To all intents and purposes, the Treasure Base of the Nation and the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan, Bayelsa State, has become the current capital of commercial kidnapping in Nigeria. A glance at the daily newspapers confirmed that aprominent or a not-so-prominent personality is kidnapped for purely monetary ransom after every two days in Bayelsa State.
The grimy material details of the victims of kidnapping in the state are too long to deal with here. But no less personality such as President Jonathan and the Speaker of the State House of Assembly has suffered several times from the hands of the kidnappers. As things stand now, siblings and other elderlyrelations, especially the mothers, fathers and grannies of well-to-do persons in the state are being evacuated to safe haven, mostly to Abuja and Lagos, the administrative and commercial capitals of Nigeria respectively.
Unlike some of the kidnappers in the Eastern parts of the country, the Bayelsa kidnappers do not kidnap for MTN, GLO, Airtel or Etisalat recharge credits, the Bayelsa kidnappers kidnapfor only millions of naira ransoms per head. This explains why the kidnappers of Bayelsa do not go for the hoi-polloi, theybasically go for mainly the vulnerable ones who are related tothe money bags; vulnerable ones like mothers/fathers and grandmothers/fathers and uncles/aunties of politicians and captains of industries.
Now let us put the real issue under interrogation into proper perspectives. Let us make some axiomatic summations. One, the rampant commercial kidnapping in a very wealthy and miniaturestate like Bayelsa is a confirmation that all the legion of local government, state government, federal government, crude oilmultinationals, individuals, multilateral organizations’ poverty alleviation cum community development programmes that have been established and are still being established are cosmetic and fraudulent. In fact, the truth is that, the managers of theseplentiful multi million dollars programmes need to be investigated by the ICPC or the EFCC. For instance, only the Shell Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) spent more than 200 million dollars in Bayelsa in 2012-13 for community development programmes that are more of youth’s empowerment programmes. The SPDC programmes are managed by Bayelsans through a well-thought out arrangement called GMoU. To resolve the rampant kidnapping logjam in the state, the SPDC fully sponsored community development programmes for the youths and others need to go under the searchlights. These programmes if well managed will help to rest the kidnappings.
Two, the everyday kidnapping incidents also confirm that there is massive deprivation in the land, in Bayelsa State. This point to the fact that, the federal government monthly allocations to the state government and especially to the local government areas need to be investigated by the concerned anti-corruption agencies too, it appears these monthly huge allocations to the grass-root administrative units are going into some deep pocketshence the youths have en-mass resorted into commercial kidnapping to re-distribute wealth primitively. For instance, more than 100 million naira monthly is going to Brass Local Government Area, that has just a surviving landmass of less than600 football field size (more than half of the land mass of the LGA is under water) with a population of more than a quarter of a million people who are largely living in fishing settlements that are on the whole inaccessible. Life in these fishingsettlements is: short, brutish and extremely nasty even now. Yet more than a 100 million naira besides the huge IGR is coming from Abuja monthly to Brass LGA. This shows that if the federal allocation alone is used averagely well, the youths in this tiny LGA like the other seven LGAs of the state will not be committed and totally be involved in commercial kidnapping and commercial sea piracy.
Three, there is so much kidnapping in Bayelsa State because the bottom in the state is too heavy. The bottom is too heavy in the sense that there are so many and too many youths parading in the local communities in the state as politicians and local government workers. Virtually all the universities, polytechnics and collages of education graduates from the state are at their various local communities idling out: claiming to do politics and doing nothing serious in the local councils as staffers. And because these youths are corrosively idle but [they] are materialistic by indoctrination and socialization courtesy of the recent militancy, the ill-mange amnesty programme and the winner-take-all politics being played in the state. As usual the devil has lured the youths to commercial kidnapping because technically and even in principle the learned and the not-so-learned youths are idle and they are too crowded at the bottom.Bayelsa State Government needs to craft policies urgently that will trigger most of the educated youths to move out of the local communities to the federal and the international scenes to compete with their contemporaries.
Finally, all hands must be on deck, all stakeholders, including the crude oil multinationals, must immediately do something to help. This urgent call is so important because allowing this game of commercial kidnapping at this rate to continue for another year will spell doom for the state because it will create an industry with an economy and dependants that will subsist for long. We all also know the negative investment implications of kidnapping, kidnapping scare away foreign investors.
Like must issues confronting the Nigerian State, the solutions toransom driven kidnapping bedeviling Bayelsa State are well-known. Good governance in the local government and the state levels is the ultimate answer. But in the interim, transparency in the various numerous poverty alleviation programmes: especially the community development cum youth empowerment programmes operating in the state is a must to help reduce the current kidnapping ill wind that is blowing no one any good.
Alfred is of the Department of Political Science, Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria.