For some time now, kidnappers have been terrorising the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. This affront on the nation’s capital tells a lot about the security situation in Nigeria generally. Members of the syndicate involved in this crime are having a good time because government has not given them enough fight. And until that is done, we may not know the extent to which this will go.

Their exploits so far are scary. Early January 2024, some daredevil kidnappers invaded Abuja and kidnapped six sisters and their father from their home. They later released the father, Alhaji Monsoor Al-Kadriyah, and asked him to go and raise a ransom of N60 million for the release of the girls before January 12. When the man delayed in getting the ransom, they killed one of his daughters, Nabeeha, who was a 400-level student of Biological Science at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. They later dumped her body along Abuja–Kaduna Road. It was not until very recently that the remaining girls were released by their abductors.

Another tragic incident also happened in January. Folashade, the 13-year-old daughter of an Abuja-based lawyer, Oladosu Ariyo, was abducted and later killed. Like Nabeeha’s father, Mr. Ariyo could not raise N60 million the kidnappers instructed him to raise after kidnapping his wife and four children from their house in Abuja. They dumped her body along the Abuja–Kaduna Road, leaving the family traumatised.

Abuja used to be seen as the safest city in the country. Today, the situation is different. In July 2022, some terrorists invaded the Kuje Prison in Abuja and released hundreds of inmates, including Boko Haram suspects. There have been pockets of other kidnap or terrorist incidents that call to question the security situation in the country’s capital city. Statistics indicate that about 40 cases of kidnapping involving 236 victims occurred in Abuja between January 2021 and June 2023. Many other cases were unreported.

The Minister of the FCT, Mr. Nyesom Wike, attributed the rise in kidnappings and banditry in Abuja to inadequate equipment to track criminals at some border communities of the FCT and operational vehicles. The reason for this negligence is not certain.

Of course, if Abuja is under threat, what happens in other parts of the country is unimaginable. Four of the eight National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members kidnapped in Zamfara on their way to Sokoto from Akwa Ibom State in August 2023 are still in captivity. Only four of them have been rescued. The corps members were travelling for their national orientation programme in Sokoto.

One great motivating factor for kidnapping is ransom payment, which has made the crime a lucrative business. Once the family of a kidnap victim pays huge ransom, it encourages the terrorists to do more.

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The problem has brought bad image to the country. In the past three months or so, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada have issued travel alerts, warning their citizens against travelling to some parts of Nigeria.

Besides, investors are scared. A number of companies have relocated from Nigeria. Some embassies are said to be thinking of relocating from Abuja. This is a big challenge to the country.

It appears the federal government has taken its eyes off the ball. Even in the worst scenario of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, we didn’t see this level of insecurity.

Tackling the security challenge goes beyond mere rhetoric. Whatever it will take to subdue these undesirable elements should be done. We advise the government to put its eyes on the ground. Things have gone really bad. Even the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, also talked about this spate of insecurity in his recent meeting with President Bola Tinubu. The President should show more concern towards the plight of Nigerians. He should reduce his travels and focus more on tackling the security challenges the country is facing.   

This is a wake-up call to action. Mopping up illegal arms and ammunition will go a long way in curbing kidnap incidents. Security agencies should beef up their intelligence network and also endeavour to collaborate in sharing intelligence.

We also need to deploy technology in tackling insecurity. Security agencies should go for more kinetic measures this time. Wike assured recently that the security problem would soon be a thing of the past as the President has approved the procurement of digital tracking tools and operational vehicles for the FCT. He also promised a joint task force with full command and control structure which would be well equipped to respond to security emergencies. This is gladdening and should be pursued to the logical conclusion. No effort should be spared to rout kidnappers not just from the FCT, but also across the country.