Members of the Middle-Belt Youth Forum will on Wednesday (today) in Abuja protest the rising cases of kidnapping in the region and the insecurity that has ravaged parts of the country.
This is coming against the backdrop of the arrest of 10 suspected bandits by the military.
The President of the forum, Brent Kane, disclosed that the protesters would march peacefully to the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office to demand the declaration of the kidnappers and bandits as terrorists, and an end to the killings and abductions across the country.
The planned demonstration would take place as about 19 abductees taken away by bandits from the Sagwari Estate Layout in Dutsen-Alhaji area in the Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory last Thursday spent the seventh day in custody of their captors.
The kidnappers are demanding N700m ransom for nine of their victims.
The kidnappers had killed four of the hostages, including Nabeeha Al-Kadriyar, a 400-level student of Biological Science, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and 13-year-old Folashade Ariyo.
Nabeeha was abducted alongside six other siblings and as of Tuesday night, the remaining five sisters, including Najeebah, a 500-level Quantity Surveying student and Nadherah, a 300-level Zoology student, are still in captivity.
The siblings were kidnapped with their father, Alhaji Mansoor Al-Kadriyar, from their home at Zuma 1, on the outskirts of Bwari town in Abuja on January 11.
The captors had released Al-Kadriyar, asking him to pay N60m ransom for the release of his daughters.
They later raised the ransom to N100m which they insisted must be paid by Wednesday (today).
Also, Folashade Ariyo’s mother and three siblings are still in captivity.
The bandits reportedly killed their victims over an alleged delay in providing the ransom.
The incident provoked nationwide anger on Monday and foreboding over the fate of the remaining captives.
However, in a memo shared with PUNCH Metro on Tuesday, Kane said the spate of killings and kidnappings in the North-Central region had left families and individuals in despair.
According to him, the kidnappers and bandits operated like terrorists and should therefore be treated as such.
He said, “The primary objective of this peace walk, organised by Africa’s Morning Centre for Public Policy and Good Governance and the Middle Belt Youth Forum, is to compel the Federal Government through the Attorney-General of the Federation to invoke sections 3, 48, and 49 of Nigeria’s Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act of 2022, to declare these wanton killings and destruction an act of terrorism.
“The groups that are kidnapping citizens, wiping out communities, razing down homesteads, farmlands and taking over communities, while indigenous landowners languish in IDPs camps have profited immensely from the subterfuge and presenting themselves as amorphous.
‘’But a careful study of the manner of their attacks will leave no one in doubt that they operate an effective command and control structure and that their activities are in clear breach of Nigeria’s anti-terrorism laws.”
Also speaking, the Executive Director of Africa’s Morning Centre, Chima Christian, noted that the group would partner with the youth forum to demand an end to the killings and kidnapping in the middle belt region, stressing that the Federal Government had remained unconcerned about the plight of the masses.
“The killings are unnecessary and they show that the government has been recalcitrant to the plight of the people. It is high time these kidnappers were addressed by their name which is terrorists. The constitution is clear about it that anybody involved in the act of kidnapping is a terrorist.
“We will be taking the protest to the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office to make our position known and we will not relent in demanding an end to this menace,” Christian said.
Abductee reportedly killed
In another development, a hotel barman taken away by gunmen at the Sagwari Estate Layout has been reported killed by his abductors.
The deceased, whose name could not be immediately confirmed, was abducted alongside a receptionist at the Jutis Hillside Hotel by the gunmen in military uniform.
Our correspondent, who visited the hotel on Tuesday, was informed that the barman was killed alongside Folashade and Nabeeha.
A source said, “Alongside the 13-year-old girl, three people were killed. One was the 13-year-old girl; our neighbour also, and the niece that was staying with them that they picked, they killed her, and then the barman.
“They were murdered last week Thursday, but we didn’t know. I had to call the father of the 13-year-old girl on Sunday morning when I learnt he had gone to pick up his daughter’s corpse.
“So, I asked him if he saw anybody like our barman, and he said yes, that we should go and check. So, with the security man and the barman’s younger brother who was here, and a neighbour also, they found out that he was the one who was killed and then they deposited his body there.
‘’So, we have been in contact with the family, and the younger brother was here yesterday (Monday) to discuss with my boss, and they came to an agreement that they will take his corpse to Benue tomorrow (today).”
She further narrated that the kidnappers had reached out to the family on Sunday to demand N30m for the receptionist, issuing a deadline of Wednesday.
Though the source did not disclose how much the hotel and the receptionist’s family had been able to raise, it was learnt that the kidnappers have been in contact with her elder brother who had been warned to either raise the ransom or come for the victim’s corpse.
“So, the day before yesterday (Sunday), we got a call from them concerning the receptionist, that we should bring N30m before Wednesday which is tomorrow (today). They said if we do not bring the N30m, they will be forced to call us to come and pick up the corpse.
“We are still hoping that we will be able to gather the money, but as it is now, we are only hoping on God that they would reduce the ransom.’’
The hotel worker clarified that the kidnappers had initially demanded N100m per person but later reduced it to N30m, noting however that they were insisting on N100mn for the Ariyos.
To secure the estate, officers of the police force, the Department of State Security and vigilantes have been deployed in the area.
The FCT Public Relations Officer, Josephine Adeh, could not be reached for comment on the ongoing operations to track down the bandits. She did not respond to calls and a message that was sent to her phone.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters has said no fewer than 10 suspected bandits have been arrested in operations conducted in the FCT, hinting that the military had stepped up its operations.
The Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba, told The PUNCH that the military would locate the terrorists and destroy them wherever they were hiding
He said, “Our operations are hinged on going after the terrorists wherever they may be hiding and destroying them. It is only by destroying them that we can prevent them from carrying out terror on citizens thereby creating a safer environment for everybody.
“The military as I speak is out there carrying out operations against the terrorists. Operations are ongoing putting them on their heels. This is what is ongoing concerning the recent occurrences in the FCT.
‘’As of last Thursday, 10 suspected bandits were arrested but between then and now a lot of arrests might have been made. “
Buba said troops were currently combing the bushes to flush out the terrorists perpetrating evil in the FCT.
He added, “The recent occurrences have made us step up our operations and we are out there searching for wherever they may be hiding to flush them out. We are not resting on our oars; our troops are out there day and night, and we are very serious about this. Nobody wants such to happen in its nation’s capital neither do we. We are out there.”
Tinubu convenes meeting
To address the security challenges, President Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday, held an emergency meeting with the service chiefs and other heads of security agencies to discuss the security situation in the country.
Tinubu gave the men a marching order to address the security crisis.
But speaking at another forum, the President said his administration would know no respite until it eliminates what he called “agents of darkness” fueling insecurity nationwide.
“We will not rest, I promise you until every agent of darkness is completely eliminated,” Tinubu vowed at the official launch of two books titled, ‘Working with Buhari’ and ‘Muhammadu Buhari: The Nigerian Legacy (2015-2023)’ at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.