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Army Account of Kajuru Kidnap Response Challenged by Legislator

Security Expert Says Nigeria Going The Way of Haiti

Above: Photos of hostages rescued by Nigerian Army Sunday March 17, 2024. Credit Nigerian Army.
Above: Photos of hostages rescued by Nigerian Army Sunday March 17, 2024. Credit Nigerian Army.

(Kaduna, story Updated March 19) The Nigerian Army claims it averted a kidnap attempt at Tantatu (also called “Kajuru Tasha”) in Kaduna state  on March 17, 2024, claiming 16 hostages were rescued by troops after a botched kidnap attempt. The army posted pictures of 16 women and children from the town in Kajuru County (Local Governance Area).

But findings by TruthNigeria confirmed that there was indeed a successful invasion of Tantatu or Kajuru Tasha and at least 86 residents abducted the same Sunday night of 17th March, 2024.

The position of the Nigerian Army was contained in a press statement signed by Maj. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, Director Army Public Relations.

Parts of the statement reads:  

“Nigerian Army troops deployed in 1 Division area of responsibility in  Kaduna State have successfully averted a kidnap attempt by a violent  extremist and insurgent group and rescued the abductees in Tantatu Community of Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State,” according to the statement.

Map by Luka Binniyat for TruthNigeria.
Map by Luka Binniyat for TruthNigeria.

“Responding to actionable intelligence the troops on 17 March 2024 at about 10:30 p.m. swiftly tracked the insurgents who had earlier attacked the community in numbers and abducted some of the villagers as hostages.

“On arriving the scene of the incident, the  troops tenaciously pursued the insurgents, engaging them in a ferocious exchange of fire and consequently rescuing 16 kidnapped victims.

“The troops are still exploiting the bushes in continuation of the search and rescue operations to extricate other victims and balk the nefarious activities of the insurgents,” Nwachukwu wrote.

TruthNigeria Analysis

The claim by Nwachukwu that the Nigerian Army has “successfully averted a kidnap attempt” is contradicted in the same statement when he says, “the troops are still exploiting the bushes in continuation of the search and rescue operation to extricate other victims . . . ” This statement infers a successful kidnap operation by the terrorists.

Distancing himself from the claims of the Nigerian Army, the legislator representing Kajuru constituency at the Kaduna State House of Assembly, the Hon. Usman Danlami Stingo, said to TruthNigeria “I don’t know what they are talking about. If people were rescued, as the representative of the people of Kajuru, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) would have briefed me. I am not aware of any rescue,” he said.

“Of course people were kidnapped. I was in Kajuru Tasha, and I can confirm that I was given the details of the 86 people kidnapped. They are still with the bandits,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Police Spokesman, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mansir Hassan told TruthNigeria Nigeria that he did not want to join issues with the Nigerian Army.

“I am not the spokesman of the Army, and I cannot speak on what they have said,” he told TruthNigeria in Kaduna March 19.

“The army has said its own, and I don’t want to say anything against that,” he added, refusing to speak further.

Kidnapping for ransom has become so lucrative for criminal bands that Kaduna State and even Nigeria as a whole could devolve into an African version of modern-day Haiti, security experts are saying to TruthNigeria.

On Sunday, a 60-man gang walked into Tantatu village approximately 15 miles southeast of Kaduna City and snatched up 86 abductees while grabbing groceries and vegetables.

“The kidnappings are still going, and if it is not curbed, we could witness a total breakdown of law and order just like in Haiti,” said security expert Umar Bakori, who is also President of Vigilante Group of Nigeria.

During the last three weeks alone, 453 citizens have been marched out of their towns of Gonin Gora, Kuriga and Kajuru – all within a 20 mile-radius of Kaduna City. The target of the Sunday afternoon attack was the sleepy town of Tantatu, a forested farm-road junction between Chikun County and Kajuru County and reputed to be a stronghold for bandits who guard kidnap victims there.

Dire Warnings of a Region heading toward a cliff

“If we don’t deploy security agencies such as the police and vigilantes to man all the vulnerable areas, criminals gangs, kidnappers and hoodlums will take advantage of the situation and go haywire,” Bakori said in an exclusive interview with TruthNigeria.

Tantatu and by extension the entire Kajuru County has been under siege due to daily kidnappings, according to the vice chairman of the local government, Mr Daniel Ayuba. “The government needs to site a strike force unit in the area to forestall future attacks,” said the vice Chairman.

Kidnapping Spree Signals Breakdown Of Law and Order

Nigeria’s Presidential opposition leader in 2023, Peter Obi, has raised alarm about the upsurge  in kidnappings.  Obi noted that in the past one  year, “approximately 7,000 Nigerians have been kidnapped, with about 700 kidnapped in the last 3 weeks, notwithstanding the violent crimes and killings that occur in every part of the nation, which must have included us in one of the world’s riskiest countries to live in”, he said.

Nigeria a Failed State due to Corruption

According to Security Expert Bakori, the security situation in Nigeria can be tackled effectively, if Nigeria would adopt a community policing policy which would involve the use of vigilante groups of Nigeria in checkmating kidnapping and other forms of crime.

“Last year, the Federal Government released N30, billion [$30 million] to the 36 Governors so that they can kickstart community policing which would go a long way in curbing what is happening today, but the Governors pocketed the money and did nothing about it, Bakori said.

“If the Governors were truly serious, they would engage vigilante members who are very conversant with their localities and who are well trained,” he added. “Furthermore, by our count, we have over one million members as vigilantes across all parts of the country. They are drawn from their states of origin and indigenous to where they are serving.

“But the Governors choose not work with the vigilante Group of Nigeria because of corruption,” Bakori added.

Alex Agbo, Stephen Kefas and Luka Binnyat are conflict reporters for TruthNigeria.

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