experience in the hands of kidnnappers.
She said she was travelling to Yola with her mum when the incident occurred.
“They took us to the bush. We were with them till early hours of the next morning when they provided a phone for us to make some calls to family members. Luckily for me, I have most of my family contact off hand. I called my father and told him what happened. Then they collected the phone from me and asked him to pay Ten Million Naira (N10, 000,000).
“My father said he has never seen such an amount of money in his life; he only heard about it. That was how negotiations started,” she narrated.
Sentence offenders to death – says Lawyer
A prominent human right activist, Oscar Aorabee, Esq, has said death penalty should be the sentence for anyone convicted of kidnapping, or even aiding in the kidnap of any person.
Aorabee, a principal partner in the law firm of Elohim Chambers, stated in an interview that the anti-kidnapping law of Benue State, which was signed into law by the administration of Governor Samuel Ortom in 2017, provides for death penalty for offenders.
“The law was signed by the Governor of Benue State in May 2017 and provides for death penalty as a consequence upon conviction for kidnapping. That is, any offense relating to kidnapping carries a death penalty, whether you aid, assist or conspired with another person,” he stated.
Asked the position of the law as regards ransom payment, Aorabee said, “No, I don’t think it will be reasonable for the law to say anything about someone who pays ransom. When a person finds himself in a distress situation, his life is at stake, so what the law provides is that the person who collects ransom is guilty of the offense but not the payer.”
“It’s just like saying when someone comes to rob you and said, ‘your money or your life’ and you give your money. The law will not punish you for giving your money for your life. You have secured your life. So the law has not said anything specifically about somebody who pays a ransom but it’s a crime for somebody to demand a ransom and collect same.
“It’s also a crime to just kidnap somebody and take him or her hostage, whether you demand ransom or not, it is an offense punishable by death. It’s called a strict liability offense and is the only punishment once you kidnapped a person and you are convicted,” Aorabee stated.