Save Birnin Gwari from kidnappers

As I write this, there are innocent people in the hands of kidnappers. In a span of about 2 weeks almost a dozen of people have been kidnapped along Birnin Gwari – Kaduna and Funtua highways. One pathetic case is that of a couple that in captivity ever since. The kidnappers are demanding for an outrageous of money as ransom. I think government at all levels needs to find a lasting solution to this menace. It doesn’t require rocket science to track and capture these criminal elements. We live in the 21st century for God sake.

We are now approaching 2019 and political gladiators are servicing their political and propaganda machinery trying to convince the masses that they deserve to be elected. In the midst of all the political calculations, campaigning and scheming, it wouldn’t be out of place to draw the attention of well-meaning Nigerians to our current situation in Birnin Gwari in order to hold our leaders accountable for their stewardship.

Birnin Gwari has been in the news for the wrong reasons for quite some time now. From armed banditry, cattle rustling, attack on defenseless villagers, attack on security personnel to kidnapping on its highways of recent. It is important for the reader to know that the location of Birnin Gwari is strategic. It shares a boundary with 3 states namely: Zamfara, Katsina and Niger states. The major highway linking North West and North West known as Lagos – Kaduna road runs through the township. This makes this road important to the economy of the two zones considering that heavy duty trucks find it convenient to ply this route in moving goods and services between the two zones. Not until recently when the volume of traffic has drastically reduced.

The consequences of this is that the traffic of heavy duty and articulated have been diverted to roads in Niger state and the Abuja – Kaduna – Kano express road and it is causing destruction of the road infrastructures in these places. The closeness of Birnin Gwari to some trouble communities in Zamfara state is a factor in this current problem because armed gangs and bandits readily flee way from security agents when they are under pressure to Birnin Gwari. While in Birnin Gwari, they continue to perpetrate their heinous acts.

From 2015 to date, prominent political figures have visited the local government area amidst the heavy presence of security personnel with promises of finding lasting solution to the criminality that has persisted. Even though government has intervened on several occasions through security agencies with short time success, the problem has still refuse to die down.

Dozens of commuters have been robbed, maimed, killed or kidnapped along Birnin gwari highways despite the fact that there is a presence of security personnel on the highways. This has had a negative effect on the economic activity of the people because of the fear of falling prey to the men of the underworld. There are reported cases of travelers been dispossessed of their valuables, women been raped and in extreme cases killed. Of recent, armed gangs have resorted to kidnapping. There were moments when the level of criminality subsided owing to the efforts of government through its security personnel. However, it appears that all the previous intervention are quick fixes because as soon as the efforts of security agents is relaxed, there is a relapse of criminality.

The shocking thing about the spate of kidnapping in Birnin Gwari is that you don’t have to go very far to come in contact with a kidnap victim or somebody who is kindred of a victim or a friend. This is alarming. Added to that is demand for heavy ransom depending on the perceived status of the victims which their relatives have no choice but to pay. Apart from that, victims are subjected to horrible conditions in dense forest or bush. To pay up the ransom, families of victims have to resort selling the properties of the victims and contributing large sums of money to save the life of the victim. If they fail to get their demands, the victims are mercilessly tormented and in extreme cases killed.

Kidnap victims are subjected horrendous treatment by their captors. A victim may spend a few days up to months in captivity depending on when the ransom is paid. They are herded up in different camps and left to sleep in the open like herds of cattle come rain, come sunshine with no access to medical care and good nutrition. There have been reported cases of the kidnap of nursing mothers, pregnant women and young girls not to talk of dozens of men that have falling victim. The kidnappers demand for ransom using the mobile phones of their victims by calling on any of the relatives of the victim. One of the unfortunate things about this is that unsuspecting commuters from other parts of the country have fallen victims too.

As it is now, the people are left to self-help because the presence of security personnel is not enough and the tactics employed in tackling this menace is not yielding the desired result. Setting up of check points at different intervals along the highway won’t solve the problems. A full scale and sustained offensive involving the all relevant security agencies is the key to finding a lasting solution. Technology can be used to track the camps of the criminals through their mobile phones when they demand for ransom.

This situation ought not to continue because the enormous economic potentials present in Birnin Gwari in terms of human resources, mineral resources, arable land and its strategic location. The people are predominantly farmers and there is high level of agricultural activities going on. Agriculture has the potential to lift a large number of people out of poverty and Birnin Gwari local government has the potential to contribute immensely to the county’s Gross Domestic Product in the area of agriculture and agro-allied industries.

In the words of an American vice president, Hubert Humphrey (1965 – 1969), “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped”. Thus government needs to step up its effort and strategies in coming up with a formidable solution to problem of the people of Birnin Gwari. The least government can do is to guarantee security of lives and properties.

Gimba writes this piece from Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State

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