Indescribable crimes, jail breaks and a failed state

BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO

So we march on, following our leaders, toward an “Armageddon” of our own making.

Noam Chomsky.

“A bad government cannot only be called as a ‘bad’ government; the real adjective should be this: Enemy! Yes, bad government is a real enemy for the country it governs, an enemy within!”

Mehmet Murat ildan.

In the last 7 years, Nigeria as a Country has miserably embarked on a journey to the dreaded abode of a Banana Republic which was aptly captured by Thomas Hobbes in the seventeen century whereby he propounded what he called “natural law for a lawless people”.

A contemporary writer Adam J. Macleod who reviewed some of these thoughts of Thomas Hobbes stated that by “natural” Thomas Hobbes means “the infantile, in which the activity of right reason must be lacking.”

These people Hobbes said are everywhere, and it is not easy to detect them. So, in the state of nature, we all should be afraid of everyone else.

Thomas Hobbes defined life in the state of nature to be “solitary, poor nasty, brutish and short”.

Just as the aforementioned reviewer emphasized, I repeat by saying that in Nigeria of today, we see evidence of lawlessness all around us and life for millions of Nigerians is brutish, short, solitary and miserably doomed.

Just like the Hobbessian State of nature, in Nigeria of today there are looters embedded in government and rioters and so many cases of jail breaks whereby convicted terrorists, murderers, kidnappers, assassin and petty crooks in their thousands are still on the run even as we have seen these jail breaks about fifteen times since July 2022.

In the year 2021 December 1st a respected online publication gave verifiable data that about 5,000 inmates escaped from Nigerian prisons in one year. These jailbreaks tell you only but one thing – Nigeria has rapidly become a lawless place and has attained the same status just as Thomas Hobbes the English philosopher philosophized just as he was born on April5th 1588 in Malinesbuty, United Kingdom and he died on December 4th 1679 in National Trust-Hardwick in the United Kingdom. After five whole centuries, those at the helms of political affairs in Nigeria have used incompetence to railroad Nigeria into a state of nature in 2022. Nigeria is now a centre of indescribable crimes and those who managed to be caught and jailed usually break open these gates of prisons and disappear into thin air and mingle back into the larger society thereby hastening the decline of Nigeria and its rapid advance towards the state of nature as encapsulated in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes on Natural laws and a State of Nature.

Once this year, Nigerians woke up to behold a video of Kaduna terrorists flogging the daylight out of the over 100 kidnapped train passengers that they have kept for over 5 months without President Muhammadu Buhari’s government succeeding in rescuing them.

Last year in Kebbi State in the North west, students of a public secondary school kidnapped and taken into the forest spent 6 months before being released after heavy ransom was paid.

Trust TV and British Broadcasting Corporation also showed where terror kingpin of Zamfara Fulani origin was turbaned a traditional title holder, yet we claim to have a government. The same government that tolerated the expansion of terrorists and their activities in the North West, then imposed sanctions on the media houses that aired the interviews the untouchable northern terror kingpins of Zamfara freely gave without fear of ever being caught. And true to his posturing, Zamfara state’s government ruled out any possibility of arresting and prosecution of this terrorist with blood of hundreds of people of mainly Hausa people in his hands just because he is Fulani.

Apart from the several minutes of continuous shooting by suspected assassins on the convoy of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah in Anambra State twenty four hours ago, there is a report that a pregnant house wife who was kidnapped in Kaduna State, gave birth to a baby in captivity and her kidnappers in Kaduna, North West of Nigeria in the year 2022 were consistently horse whipping the woman who had only just delivered a baby in captivity. What is her crime? That her people have yet to raise Fifty million Naira ransom to facilitate her freedom.

In Imo River Bridge near Umuna-Okigwe in Imo State, passengers were kidnapped in June and one of them who survived to tell the sorbid tale, stated that he was shot at not ones  but seventeen times.

It was reported that on June 29, 2022, will forever remain indelible in the memory of 56- year- old  Kenneth Odoemena , a business man in Imo State , following his near death experience in the hands of  kidnappers.

That fateful Wednesday, he left mechanic village in Okikwe, where he had taken his car for repairs, heading back to his home town in  Umuna. Time.was 5.30pm.

He   drove  on the Okigwe-Owerri road  in the company of a relative he met at the mechanic workshop. On approaching  Amuro town,  close to the Imo River bridge, a strange sound that signaled danger ahead was heard. But they ignored  it and kept  driving on the rough terrain .

Then, all of a sudden, they ran into some armed men operating on the road. By the time it dawned on them that they were not just robbers but kidnappers, it was too late for Odoemena to make a U-turn.

Though he put up some bravery by attempting to escape, that attempt was greeted by volleys of bullets from the armed kidnappers which riddled his vehicle..

Explaining how he found himself in the kidnappers den to a newspaper Odoemena said, ” a  Catholic priest narrowly escaped the kidnappers before our arrival. We met a commercial bus which they demobilized and used to   block  the road . Someone was killed in that Toyota Hiace bus.

“My attempt to maneuver through a tight space attracted  some gunshots .

They were  five, all dressed in black trousers, black T-shirts , black jackets and black caps.. All of them were shooting. Bullets ripped through my car into the seats. Fortunately, not one of them  touched both of us. We were forced to stop the car and they dragged us out .

“Just then, another commercial bus belonging to Peace Mass Transit drove into the operation.  The  criminals shattered its glasses with their gun butts and machetes. It was a fully loaded bus but they picked only   three passengers from it:  two men and one lady and  ordered the driver  to leave with the bus immediately. Thereafter,  the three passengers ,  my relative  and I were  marched  into the thick forest beside the Imo River”.

Coincidentally,  a contingent   of soldiers heading towards  Owerri for the Army Day celebration swooped on the operation,  as the  victims were being led into the bush.

The soldiers were said to have opened fire in the direction they went , in a bid to  rescue the victims. The shooting according to him , lasted close to 30 minutes but the kidnappers did not yield.

Rather, he said, “ the soldiers stopped shooting   apparently because of the vulnerability of the  hostages. The soldiers  took my vehicle to Owerri.

“ While in the bush,  the kidnappers ordered us  to lie down amidst the heavy rain. Their commander came to  where we were with two rifles in his hand and boasted  that  he had killed one  of the soldiers. He also warned  that if anyone attempted to rescue us,  they would shoot all of us  and  escape.

“We remained in that position until 1am. They marched us back to the road where we were kidnapped, we trekked backwards towards Okigwe. In  their attempt not to take us through  Amuro town, we  veered  into a very deep swamp . On reaching a spot, we noticed flashes of torch light from  the top of some palm  trees .  Those light flashes were obviously from private  security men. We had to return back to the road the way we entered the swamp and proceeded   towards Amuro.

“Their commander continued to warn that anyone who attempted to escape would be shot. Once in a while, when they sighted a vehicle approaching,  they would force us to take cover  .

“When we got to  Amuro,  we saw a pickup van with its lights off. The kidnappers were so afraid that they  opened fire on it.

“About a kilometer after Amuro, we diverted right, into a road leading to  Arondizuogu. We passed through people’s compounds  but none questioned who we were.

“We trekked for about 20 kilometers. At a certain place we saw some members of a vigilante group  In front of a building that looked like a mini factory. We had to pass behind an uncompleted storey building to avoid being noticed by them

 ”We trekked for  several hours until we got to the middle of nowhere, deep into the jungle. Everyone, including the kidnappers   was exhausted by then.  Their leader ordered that we rested a little. There was a tree beside where we stopped.  One of them went behind the tree to bring out a bunch of firewood , an indication that they used that route regularly.

 “ We got up, moved about two  hours and arrived  at  the center of a very dense rain forest, where they started interogating us.

  We were subjected to both physical and psychological torture. They beat us with large clubs, gun butts,  machetes.

“ When it got to my turn to be interrogated , they said I was  a member of the Eastern Security Network(ESN) because of an identity card of the Police Community Relations Committee they found on me. They said ECN members killed their cows and their people. They told me that if they released others, they  would surely kill me. I was the most tortured.

They said the ransom for my release was N50 million , that anything less would lead to my death. They used my phone to contact   my younger sister in Abuja for the ransom but she said she only had one million, fifty thousand naira in her account and they told her to use it to prepare for my burial . One of them said ‘God punish you and your family with that one million and fifty thousand. You know, say elections don reach. Only your brother blocos ( private part)go fetch us five million. Don’t call this number again”.

“When they called the relative of the only lady among us, the relative said  ‘which king of stupid hungry kidnappers are they?’, unaware that the phone was on speaker. They cut  the call and descended on the innocent girl. They beat her so much that I had to beg them to stop   because she is the same age with my daughter. In anger, they left her and descended on me for interfering.

“At one point, their leader threathened to  kill one  of us,  to show how serious they were with the ransom, as they accused our relatives of being unserious.  They dragged one of us towards a fallen tree where two decomposed bodies were  covered with some  sand and leaves

 The leader ordered that the man dragged there should be killed with a dagger so as not to waste their bullet. In fear, the victim  put a call to his relative. Begging in tears , he said “uncle, they are about to kill me o! Na die I dey sooo!!!”  His uncle begged the kidnappers to exercise patience that he was still sourcing funds”.

When Odoemena had the opportunity to interact with leader of the gang, he said he asked him who killed the  men they saw earlier . The leader told him the bodies were victims who   died out of  fear and heart failure.

He said, “ I also asked him if they would like the Federal Government to grant them amnesty. He told me he was not a Niger Delta militant and that  he was not a Nigerian. He said all he needed was  money.

“ We were fed with cassava flour  and bitter leaf. We drank muddy water .

The second night ,  their leader said he would not allow me to go further with  them . He said he would waste me , that I posed a threat  to them. He said I looked like someone who has had military training . This was because of the PCRC identity card. But my relation knelt down and pleaded with him to spare my life”.

He said they kept moving further into the Forrest until they got to the Enugu -Porthercort expressway, where they ran into some youths who were  vandalizing electrical installations.  The vandals, according to him,  scampered into the bush in fear as the kidnappers attempted to fire some shots.

They proceeded from there to where Odoemena recognised as  Abia State University in  Ope Okigwe.

Leader of the gang was said to have directed relatives of the captives to take  their ransom to Odoemana relative’s place in Okigwe , from where  they would put them all in a bag that would be taken  to designated point on Okigwe expressway.

The leader also directed that the ransom must be accompanied with packets of cigarettes, some bitters and a pack of water, with a stern warning that they must not use cash out of the ransom to purchase the items..

The victims were eventually released after spending  three days in the den.

The kidnappers, according to Odoemena, “ escorted us through some cow rearing routes to a road that led directly into Ope Okigwe , from where we trekked into town. We were like pigs and some inhabitants thought we were Nollywood actors , until one of us  who was limping  , as a result of the injury he sustained said we had just been released by our abductors .“The people there brought water for us to drink, while   women roasting corn offered us some to eat . Some  commercial motorcyclists also  offered to take us  free , to  Okigwe Catholic cathedral and Okigwe police station, from where our relatives came to pick them”.

Odoemena was taken to the hospital for treatment from where he addressed a security summit organized by the traditional ruler of his community and other security stakeholders.

He said, “ I was personally invited to address the house and I  told  them what to do to forestall more kidnaps around us. I lamented that strangers should not be allowed to come into the geographical entity we call ancestral homes to  kidnap us. I suggested  that all thick forests around us must be brought down because the kidnappers told  me that forests are a viable tool for their nefarious activities. I also made it clear that our local vigilantes can not face kidnappers who have brand new AK 47 rifles with Dane guns”.

Only yesterday, about 10 persons were said to have died in the convoy of the senator representing Anambra South, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah on Sunday evening attack.

Some of the deceased persons have been identified.

Though Anambra State Police command had in a phone call with its spokesperson, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga denied knowledge of the exact number of persons killed, sources said about 10 persons died in the attack, which was suspected to be an assassination attempt.

A source said: “Senator Ifeanyi Ubah lost his personal treasurer, Mr Ikechukwu Odum who is his most trusted aide. He also lost his personal assistant, Mr Goodness Mathias.

“Another man killed, who was not in the convoy of the Senator was identified as Onowu Agu-Ukwu Nri. He is said to be a titled chief in neighbouring Nri community, and had just driven to Enugwu-Ukwu to drop someone who visited him, who would be traveling to Lagos this morning, and he was unlucky to be at that point at the time when Senator Ubah was going to be attacked.

“He was driving a big jeep, so the assassins may have thought he was in the same convoy with the senator, and he was gunned down.”

Other people identified to have been killed were six Mobile policemen who were riding in the convoy of the Senator, and a driver, who was said to be driving one of Ubah’s cars.

The attack has been described as an assassination attempt on the senator, as eyewitnesses said the gunmen targeted every car in his convoy, especially his security men, and riddled them with bullets.

“In the confusion yesterday, all the cars were just jamming each other. Since the vehicle the senator was driving in was a bullet proof car, his driver managed to manoeuver out of the damaged cars and drove away, even as it was being shot,” the source narrated. We will return to conclude this reflection about this attack on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. But here is another account of one of the dozens of indescribable and unimaginable crimes that surely depict Nigeria as a failed state.

It is a story told that a heavily pregnant woman who was abducted from Mando in Kaduna in July has been delivered of a child in captivity.

The victim, who went to visit her sick mother on the day bandits attacked, was abducted alongside two of her sisters.

While commenting on the situation, the victim’s husband, Mohammed Alabi, said, “My wife gave birth at the kidnappers’ camp on 2nd August, 2022 and since then, both mother and child have not received any medical care and to make matter worse, we learnt they were being maltreated and flogged. We are all dying emotionally and physically, that is why we are appealing to whoever God will use to secure their release to please help us free them.”

Recounting the family’s ordeal, father of the victims, Malam AbdulWahab Yusuf, said the bandits broke into their Mando home around 1:05am the day of the attack.

“My two daughters used to take care of their mother who is sick, but unfortunately, that day their elder sister, who is pregnant came from her husband’s house to look after her mother when the bandits broke into the house and kidnapped my three daughters.”

“They asked initially asked for N140 million, but now they have reduced the ransom to N50 million. The family has been adversely affected by the trauma. My wife, who was able to walk unaided before the incident, now uses wheelchair. We just carried out a surgery on her. I have not been myself, I cannot sleep, once it is night I don’t know how my body feels.”

Also speaking, the elder brother of the kidnapped sisters, Kabiru Yusuf, said, “My sisters lamented to me on Sunday that they were being maltreated and that the bandits commander wants to abandon them in the camp. We are continuously pleading with them as we have sold everything we have but what we raised is not tangible and we don’t have anything more to sell again.”

He appealed to the Federal and Kaduna state governments, charity organisations, philanthropists and well-spirited individuals to assist the family in securing the release of their loved ones.

Conclusively, Condemning as reprehensible and absolutely uncalled for the violent assassination attempt on the person of the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial zone at the National Assembly, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, a leading civil Rights body:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) faulted security strategy in the South East for the success of the dastardly act.

HURIWA regretted that armed attackers could target Senator Ifeanyi Ubah who is rated as one of the best political office holder in the entire South East that singularly has taken hundreds of young Igbo people out of unemployment and has just contributed significantly a humongous sum of cash to the Anambra state government to enhance security in Anambra State. The Rights group said no reason could be ruled out including assassination which it says the investigators should thoroughly investigate to unravel the remote and immediate circumstances surrounding the dastardly criminal attempt on Senator Ifeanyi Ubah’s life and the slaughtering of a score of his personal and security aides including a passerby.

HURIWA stated that an unspecified number of police operatives were reportedly killed on Sunday at Enugwu-Ukwu community in Njikoka Local Government Area of Anambra State when suspected assailants opened fire on the convoy of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.

Sources in the community, who do not want their names in print for security purposes, said when the gunmen opened fire on the convoy, police operatives in the convoy responded and some of the policemen were gunned down in the shoot-out.

A source said, “Senator Ifeanyi Ubah was attacked today by some hoodlums in Enugwu-Ukwu. It was a calculated attempt. It wasn’t an impromptu action. “The policemen were about four in the convoy and they were attacked.“All their arms were collected. The boys that spearheaded that attack were about nine in number.” Another source claimed that six policemen were killed in the attack. Senator Ifeanyi Ubah who later spoke from Awka acknowledged that some security details attached to him from the Nigerian police force abd the Department of state services including some of his personal aides were gunned down.

HURIWA quoting a close ally of the senator said, “It was an attempted assassination on the Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. He survived it but there are casualties. Some policemen in his convoy were killed. I just spoke with him. He is okay but he told me there are casualties.”

The spokesperson of the state police command, Toochukwu Ikenga, confirmed the incident, but insisted that the casualty figure was still unknown just as he said, “The Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Command, Echeng Echeng, has led police operatives to the scene where sporadic shootings took place in Enugwu-Ukwu. Though details of the incident are still sketchy, operatives are on the ground there as operations are going on and the situation is being monitored. Further details shall be communicated please.”

Speaking against the backdrops of the incident in a densely populated and obviously very busy junction in an urban area of Anambra State, HURIWA said there is no logic to explain that such an audacious violent attack can happen in such a place and it took ages for any sort of security intervention to arrive at the scene of the crime.

“For the mere fact that eye witnesses asserted that the violent assassination attempt took some time to play out including a driver who said he was dissuaded from driving through the scene of the crime by eyewitnesses whilst it was still happening and the security agents only just arrived after the attackers had reportedly vanished into thin air shows that there is everything wrong with the security architecture of the South East region and the response time by armed security forces even when such crimes take place in urban centres.”

“If we may ask, where were the military operatives that reportedly were deployed in the South East for special operation and why did it take such a long time for operatives of armed Security Services to reach the crime scene even when their men were also targeted? We think the heads of the security agencies in the South East need to go back to the drawing board and map out better, much more effective response mechanisms and even deploy preventive strategies more to curb the growing rate of sophisticated crime. The security operatives need not wait until the attackers have finished their job and disappeared before they now start running after violent killers who had since completed their dare devil tasks. The State governments in the South East need to spend money transparently to procure information technology tools for crime prevention and combats such as drones.

HURIWA said it deeply empathize and sympathise with Senator Ifeanyi Ubah and families of his assassinated aides including Police operatives, attached to his convoy, also asked the Anambra state governor to lead the charge to bring together governors and stakeholders of Igbo origin to work out and implement common strategies to end the growing insecurity in Igbo region.

The Rights group has also challenged the hierarchies of the judicial system at all levels to implement quick win formula to quicken the dispensation of justice so violent criminals are made to face capital punishment even as HURIWA challenged the governors to end the unconstitutional moratorium against implementation of capital punishment. HURIWA blamed governors who refused to sign on to public execution of hardened convicted criminals for the upsurge in crimes of sophisticated nature around the Country.

Surely, there is the need to return Nigeria back from this despicable state of nature to a state whereby the rule of law becomes the hallmark of our existence in the Sovereign entity known as Nigeria because letting this Country to cascade fully into the abyss of a state of nature is catastrophic and absolutely abhorrent.

* EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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