Sometime in January, Jessica, a mother of two was forced to wake her kids from sleep around midnight while fierce postured armed men stood guard. She dressed her seven-year-old eldest son, Jayson; wore him a jacket and gave him an additional blanket. With fear written on her face and a shaky voice, she pleaded with him to follow the fierce looking armed men, urged him to be strong and assured him that he would be back home.
Jessica and her husband, Philip narrated to Daily Trust on Sunday, how on that chilly night, while Philip was out of town, she woke to the sound of gunshots not far from their home. It was some minutes after 11pm and the last thing she expected was that the gunmen were planning to invade her home, located in a new layout area of Rayfield and less than two kilometres from the Government House.
When the sound of gunshots became louder and closer, she dialled her husband’s phone and began to narrate what was happening. A few minutes later, the attackers surrounded her home; they shot at the security door severally, when it didn’t give way, Jessica said they used a huge rock to knock down the door.
“They came straight to the master bedroom where I was and asked for money, I gave them what I had. But it was not enough so they asked me to wake up the children and told me upfront that they were taking my son,” she said.
Jessica and her husband, Philip are one of many couples that have endured the pain of watching their children abducted around Rayfield and other new layouts only to be returned after huge amounts of money have been paid. Children as young as four are getting kidnapped for ransom in Jos and it is a trend that is becoming a norm, Daily Trust on Sunday gathered.
Since the abduction of Jayson, kidnappers have abducted many other children, including the 12-year-old son of the Chaplain of the Plateau State Polytechnic, Reverend Andrew Dido, as well as the son of a couple living around Gura Topp, behind the Government House who declined to speak on their experience.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Simon Bako Lalong on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen said the governor was not oblivious of the security threat within the state and was doing his best in collaboration with relevant security agents to nip it in the bud.
“Security matters are sensitive matters and so the measures that have been taken by government are not things that I can disclose in the media,” he said.
The state Police Command while alerting residents on the new and dangerous trend established that the kidnappers are not far from the communities and assured that the command had gotten the profile of some of them through its intelligence network.
A statement signed by Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tyopev Terna, pleaded with the families of those affected to share their information with the police no matter the threat from the kidnappers and assured that such information will be treated with utmost confidentiality.
But while Jessica and her husband were lucky to get back their son a day after paying an undisclosed amount as ransom, Ishaya Musa and his wife, Hannatu, wished their son; Obedience, had been abducted for ransom. Living in the slums of Dong community in Jos South Local Government Area, the toddler went missing while returning from school with other toddlers. His father, Ishaya, a miner said kidnapping of children for ransom though prevalent around the new layout of Dong, has never happened in the village where they reside.
The couple who have three older children said Obedience and some of his class mates were usually let out of school earlier than his older siblings and would either wait for them or walk home through the almost one kilometre lonely short path with other toddlers.
It’s been two weeks since the boy went missing and Hannatu said one of the toddlers who usually walked home with Obedience, told them that a man in a vehicle had lured the toddler with a promise to buy him biscuits. “We are not certain if what the child said is true or not because he is also a three-year-old,”she said.
Kidnappers target families and invade at night
Reports from victims indicate the kidnappers target families then come for them at night, shooting sporadically to scare neighbours. Just like the scenario that played out at the Philips they break doors, demand for money and even when given, abduct a child to force the parents to pay ransom.
They usually confiscate a SIM card with which they communicate with the parents. The Philips told our correspondent that they had confiscated a SIM card from a relative staying with them and in the morning, called Jessica and asked her to tell her husband to call them. “When I called them, they requested for N7million and I told them I didn’t have that kind of money. They said I wasn’t serious and they assured me that I was going to lose my son. So they cut the call, then called my wife back and told her I was not cooperating,” he said.
After hours of negotiations, a figure was finally agreed upon, which led to the release of Jayson the following night. The criminals asked them to package the money in two and Philip said his younger brother who transported the money was directed by the kidnappers to go to an area around Rayfield, and then re-directed him around the Government House area and through Langfield Park where he was asked to veer off the road and into the bush.
“They counted the money, made calls and then told him to turn back and my son was behind him. Off cause they were armed, they handed over the SIM card,”said Philip.
Two months after he was abducted, Jayson looks fine as our correspondent watched him play with other kids within the confines of their home. His parents are however still traumatized by the incident of January. While his father constantly worries on how best to protect his family, Jayson’s mum said she is constantly haunted by the event of that night.
Little or no help from security agencies
The home of the Philips is less than two kilometres from a military check point that could have easily heard the gunshots on the night the kidnappers came. Some residents watched from their windows as the gunmen made their way to the Philips but no one could do anything.
Philip who was away had relied on a trusted friend to comfort his family and work with security agents, “I was told by my friend that the Operation Safe Haven said they didn’t have fuel so they didn’t come. The only people that came, some two hours after were the police and the only thing they could do was to heave the large rock, put it in their car and left. When I returned the next day, the police came, and later invited me to to their station. That was all they did,” he said.
Disappointingly, when he told the police that the kidnappers had contacted him, they did not advise him against ransom, instead, they told him not to exceed a particular amount.
“I thought when you have a situation on your hands, you try to trail them but you are telling me I should give them but not give them this much?” he said disappointedly.
Operation Safe Haven through the Media and Information Officer, Major Adam Umar however said the taskforce has constantly urged the public to report any personnel not willing to intervene in any criminal scenario that could bring about a break of law and order.
Major Umar stated that, “kidnapping is a criminal offense and a violation of the law so it is part of our responsibility to intervene and we have been intervening. However, our personnel are a product of the society and we cannot brag that we are all perfect. That is why our help lines are out there for the public to report cases where our personnel are seen to be doing anything wrong and if found guilty of the allegations, they would be subjected to the necessary disciplinary measures.”
Police spokesman, DSP Terna stressed that any police officer who would encourage the payment of ransom instead of trailing the kidnappers, was unprofessional. He stated that, “when you are aware that the kidnappers have established contact, your duty is to start tracking and if you don’t have the means to track then you should notify the Commissioner of Police.”
But even when children get missing, victims fear the police may be of little help as Ishaya Musa and his wife, Hannatu, say they have been left to live with the agony of not knowing what had happened to their toddler.
“We reported at the Rantya police station but we don’t know if the police have gone to the school to try to investigate but they have not contacted us.”
DSP Terna said the police was still investigating the case of Obedience, but expressed disappointment that the parents of the toddler never returned to the station even when asked to do so by the police.
“You cannot report such a case and then sit down, let them also not think the matter is closed because it has been established that the boy went missing between the school and home,” he said.
You may be interested
For How Long Is My Motor Insurance Policy Valid?Webby - September 12, 2022
When purchasing auto insurance, you can tailor many aspects, including the types of coverage you select, the amount of your…
Akeredolu faults FG’s refusal to allow Amotekun bear armsWebby - September 22, 2022
Southern APC governors’ leader, Rotimi Akeredolu…says we will defend our peopleBy Clifford NdujiheGOVERNOR Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, has criticised…
Atiku to Rivers governor, allies: Ayu won’t quitWebby - September 22, 2022
The rift between Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and the camp of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike…
Lai Mohammed lambasts Atiku for “copying” Buhari regime’s economic blueprintWebby - September 22, 2022
Information minister Lai Mohammed says the economic blueprint recently unveiled by presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar is a “crude attempt at…