By Ugbesghe Andre
The focus of this piece is the cancer called kidnapping, defined as forcefully abducting an individual and holding them hostage with the option of releasing them for an agreed ransom. “Option” has been added here in light of the dreadful trend of kidnappers killing their victims even after receiving the agreed ransoms for their release. Behold this uncommon variety of wickedness.
As the people grow accustomed to surrendering their freedoms for a price and sleeping with both eyes open, their pain is amplified not only in the rust gnawing away at their state’s tourism crown, but also in the avoidable economic losses. People can no longer rely on daylight to go about their respective businesses in safety because the horror of kidnapping is brazenly carried out in the full glare of the sun, for all to see.
The wave of kidnappings in the state most notably rises in stark contrast to the tourism development model inherited from the past administrations, with Cross River State being heretofore praised for its improvements in agriculture, urban development, investment drive and tourism. Yes, once upon a time, not too long ago, Calabar was hailed as the cleanest city in Nigeria. Cleaning up the streets will not suffice this time around, as the ongoing exodus of businesses, capital, industries and labor to neighboring states in the face of burgeoning crime will require a resolute plan of action to restore confidence in the state’s competence and clean its tarnished reputation.
Even the death penalty punishment for convicted kidnappers has done little to deter the criminals from plying their trade in the State, with a steady increase in the spate of abductions and killings set to overwhelm an inept and tactically inferior amalgam of security agencies in the State.
The ugly tentacles of this dreadful criminality are so pervasive that even the chief security officer of the State – the Governor himself – has not been spared. The agents of the underworld recently demanded a hefty N50 million for the release of Mr. Daniel Abang, an aide to the Governor. In the space of one week, Mr. Abang and at least five other law abiding individuals (including an official in the office of the Accountant-General) were forced to forfeit their right to free movement pending a substantial financial payment from their friends, families or loved ones.
The Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) has had to shut down its warehouse in Calabar and move its base of operations to Uyo in the face of a rapidly deteriorating security crisis. Nigerian Breweries (NB) and Coca-Cola also had to wind down business at their depots and opted to move elsewhere. A number of hotels and leisure spots have had to scale back their operations in the state while operating from elsewhere or shut down outright for safety reasons or risk debilitating losses due to punitive economic conditions. Traders and dealers in various goods and services have had to ask the government to guarantee their safety in the face of relentless aggravation from criminals and thugs. There is a racket perpetrated by criminals and crime stoppers and the people of Cross River state are none the wiser for this.
Three expatriates and two Nigerian contractors working for Lafarge Cement were abducted on their way to work at Mfamosing by hoodlums at Idumu bridge after their bus driver was shot.
Expressing dismay at the incessant kidnap and robbery attacks in the state, the president of the Igbo Community Calabar (ICC), Prof. Emeka Okwueze noted: “I do know that the state government has invested in security through the Homeland Security outfit and others. Maybe it is not enough so there is urgent need to beef it up considering the fact that the primary responsibility of every government is to protect lives and property.”
Another distraught businessman, Ifeanyi Uwakwe, a phone dealer said: “there are hardly any big mobile phone shops that have not been robbed in Calabar up to two times. At my shop at Mayne Avenue by Goldie I was robbed twice two weeks ago and phones and accessories worth millions of naira were carted away by hoodlums.”
If insecurity continues to hold sway in the state, the exodus will continue. It is urgent to recover and restore that sense of safety which prevailed before 2015. As elections approach, the electorate must ask if their lives have improved since 2015 and act accordingly.
The views expressed are the author’s.
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