Over 1,000 suspects were arrested over the last one year, in the Nigeria Police’s anti-kidnapping war, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.
For this reason, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said that it is time to review the template for routing out kidnappers in the country along with other criminal elements.
Suspects have been arrested in various states of the country especially, hotspots of kidnapping like the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, Rivers, Lagos, Ogun, Edo, Anambra and Kogi states.
It would be recalled that in the past one year, the police have focused on Minna and Bida areas of Niger State, cracking down on kidnappers operating there.
The police said for a long time, kidnappers in these locations made mockery of security agencies.
When the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, took office in June 2016, he kickstarted the anti-kidnapping war by constituting the Intelligence Response Team.
In February, two German archaeologists, Professor Peter Breunig and Mr. Johannes Behringer, were abducted in Kadarko Local Government Area of Kaduna State.
They were later rescued in Jenjela Village area of Southern Kaduna.
When the Deputy High Commissioner of Sierra Leone to Nigeria, Major General Alfred Nelson was kidnapped by criminals operating along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, a coordinated operation with intelligence and technical support from the IRT rescued the victim and arrested 11 members of a kidnap gang, who operated in military uniforms.
Arrested in the operation were Alhaji Rabiu Yusuf (the gang leader), Yusuf Adamu, Hussaini Musa, Shuaibu Idris, Usman Bello, Musa Ali, Muhammadu Abubakar, Suleiman Abubakar, Gambo Ibrahim and Balarabe Mohammadu.
The police also recovered three AK 47 rifles, three AK47 rifle magazines loaded with 90 rounds of ammunition and two sets of military camouflage from the suspects.
Shortly after, on July 31, the police again launched an operation to clean up the expressway, apprehending 72 suspects in the forests along the road in the process.
Three kidnap victims were also rescued unhurt from the gang.
The same week, the police also apprehended five suspects said to have kidnapped the Kogi State Governor’s mother, Mrs. Hawawu Bello, in 2014. At the time of the kidnap, Yahaya Bello was the Managing Director, Fair Plus Transport Services.
Two AK47 rifles, 20 live cartridges, army uniforms, Beretta, pistol, plastic guns, three sharp knives and an axe were recovered from the suspects at the time.
On March 2, 2017, one of Eastern Nigeria’s most notorious kidnappers and armed robbers Henry Chibueze (AKA Vampire), was gunned down in Omu Awa Forest, Rivers State, a development that led to celebration in the state.
It would be recalled that before his death, Vampire had been brought before an Owerri High Court on January 27. His gang members stormed the court premises and escaped with him.
When he met his death two months later, five other members of his gang were arrested along with a witch doctor who allegedly prepared charms for him. Also recovered from them were various arms and ammunition.
One of the most recent successes of the anti-kidnapping war was the June 10 arrest of kingpin, Chukwudumeje Onwuamadike (AKA Evans), who allegedly collected as much as $1m from individual kidnap victims. He has since been charged to court and is facing 52 charges in different court cases in Lagos and Edo states.
In what was termed Operation Maximum Safety, the IGP also launched a team tasked with routing out a group of criminals operating at Gawu Babangida Village in Niger State.
According to reports, they kidnapped, raided and robbed motorists along the Suleja-Lambata, Bida and Minna roads with impunity.
The police say the members of the gang who had escaped arrest on the Abuja-Kaduna Highway and relocated to some major roadswithin Niger State to continue to terrorise residents and motorists.
But on August 22, 2017, operatives of the Operation Maximum Safety conducted a raid on the bandits’ base and arrested 26 of the gang members.
The operatives also recovered three AK47 rifles, four single-barrelled guns, two cut-to-size guns, a locally made revolver, locally made pistol and one set of military camouflage uniform.
Also recovered were 69 rounds of 7.62X39mm live ammunition, 28 live and two expended cartridges, one set of military rain coat, two sets of military shoes, one jack knife and charms.
The police later learnt that suspects compartmentalised their operation by working in five gangs.
The IGP has said all kidnap suspects in police custody would be prosecuted as soon as investigation in each of the cases was concluded.
During an interview with journalists in Lagos, he called for the collaboration of Nigerians to weed out kidnappers in the country.
He said, “We would regularly review the template for providing security from time to time, we will smoke out the criminals.
“We are not going to spare or think twice about anyone who raises his gun to fire at innocent citizens. I say this with all sense of purpose. But we cannot achieve this without the support of the community leaders, the people and the youth.”
He said his decision to reward and enhance the welfare packages of policemen was to boost their moral in the war against criminals, especially kidnappers.
According to him, he has so far kept this pledge by promoting officers and men who participated in bursting high profile kidnap cases.