WEDNESDAY COLUMN by USSIJU MEDANER
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Ethnic profiling of crime and criminality has become a menace to the Nigerian survival and fight against crime and insecurity from the moment the PDP as an opposition party took the stance of using it to garner political relevance and popular sympathy in the build-up to the 2019 general election. Suddenly, we saw ourselves wittingly embracing the generalization of crime and insecurity in the country based on religion and ethnicity, and using the same as the basis for suspicion for all perpetuated acts of crime across the country.
Over the years , our nation was turned into a one big crime and insecurity prone field. No region seemed to be excused; the cry of “herdsmen” perpetuation crime all over the nation rent the air; no palpable arrest to confirm, no much direct evidence other than the social media witnesses, we nicknamed every kidnaping, killing and robbery, wherever it is done to the Fulanis.
We came out vocally at this time; we are taking a dangerous turn as a nation; crime and criminality has no ethnic or religion colouration; there are criminal elements in every stock just as there are good and patriotic elements across borders; when we condone and publicize ethnic colouration of crimes; we ignorantly protect criminals and a huge population of perpetrators of crimes who are members of our supposed “clean” society.
That has been our experience; in the last five months, a number of criminals had been apprehended for crimes ranging from kidnapping, killing and robbery in areas we had insisted it was the Fulani herders wreaking havoc, yet none of them is Fulani. Perhaps we would have been able to handle the Benue crisis before now if we had not chosen to hide behind the banner of deceit and politically motivated and destructive “Fulani” killing in the state. Today, the real perpetrators who we should have focus our attention on earlier are been caught but not after they had wrecked more havoc. It is the same story in the South-West, it is no longer the herdsmen just the same way the South-East no longer found it lucrative to propagate it anymore, but we need to count our lost.
The last one week has birthed another sensitive narrative in the field of crime profiling in Nigeria. We woke up to the unpalatable news of the rescued of abduction or rather stolen of the nine Nigerians children of Northern extraction and their subsequent transportation to the East and indoctrination ethnically and religiously. It is not a palatable story and not one we want to celebrate but nonetheless, we cannot afford to let it pass without properly addressing to prevent future occurrence of the dastardly act. Children are precious gift to the parents and no matter how poor the parents may be, the sight of their children is a source of joy; I cannot imagine the pain a family is plunged into when someone or a group of syndicate somewhere consider it business or whatever to take away children from their families and sold them into slavery.
These children were individually kidnapped over the last five years and brought to Anambra state where they are sold off to individuals or perhaps another group who changed their names and converted them to Christianity. These children had cried for months missing their parents and siblings until they accepted their new realities. They become used to their new names; their new religion and their fake new identities. Some of the children, over the period of their abduction, have lost connection with northern traditions ( both religious and cultural) as some of them had already rechristened with Igbo names and could barely speak Hausa language, their mother tongue, any longer. One of the children, a 10-year-old Farouq, who had was named Onyedikabo Ogbodo said, “When Paul brought me to Onitsha, there was a man called Emma. I saw this one (pointing at one of the victims); there is another that has gone, they were playing and Emma bought me Cheese balls before Aunty Ebere came and took me up and later took me to the hospital. Farooq, who could not recall the name of his biological father, said he was in Class Four in a primary school in Onitsha before he was rescued. This is sadly a pathetic story. He could have been anyone sons and daughters they were selling like groundnuts and bags of pure water.
These criminally mindedmen, Paul Onwe, Mercy Paul, Emmanuel Igwe, Ebere Ogbodo, Louisa Duru and Monica Orachaa and all their accomplices must be identified and make to face the full wrath of the law for the pains they had caused the families of these children and the sins they committed against our common believe as a nation.
While kidnaping is gradually becoming a norm for most unstable minds in Nigeria, we had always considered it as an act to demand ransom from relatives and families of victims; even the Boko Haram insurgents uses their victims negotiations no matter how unholy it seems. Who abduct children to have them for a keep? To what ends do we take Hausa Muslim children and turn them to Igbo Christians in all ramifications? What are the incentives for the perpetrators? What do they stand to gain from the venture? These and many more questions beg for answer if we must see the end of these unholy acts and prevent future occurrences.
Another worrisome issue that must also be addressed along is why we seem unbothered with the revelation as if it is a norm. Nigerians hardly discuss or condemn it on the social media as it has been the norms with us. The case of Ese Rita Oruru, the Balyesa girl that followed teenage boyfriend to Kano and converted Islam with a marriage without parents consent; the case trends for months until the girls was returned back to Bayelsa. The social media had a field day profiling the characteristic of Islam and concluded the single act as an element of planned “Islamisation” of the country,
The likes of Femi Fani Kayode, Reno Omokiri and other ethno-religious “Vuvuzelas”who have turn themselves to the self-proclaimed mouthpiece of the masses and fighter of social injustices were at the forefront of the Ese Oruru saga; but where are they today? Oruro is only one girl; but today we are talking of nine children and we are so quiet; shame on all ethno-religious bigots, if we must select when to talk against crime and injustice and when to keep quiet because there are no potential political gain and cheap points to score for our camp at the moment. Where are the opposition elements who have never failed to notice and react to perceived injustice in the land? Where are the letter writers who love the country so much and must write to correct all evils?
If we cannot nationally speak out against this grievous evil perpetrated against such innocent Kids because we have nothing to gain politically or otherwise from it, how will we be able to delve to the root of the crime? How are we going to unravel the whole chain of individuals behind the crime? Or do you think it is all about kidnaping the children to Christianized them? Of course not; it is beyond that; we must know what they eventually do with the indoctrinated children. Who are the main forces behind the business? Who did they eventually sales the children to? Is it within the country Alone or even outside the country? If we cannot unravel the facts of this crime, assuredly, tomorrow it may be anyone child from any other part of the nation; do we even know now if there are not hundreds of such children of different ethnicity at various locations; how many children across the country have been declared missing till now in Nigeria in the last few years?
In 2015, there were reports of about 500 missing children in Lagos state alone. The story has been the same all over the country. Some months ago I read about some kidnapped children that were rescued and parents were invited to come and identified them; family all over the country were coming forth to check if it was their lucky day. Children are being stolen or abducted in Nigeria every day and we are doing nothing about it,
This is about children and we cannot afford to keep mute. We all have the responsibility to protect them. The crime and abuse against this vulnerable population is becoming one too many in recent time. We cannot afford to play with the future of Nigeria; we must unanimously rise to defend and secure the children of Nigeria. We heard recently of one mushroom Islamic school in Kaduna where almost 400 innocent children are brutalized and even sodomised.
Trafficking in persons in Nigeria has largely targeted adults; and of growing concern, however, is the recent emergence of sophisticated and syndicated groups involved in baby ‘factories’ and trafficking in Nigeria. No state is spared; from the South to the North, the news has become a normal dose. The syndicates, operating across the country abduct, kidnapped or even entice teenage girls and most times adults to part with their children in exchange for financial gratifications. It has so much become a booming business that even some hospital managements are fully involved. We have heard stories of women who gave birth and the hospital claimed the child died while they had sold him off. We would not be able to curtail the menace if concerted efforts are not made to deal with the actors and dismantle the market and syndicate, its profitability will embolden current actors and even encourage new entrants into the booming human trade – now and in the future.
How many of us have heard of the recently busted detention camp in Daura, katsina state, a torture home where almost 360 children were rescued in the last few days. What is becoming of Nigeria? What has become of the saying “children are our tomorrow”? We seem to have become complacent and unbothered about the plight of Nigerian children. We cannot continue like this.
At this point, sentiment aside, we must realise we have a serious national problem at hand. We must set politics and personal interests aside to join hands and seriously condemned such evil trade , as well as vigorously found a lasting solution to the emerging unholy trend of children abduction, kidnaping and trafficking. It is a blow on our future; we cannot allow it to continue to strife. This is one time we must all rally round the security forces to unravel the whole intent of this crime against all of us. This is a time we must realize we can only survive if we are united and fight a common enemy , else it could be one Kolawole from Ibadan that would be renamed Chinedu or Umar tomorrow.
God Bless The Federal Republic Of Nigeria!