BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
The British Broadcasting Corporation has this to say about slavery in Africa: “The Transatlantic slave trade began during the 15th century when Portugal, and subsequently other European kingdoms, was finally able to expand overseas and reach Africa. The Portuguese first began to kidnap people from the west coast of Africa and to take those they enslaved back to Europe”,(www.bbc.co.uk).
The historicity of slavery as encapsulated in these few words aforementioned has clearly established an indisputable fact about slavery which is that it is all about the kidnap of persons by the use of crude force with the aim of depriving the captured hostage, the fundamental human rights that are inviolable and sacrosanct. Slavery just like it’s contemporary version which is kidnap for ransom is offensive to the basic foundations of the Fundamental human rights of all persons as adumbrated in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The preamble goes thus: “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
There are empirical evidence to show that slavery is very much in Nigeria even as it has become increasingly evident that the government lacks the wherewithal and what it takes such as the political will to enforce relevant laws against armed kidnapping and enslavement of Nigerians through all sorts of crude forms of forced abduction and human trafficking under dubious guises.
For Instance today’s news stories shouted as follows: “Gunmen demand N16m for kidnapped Rivers woman”
The gunmen who abducted 60-year-old Nyieda Kpeenu in Nweol community, Gokana Local Government Area,
Rivers State, have demanded N16Million ransom for her freedom.
The abductors had on Wednesday whisked Kpeenu from her residence in the Ogoni community at about 8pm, shooting repeatedly in the air to scare residents in the area. There is also a story that made the rounds last year’s June that kidnappers admitted collecting N200m ransom in six months.
As the story goes, we were regaled with the unbelievable story that a suspected kidnapper, Abubakar Umar, has said he and his colleagues collected over N 200m in ransom in the last six months.
Umar stated that they preferred abducting expatriates from whom he had collected millions of naira in ransom.
The suspect, who was paraded in Abuja alongside 37 other suspects, explained that he once collected N 100 m cash in a kidnap operation. Then came the absurd story of a police senior officer that had to pay ransom to be freed by kidnappers.
This dramatic story that shows the collapse of law enforcement in Nigeria has it that the Divisional Police Officer, Delta State command, who was allegedly kidnapped along Benin Asaba Expressway on between Onicha -Ugbo and Issele – Uku axis had regained his freedom.
A source at the state police command headquarters in Asaba told a newapaper that the victim was freed by his abductors after paying a ransom of N 3 million. In Adamawacame a report on October last year that N3.8m Ransom Paid To Free Six Kidnap Victims in Adamawa.
The sum of N3.8m was paid to secure the release of six kidnap victims in Adamawa State, a family source, Dahiru Gurin, has confirmed.
Gurin informed a popular online newspaper that, the ransom was paid in three tranches of N800, 000, N1.5m, N1m and N500, 000.
The kidnappers had initially demanded N10m ransom before they would release the victims.
It was reported also that six young men, who led their cattle to grazing along Gurin- Fufore Road were kidnapped, leaving the cows wandering aimlessly.
Then a Father Raised N600, 000, Paid Kidnappers for NYSC Member who was then released as published also last year September quoting Security Sources Published September 25, 2019.
The incident happened in Plateau State just as it was said that N600, 000 was paid as ransom to secure the release of Igwebuike Amilia Nkechi, a corps member serving in Jos, the state capital.
One of the security sources, who was part of the investigation, told the media that Nkechi ransom was raised by her father.
He said the corps member, with registration number PL/19B/1423 and attached to the Jos North Local Government secretariat, was released alongside another victim whose friends had raised N300, 000 to secure his freedom. Then came the story of Nigeria’s erstwhile senior national football coach whose 80 year old mother was kidnapped twice and he gad to pay cash on each occasion to get her freed.
The former Super Eagles star, who recently said he paid the kidnappers N1.5 million ransom fee, had appealed to the government to help bring back his mother.
The kidnappers had also kidnapped two other family members, Madam Florence Dounana, 65 years, and her daughter,
Selekere Dounana, 17 years.
Also, an abducted Delta school proprietor regains freedom after payment of N10m ransom last year’s October.
The Proprietor of Kogbodi International Schools, Ughelli, Delta State, and Mr. Patrick Kogbodi has been released by his abductors at Emevor Community in Isoko North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Kogbodi was released on Saturday, October 12 by his abductors after a ten million naira ransom was allegedly paid for his release by his family.
The abductors also gave the victim one thousand Naira (N1, 000) to transport himself back to his house.
The only good news came tgat a notorious kidnapper who allegedly kills victims after receiving ransom was arrested in 2018.
The Jigawa police spokesperson, Abdu Jinjiri, confirmed the arrest to journalists in Dutse, the state capital.
Mr. Jinjiri said the kidnapper allegedly connived with eight others to kidnap two persons in Kafin Madaki, a Fulani settlement, at Gwaram Local Government Area. The captives, who were identified as Musa Ori, 15 and Umaru Sale, 13, all of Kafin Madaki settlement were killed after paying N3 million as ransom. Mr. Jinjiri said the other suspects are on the run. These new slave traders have not spared travellers even as God Is Good Motors passengers kidnapped, had some released after ransom payment on September 2018.
Family members of some of the passengers who were kidnapped after boarding a bus belonging to God Is Good Transport on a weekend narrated how they secured their release.
One of the victims told the media that her family in Lagos facilitated her release after about six days in captivity.
The victim, an elderly woman, added that her and other victims, who are still being held captive, were tortured and denied food by the kidnappers.
Her family, according to her, paid 1 million to the kidnappers to secure her freedom.
The victim son (name withheld) narrated how his mother and other passengers were abducted penultimate Thursday. It happened on Thursday last week and my family paid 1 million to secure my mum release, he said.
Then came the big news that contrary to the claim by the Nigerian government through the Information Minister Lai Mohammed, the government paid a large ransom to free scores of female students kidnapped by the Boko Haram from their school in Dapchi, Yobe State, earlier this year, the United Nations has said. Then from Zamfara was the report of abducted Zamfara twins that regained freedom after heavy ransom was extracted by the daredevil kidnappers on November 2018.
The twin sisters abducted in Dauran town in Zamfara state have been released by their kidnappers.
Hassana and Hussaina were kidnapped as they distributed invitation cards for their upcoming wedding.
A Senator, Kabiru Marafa, reportedly donated N6 million as part of contribution to raise the N15 million required by the kidnappers.
There was also crowd funding on the social media, while the chairman of Zarmi local government Awwal-Bawa Moriki also pledged N5 million underscoring the fact that Nigeria has become a failed state.
Then, the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had said that the Church lost N300 million as a ransom for 500 kidnapped Christians in the state in the past two years.
The chairman, Rev. Joseph Hayab said: “We have been computing the number of Christians kidnapped in Kaduna State in the last two years. Over 500 of them that we know, either in the villages or in towns, have been kidnapped”.
Then October last year some details have emerged of the circumstances surrounding the death of a pastor’s wife who was abducted by armed assailants from her home in Kaduna state, central Nigeria, on 14 September.
Mrs Katunga captors initially demanded N5000000 (around US$ 13850.00) for her release.
They later agreed to a payment of N400000 (around US$1105.00). However, released abductees who had been held with her confirmed that Mrs Katung, who was pregnant, had died after suffering a severe beating the day before the ransom was received.
These instances of grave threat to the human rights of Citizens and the seemingly inability of the relevant governmental authorities to stem the tides of crimes against humanity by a variety of armed non state actors must be holistically addressed as a matter of a national emergency because any nation that lacks the capacity to stop mass killings and bring perpetrators to justice is a failed state and is a danger to World peace. President Muhammadu Buhari should be quick to rescue his collapsing authority and legitimacy to exercise authority by ensuring that the massive killings of the citizens are halted and to bring all perpetrators to face the full weight of the law. This task must be done and very rapidly too.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA). He blogs@www. huriwanigeria.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.thenigerianinsidernews.com.