Kidnapping incidents in Jos, the Plateau State capital, seem to have taken on a different dimension, with children becoming targets and residents currently living in fear of kidnappers running amok in the state.
According to journalist Ahmad Salkida, the kidnappers have the backing of security outfits in the state.
A series of tweets by Salkida on Wednesday read: “Residents of Jos are thrown into a state of intense fear by the activities of kidnappers. Insecurity is turning a gory, brazen, page with new incidents of kid kidnappings making the rounds in Jos, Plateau State.
"Unlike Zamfara state where the abductions occur mostly in the rural communities, these incidents in Jos are right under the noses of the elite formations of the Armed Forces — Army, Air Force, Navy, Secret Service, Police and paramilitary arms in the metropolis.
"It is estimated that about 90% of the targeted victims are children, ages ranging from 2 to 10. It is feared that there might be a collusion between the kidnappers and the horde of security formations, jobless youths and vigilantes to keep the hapless population under constant distress.
"There is a reported incident of a four-year-old, who was abducted in his sleep. Mostly, it is the middle income families that are targeted. A staff of a private firm with his wife and three kids were traumatized in the dead of night when four gunmen forced their way into their bedrooms. With barely N15,000 cash in the house, their five-year-old was instantly abducted, awaiting ransom. The distraught family ran to the Police in desperation, but the officers advised them to act wisely by heeding the instructions of the gunmen/kidnappers. The family finally raised N500,000 ransom for release of their child.
"Another family, invaded by the gunmen at 2am experienced the same trauma, but with different details. Insisting that it was better for her to be abducted rather than her children, the woman submitted herself and walked for eight hours with the gunmen into the bush. When the husband finally laid hold of the ransom about 12 hours later, he was instructed by the kidnappers on where to drop off the cash and where to pick up his wife.
"To give room for assumed official investigation by the Police, this reporter is deliberately withholding the names of the victims. From testimonies of some of the victims in Jos, there's ground to suspect that the gunmen are likely people already familiar with the victims.
"A victim reported the experience of his head being kept down to forestall any eye contact, but nevertheless found a voice familiar. Many of the victims are too afraid to speak out. There have been over 40 cases of this epidemic documented by this reporter between January and March 2019.
"On the average, there are between three and four abduction cases in Jos each week. But many sources insist that the cases are understated believing that there are more cases of child abductions right in front of their parents in Jos than are admitted. The kids were usually seized in the absence of cash in the house. And the choice is usually death or abduction. The family chooses to let go of a child while they scrambled to raise money for ransom payments days later. The police have not been able to help the victims, so far. It is believed that many middle income families are taking steps to avert the attendant trauma by keeping at least 100, 000 Naira at home. A troubled family lamented, "we cannot hide our children in the house. The gunmen seem to have information about us. We are helpless."
The kids were usually seized in the absence of cash in the house. And the choice is usually death or abduction, the family chooses to let go of a child while they scrambled to raise money for ransom payments days later. The police have not been able to help the victims, so far.— Ahmad Salkida (@A_Salkida) March 27, 2019
When SaharaReporters contacted Matthias Terna Tyopev, the Police Public Relations in Plateau State, on the allegations, his response was: "Kidnapping on the rise? Which rise? When you say something rises, it means it was five yesterday and 20 today."
He, however, promised to release official figures "tomorrow", because work had closed for the day.