Sept 6, 2015 – Picture: Vanguard Journalist Donu Kogbara Kidnapped In Port Harcourt Still Not Released
The kidnapping of veteran columnist, Ms. Donu Kogbara, of the Vanguard newspapers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, last week, has once again brought into bold relief the danger that kidnapping poses to Nigerians. Kogbara, a journalist and businesswoman who shuttles between Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has been writing a weekly column for Vanguard for over 20 years. She was abducted from her house by six gunmen.
We strongly condemn the dastardly kidnapping of this notable media professional and call for her immediate release. Her shameful abduction is symptomatic of the degeneration of moral values in the country, and we charge the nation’s security agencies, especially the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police, to rise up to the challenge of rescuing her from captivity.
Her kidnap is, indeed, only one of the many instances of kidnapping of people in the country, but it is one abduction too many. This unending orgy of abductions is a big shame to Nigeria.
Appeals have come from all over the world for Kogbara’s release. The Committee To Protect Journalists has called on Nigerian authorities to do their utmost to find her, establish a motive for her abduction and prosecute her kidnappers. The governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, urged her abductors to return her in good health, while the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Chris Ezike, said the police are working on some theories and following the situation closely. The Police Command has also called for information that could lead to her release. We enjoin the police to take this case and all instances of abductions in the country seriously. They should swing into action and explore all clues that could lead to her rescue. Donu Kogbara and all other abducted persons should be rescued, speedily.
The genesis of kidnapping as a significant crime in Nigeria can be traced to 2006 in the Niger Delta. But, it has since then assumed a life of its own and is increasing in leaps and bounds.
In 2011, the number of recorded kidnapping cases in the country was put at about 500. It went down slightly in 2012 to 475 but it is now very high in some parts of the country. Published incidents are only the tip of the iceberg as many families prefer not to involve the police in their efforts to secure the release of kidnapped family members.
Many factors are responsible for kidnapping cases in the country. They include the craze for illicit wealth, our culture of non-interrogation of the sources of wealth of our citizens, and our obscene adulation of the rich. These factors, and the failure to apprehend and make a good example of kidnappers in many parts of the country to deter other persons from the crime, have turned the criminal activity into an easy business in which millions of naira can be made overnight.
Kogbara’s abduction has forcefully brought home the insecurity that is stalking the country. Security, it must be stated, is a collective responsibility, and all Nigerians must strive to be their brothers’ keeper on matters like this. This kidnapping has also highlighted the need for greater vigilance. It is important for Nigerians to be alert at all times to be able to sight developments that could impair the security of their communities, or indicate that kidnappers are holding innocent persons hostage within their vicinities. Our communities should also have ways of checking the propensity for get-rich-quick schemes, and ensuring that those whose sources of wealth are questionable are investigated and brought to justice if they are found to be involved in any criminal activities.
Adequate patrols by the security agencies will also go a long way in checking abductions. Kidnappers, ordinarily, should not be so free to kidnap people at will and carry them over long distances if security patrols on our highways are effective. It is necessary to overhaul the nation’s security architecture. We should also consider the introduction of community policing that has proven effective in checking this type of criminality in other countries.
In the present case of Kogbara’s abduction, we join our voice to the appeal of the Rivers State Police Command for information that could lead to her release or rescue. The bid to rescue the writer and all other kidnapped persons is a responsibility that all Nigerians should share with the security agencies. This is because no single agency can really provide personal security for the nation’s 170 million people if we do not play our individual roles in the effort to secure our communities. The security agencies will be able to serve us better if all citizens are ready to divulge information that can help them in their crime-fighting activities. But then, the agencies will have to treat such information with utmost confidentiality.
To rescue kidnapped persons in the country, the police and DSS must make good use of intelligence. It may also be necessary to offer rewards for information that could lead to the rescue of abducted persons.
The time has come for the Federal Government to push the suppression of kidnapping to the top of its efforts to provide security for Nigerians. The police need help in this regard. They need tracking gadgets, better mobility, good leadership and incentives. Kidnapping requires a national discussion to get everyone involved in efforts to stem the menace.
The Federal Government should send a bill to the National Assembly to counter this menace. Various states of the Federation have devised their own strategies but we need a national effort that would involve all states and every arm of Nigerian security and law enforcement. The Anambra solution is to demolish every landed property that is a fruit of kidnapping. There is a proposal in Ekiti State for convicted kidnappers to spend the rest of their lives in jail. There are many other ideas from all over the country on what to do. But, we need a huge federal effort to co-ordinate these ideas. There is no doubt that a concerted effort has not been made against organised crime such as kidnapping in Nigeria.
Victims of kidnapping in Nigeria have ranged from foreign oil workers to Lebanese construction workers, bishops, all cadres of local and foreign businessmen and women. Elder statesmen, soldiers, lawyers and children have been kidnapped.
With Donu Kogbara as the latest victim, Nigeria should now draw a line in the sand and bring an end to this menace.