Residents of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states who spoke to Punch, said though they made the bandits’ telephone numbers available to security agents, nothing was done to apprehend the suspects.
In Zamfara State, a kidnap victim, Mallam Yusha’u Jangeme told the publication that the Nigerian Communications Commission directive for all telecommunications firms to deactivate unregistered or partly registered SIMs, and linkage of SIMs with the NIN which the government said is aimed at ensuring that all subscribers are traceable for security reasons, is of no use.
Jangeme said security agents in his village did nothing to trace the telephone calls of the bandits who kidnapped him.
Recounting his ordeal, the Zamfara resident said he was kidnapped after he went to a forest to deliver N1.4m out of N3m kidnappers demanded for the seven people they kidnapped from his village. He disclosed that the bandits detained him, saying he must bring the remaining N1.6m.
“As soon as I got there, they received the money and refused to allow me to return home, saying that the remaining balance of N1.6m must be paid otherwise, they would not release me and the other seven people.
“The security agents posted to my village (Jangeme) knew what was happening, but they didn’t make any attempt to use the telephone number sent by the bandits who kidnapped us.”
Another victim, Alhaji Sani Gyare whose seven children were kidnapped some months ago, said;
“My seven children were kidnapped by bandits without resistance from the security agents who were alerted on what was happening in Kadauri village.
“When the bandits entered our village, we quickly informed the police but they didn’t report to the scene until after three hours when the bandits had left.”
Gyare told the publication that when the bandits called him and demanded N50m, he gave their phone number to the security agents, but nothing was done.
“The bandits called me and asked me to pay N50m so that they could release my children and I told them that I didn’t have such a huge amount.
“I gave their phone number to the police so that they could trace the abductors but unfortunately, nothing happened”.
Aminu Sarki, said to be a kidnap victim also recalled how he spent 23 days in bandits’ den. He disclosed that though he got no assistance from the security agents who were aware of his abduction, he was lucky to have escaped when the bandits were asleep.
“There was no any effort by the security agents to rescue me throughout the 23 days I stayed in bandits den.”
In Katsina State, a victim, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said when he was kidnapped, the bandits seized his younger brother’s phone.
According to him, it was the telephone they used in contacting his wife and negotiating a ransom of N7m. He said the police were informed, but they did nothing.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, a group in Southern Kaduna which has suffered incessant attacks by bandits also said the SIM registration spearheaded by the Federal Government had not assisted in curtailing insecurity in the country.
SOKAPU’ Spokesperson, Luka Binniyat stressed that with or without the SIM registration, insecurity is getting worse in the country.
“For all we know, the police usually contact members of the families of kidnap victims that are in touch with the criminals.
“The SIM registration does not seem to add any improvement to the security problem at all. As a matter of fact, it is getting worse.
“We not aware that security agencies have tracked and arrested the bandits.”
However security sources told the publication that porous borders in Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi and Kano states were responsible for the influx of foreign bandits and flow of firearms into the country.
The security sources who said some of these bandits are citizens of Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic, added that after engaging in mass abduction and collecting huge ransoms, they would cross back to their countries with their loot, only to return to Nigeria after some time to carry out more abductions.
A senior police officer involved in anti-kidnap operations said;
“The police have arrested so many in Kaduna but the bandits operating in the state are many. You know we don’t have borders. So the bandits come in to make money (ransom) and go back across the borders. They just go to their countries and come back.
“If you go to Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano, Katsina, we don’t have borders there. The borders are open and these people come in to abduct people and cross the borders with the money (ransom). The question is; what is the government doing to secure these open borders? Nothing, if you ask me.”
When asked why security operatives could not track bandits negotiating ransom payment on mobile phones, he blamed this on refusal of people to cooperate with law enforcement agencies.
According to him, Nigerians had lost confidence in the security agencies and no longer share tips or intelligence that could lead to the arrest of bandits and kidnappers.
“The members of the public have lost confidence in the security agencies. Family members of abducted persons don’t report to the police or liaise with security agencies. They simply negotiate with the kidnappers. They don’t pass information to the police.
“It is not as if the police are not working. The arrested kidnappers from Kaduna are more than 500. These are confirmed kidnappers who were apprehended while collecting ransoms. The problem is that the authorities have not been able to prosecute them and the public needs to know what is happening.
“People are no longer reporting abductions. They prefer to sell their property and give the money to the bandits because of fear that the bandits may kill their loved ones in captivity if they report to the security agencies.”
He also claimed that despite government regulation, unregistered SIMs were still available.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Gbenga Adebayo however denied the allegation saying all SIM cards of the members of the association were traceable.
Asked if some of the lines used by bandits were not registered, Adebayo said;
“There is no such thing. People saying such need to provide more information. There are no unregistered phone numbers working on any of our networks.
“All numbers are traceable. All numbers are identifiable. People bring this kind of information just to create confusion. So it is not possible.
“There are no unregistered SIM cards working on the national network and then it has now become a requirement for the operators to ensure that SIM cards are linked to NINs.”
Director, Public Affairs of Nigerian Communications Commission, Ikechukwu Adinde reportedly refused to comment on the matter when contacted, saying “I will not speak on that issue.”