By Bankole Abe and others
ALTHOUGH Kafayyat Odedoyin and Mohammed Ali live several kilometres apart, the duo share many things in common: they are both victims of kidnapping in Bauchi. They paid ransom to kidnappers and were subjected to torture before they were released.
“I was beaten several times and had to live under shades for days, in the rains and cold”, Mohammed recalled the terrifying experience in the hands of his abductors.
Mohammed, a resident of Toro LGA of Bauchi state, told The ICIR that the humiliating experience he suffered in the hands of kidnappers made him lose hope entirely in the affairs of Nigeria, adding, “I now know what it means to taste insecurity,” he said.
Kafayyat, a resident of Birshin Fulani, also had a similar experience, and just like Mohammed, she paid a ransom to regain her freedom from the hands of kidnappers.
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Kafayat’s husband resorted to seeking financial support from community members to raise money to secure his wife.
Mohammed had a similar experience, “We have to beg members of our community to help us raise the money; the kidnappers demanded N100 million naira; in the end, we paid them N2.5 million naira,” he told The ICIR.
The duo were kidnapped in September 2021, a period when the current administration in Bauchi State said it was spending billions to curtail the insecurity that was already a nightmare for Kafayat, Mohammed and others.
Investigation shows that the government has spent above N21 billion on security within the last 18 months.
The money was sourced from “security votes” and what the state government calls “operations,” according to a budget performance document obtained and analysed by The ICIR.
In the document, out of the N13 billion budgeted for security votes in 2021, the Bauchi State government spent about N12.1 billion.
According to the document, in the first quarter of 2022 alone, the State spent over N5 billion “security votes” to address insecurity in the budget performance document.
In the second quarter of 2022, the state spent N4,555,724,166.67 (Four Billion, Five Hundred and Fifty-Five Million, Seven Hundred and Twenty-Four Thousand, One hundred and sixty-six Naira, Sixty-Seven Kobo) from the “Security votes” to tackle insecurity.
Cumulatively, money spent [and sourced from security votes] on insecurity in Bauchi State amounts to N21,677,123,962.26 (Twenty-One Billion, Six Hundred and Seventy-Seven million, One Hundred and Twenty-Three Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty Two Naira, Twenty Six Kobo) within 18 months, spanning January 2021 to June 2022.
Insecurity persists despite increase in security vote
The two communities witnessed repeated incidences of kidnappings and killings of citizens amid what they described as government negligence.
Salihu Musa from Takadan Giwa and Abdulhamid Jibrin of Birshin Fulani were unequivocal in expressing their disgust over the rising kidnap for ransom in the State amid what they termed government negligence.
“We note with dismay the inability of people in positions of power to do the needful. For instance, from the lowest to the highest political office holders in the land who usually storm our community in search of votes during the campaigns, only the Deputy Speaker paid a condolence visit.
“None of our elected officer holders finds it worthy to either sympathise with us or help take concrete measures that will guarantee our safety and security from the killer gunmen who find pleasure in destroying our hard-earned peace”, Abdulhamid was quoted as saying at the time.
The Police in Bauchi state has also admitted that there has been an astronomical increase in kidnap for ransom despite the mindblowing “security votes.”
Despite Spending, Police Admits Bauchi Is Volatile
A police document obtained by The ICIR proved that the State is overwhelmed by insecurity.
Umar Mamman Sanda, the Bauchi State Police Commissioner, while presenting a paper to the participants of the Senior Executive Course (SEC) in May 2022, admitted that the State was prone to security threats.
“Bauchi State is one of the North Eastern States in the country, which is confronted with numerous security challenges such as kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling, thuggery, rape and other manifestation of violent crimes,” says Sanda.
The commissioner said the Lame Burra forest in Ningi, Balmo forest in Gajuwa, Yuda and Mudu, Panshamu and Maigemu forests in Toro and Yankari Games Reserve In Alkaleri provide a cover for the terrorists.
He said the police documented over 850 criminal cases between January and May, of which 74 were related to kidnapping and banditry.
The ICIR can report that most of the kidnap victims tracked and interviewed by this medium said they paid ransom to regain their freedom.
Kidnap for Ransom: the new standard defining height of insecurity as “security votes” dissipate.
As the government repeatedly spends to restrain insecurity, so do residents continue to buy their freedom and protection.
For instance, in the Burra community, Ningi Local Government Area of Bauchi State, residents spent millions to secure their freedom in the hands of their captors, at a time the state government claimed to have spent money to ensure they were secure.
Mamuda Hassan Tabla, the chairman of Ningi LGA, revealed that over N72 million was paid to bandits as ransom in 2020 alone. Hassan claimed that Bala Mohammed, the governor of Bauchi State, has had three consecutive meetings with the residents and responded to the disturbance positively.
“The governor deployed security personnel to protect the people and recruited hunters and vigilantes as part of an effort to protect the lives and properties of our citizens, which reduced the activities of banditry in our area,” says Tabla.
With the acclaimed interventions, insecurity keeps deteriorating, especially in Ningi LGA. In May 2022, villages in the LGA came under continuous and coordinated attacks resulting in deaths and kidnappings.
Tabla also decried the worsening scenarios in Bogoro, Tafawa Balewa and Bauchi local governments.
He said the areas were not spared from the carnage, and between February and May, gunmen reigned terror in these LGAs unchallenged.
The year before, Bauchi LGA was among the most affected areas, with more than four deaths and abductions. Others include Zaki, Dambam, Darazo and Gamawa LGAs.
Bala Mohammed, governor of the State, did not mince words in admitting the exacerbating insecurity in Bauchi State, his hometown inclusive.
“This insecurity has now become rampant. This is even with the fact that Bauchi has been peaceful and safe, but the situation is almost going out of hand, and they are trying to overwhelm us.
“The situation we’ve found ourselves in now is a test from God. Our leaders, especially our traditional rulers and religious leaders, should all go back to God, including all of us politicians.
“Security agencies should also be fair and just to everyone,” Mohammed said while visiting Alkaleri, his home LGA struck by bandits.
But while the governor is appealing to citizens to resort to God for help, the State’s resources meant to secure them are dissipating into thin air, with no result to show for it.
Rape, Torture And Ransom: Through The Eyes Of Victims Of Insecurity
When Fatima Abdullahi, a resident of Bununu, the headquarters of Tafawa Balewa, was kidnapped in 2021, her husband had to pay N900,000 as ransom before she could regain freedom.
“I’m a victim of their (kidnappers) dastard act,” Fatimah says as she relives her ordeal.
Fatimah tried to hide her emotion but could not fake it, even for a minute. “They kidnapped and raped me several times when I was in captivity,” she recounts.
If there are words to describe her experience for the five days she spent in captivity at “Dutsen Maigoshi” [near Burgel, along Dass Tafawa Balewa road], they would be rape, rape and again, rape — all nights.
“I was molested. Raped repeatedly by the gang’s leader,” she recalls. “Anytime he wants to rape me, he has to hit me with his rifle before instructing me to submit to him,” she said.
Fatimah had foreseen an abrupt end to her marriage. She did not give it a second thought, but her husband proved her otherwise.
“For me, the major nightmare that troubles me all the time when I remember the incident was how they raped me and the difficulty in explaining to my husband,” she mumbles. “But I’m lucky to have a tolerant husband, my initial thought was that he would reject me since I was raped, but he understood it and was not angry.”
“We all accepted the sad reality we have to pass through,” Abdullahi Mohammed, her husband, interjected.
Mohammed was asleep when the bandits encroached on his home. He was startled when he woke up to the disturbance but soon accepted the reality.
At that time, Mohammed’s savings, “both home and bank”, were N8,000. He was taken away with his wife when he would not comply with the bandits. However, Mohammed escaped while the terrorists went away with his wife.
Subsequently, they used her as bait to get their demand.
“When it was clear they could kill my wife, I sold my car for N900,000 to get her out of captivity,” he said.
Mohammed says he reported the incident to the police and other unconventional security agencies like the vigilante, “and they all tried to work professionally,” adding the police asked him to pay N25,000 to track his wife’s abductors. The officials would later backtrack their request.
“They initially asked me to pay N25,000 for tracking, but they later withdrew the decision saying the tracking was closed,” he revealed.
When Fatimah regained her freedom, her husband, for the second time, reported to the police.
“After that, an investigation was initiated, and some members of our community were indicted. Four suspects were arrested and taken to CID,” Mohammed said.
“They were later arraigned before a court in Bauchi, and from there, nothing was done to them. They all came back and continued their activities,” he added.
The ICIR understands the suspects could be innocent as Fatimah, who was present during proceedings, says none of their faces was familiar.
N3.5 Million For Bandits, N100,000 For Police
It was a double bullet for Mato Adamu Bodi; as he recounts his 70-year-old mother’s ordeal with her abductors, he pauses to welcome sympathisers who came to pay him condolences — Bodi’s wife had passed on a day before.
“It was on Wednesday night around 9:00 p.m.,” Bodi harkens back to a tragic scene where his septuagenarian mother was taken into the thick forest in the middle of the night.
“The kidnappers told my 70-year-old mother they were sent to abduct her for ransom.
“My father was reluctant to let her go alone with them, but they overpowered him and locked him behind the door,” he said.
Thirty minutes after battling with the door, Bodi’s father walked to his son’s room to break the news to him.
“Immediately he told me, I traced them up to Kunsal Bridge, and they were nowhere to be found,” he paused to welcome a sympathiser. “The following day, they called me using my mother’s phone to demand N100 million ransom.”
The reason the bandits were interested in his mother was, according to Bodi, because his brother (from another father) is a medical doctor in the United Kingdom.
After a thorough negotiation, the abductors settled for N3.5 million. Bodi lost N3.6 million to insecurity.
“The police officials collected N100,000 for doing nothing. Before we paid the money, we reported to the Bauchi Police Command and a station here in Bununu. They tried to track the number, but they couldn’t.
“She was finally released at Goggo hill at Bogoro LGA. All police could do was escort us when we were depositing the ransom.
“This was after we paid them (police) N100,000,” Bodi added.
Just like any other person affected by insecurity, if one could describe Bodi’s perception of the country’s security architecture, it would be gross ineptitude.
“In fact, security agents have failed,” he yells. “They have all it takes to trace these kidnappers but they are not doing enough. They gave us doctored news from their air-conditioned offices and that’s all. Nothing more.”
In addition, Bodi said he feels sad whenever he imagines the funds being allocated for security and said, sometimes, the police would compel them to fuel their vehicle before swinging into action.”
Police deny accusation of extortion
When contacted on the issue of police demanding money before helping families of kidnapped victims, the Police Public Relations Officer for Bauchi State, Mohammed Wakil, said the police in the State do not demand money from citizens before doing their job.
He added that the Command had rescued almost 55 kidnapped victims in the last few months.
“The Police in Bauchi do not ask for money from families of kidnapped victims.
“In the last few months, we have rescued almost 55 victims from kidnappers.
“The problem is that most of these people do not inform the police when they are a family member is kidnapped.
“We get the information independently and still go after the kidnappers.
“Anyone with such experience should report to the PPRO or The Commissioner of Police,” Wakil said.
Also, in a statement sent to The ICIR, the Bauchi State Police Commissioner, Umar Mamman Sanda, confirmed that the State police command rescued 55 kidnapped victims.
The statement, released on September, 8,2022, was signed by the State PPRO Mohammed Wakili.
“Consequently, from my assumption of duty as the 43rd Commissioner of Police Bauchi on the 29th November 2021 till date, the Command recorded seven hundred and twenty-two (722) cases and arrested over one thousand four hundred and sixty (1460) suspects in connection to various crimes committed within and outside the State.
“The Command was able to rescue fifty-five (55) kidnapped victims from their captors,” he said.
‘A Legal Means Of Broad Daylight Stealing’ — Expert
“Security vote is meant for what the name implies — simply for the security of all citizens of a state,” says Timothy Avele, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer at Agent-X Security Limited In Lagos.
He says that a state like Bauchi that spends hugely on security should have little or zero security threats like banditry and kidnapping for ransom.
“Normally, when a state is experiencing escalating insecurity, then it’s expected that such a state will be spending more resources and funds to arrest such a situation, ” Avele adds.
“However, when the reverse is the case, then it could mean that the State’s security vote has been diverted or not used appropriately. But it’s mostly diverted to private pockets as experience has shown.”
Security votes are not traceable, “In fact, that’s where politicians recoup their electioneering investment,” he adds.
However, it would remain unaccounted for until the country’s security sector is “restructured to meet 21st-century policing strategies.”
“Additionally, a more transparent security administration is needed, but it must first be adjusted from the constitution”, Avele notes.
This publication is produced with support from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development Inclusivity and Accountability Project (MEDIA), funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
*The names of other reporters who worked on this investigation were removed for security reasons.