By Omatsola Tosan
Nigeria: As the Delta State Government continues to contend with containing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, there is a much bigger challenge which threatens the safety of citizens of the state.
The alarming number of kidnappings has become a major cause for worry, and a thriving business for criminal syndicates operating in the state whose dealings receive the support of some highly placed persons alleged to be in government.
No one seems to be spared, as even the Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa’s wife’s sister was abducted by kidnappers and allegedly released upon the payment of a ransom to the tune of N40,000,000.
What however is most worrisome is the impunity with which some of the suspected kidnappers arrested by security agencies are allowed to walk free owing to interventions that can only come from internal collaborators, despite weighty evidence that implicates them at several instances.
Word around has it that security agencies in the state are helpless and frustrated as a result of the overwhelming influence of suspected kidnappers who are alleged to evade justice with various sums of monies between three million and twenty five million naira.
In August last year, A Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Delta State, whose name was given as Mr. Okoro and in charge of Galilee Police Station, Ute-Ogbeje community in Ika North East Local Government Area of the state, was allegedly kidnapped along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway. He regained his freedom after the payment of ransom.
Only last month, an Anglican priest with his wife, children and one of his friends were abducted by suspected kidnappers at Issele-Mkpitime, Aniocha North Local Government Area of the state.
Some of the suspected perpetrators of these atrocities who are also responsible for brutal murders in the state are allowed to move around freely despite being known to be responsible for such acts.
For instance, it was gathered that some suspected kidnappers arrested by security agencies over the kidnapping of foreign nationals working in Delta State between 2006 till date, have been released.
According to the spokesman for Delta State Police in 2017, Andrew Aniamaka, militants who have attacked oil and gas pipelines in the oil-rich Niger delta region are behind several of the kidnappings.
“There is a militant group that has been operating in the area and we believe they are the ones behind the abduction”, Aniamaka told Reuters while speaking on the abduction of four Britons on October 13, 2017.
It is common knowledge that the Delta State Attorney General, Peter Mrakpor, had allegedly released suspected criminals already apprehended and in custody of security agencies by wielding and abusing the Power of Nolle Prosecui.
The development has led to silent protests and complaints among Judges and Security agencies in the state who consider the alleged release of criminals apprehended for murder and kidnappings as a serious threat to internal peace and security.
Between 2015 and 2020, the Attorney General was alleged to have relied on Nolle Prosecui to effect the release of 150 suspected criminals apprehended for serious crimes ranging from murder to kidnapping. The number remains the highest in recent times when compared to other states.
Out of fear of being victims of the dreaded criminals unleashed by the Attorney General on the State, the Judges, it was gathered, are afraid to openly register their frustrations so as not to attract the wrath of a dark underworld built around political killings.
The overall impact of the activities of these criminals cause residents to live in constant fear, and have crippled the economy of the state, as local and foreign investors do not consider it a safe haven for investments owing to rising insecurity.
Major International Oil Companies such as Shell, Chevron have all dumped the old city out of fear of their workers being abducted.
Federal Government interests such as the Nigeria Ports Authority, the Federal University of Petroleum and Oil installations are no longer safe. It is only a matter of time before the activities of these criminals who evaded justice becomes a full blown threat against the Nigerian State.
It is imperative therefore, for the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, to immediately investigate the abuse of power by the Delta State Attorney General, whose actions have in no small measure contributed to insecurity within the state.
Omatsola Tosan, an activist, wrote the piece from Warri, Delta State