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Missing persons: A fast growing challenge, Buhari’s gov’t must tackle

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The increasing cases of missing persons in the country is a source of concern to many, even as victims families decry the absence of modern technology which constraints security agencies from following the trail and rescuing most of these missing people.

The victims cut across diverse age groups, social strata and regions.
The kidnapping of all manner of persons has gained ascendancy in Nigeria. A malady previously known to the people have become domesticated. Present day Nigeria is experiencing an unprecedented level of insecurity and ritual killings.

Dead bodies are found in unimaginable places. Given the fact that there is no DNA databank, identifying decomposed or dismembered bodies is a challenge.
Ten years ago, the Niger Delta witnessed the phenomenon on a wider scale, but now kidnapping is prevalent in all parts of the country.

Kidnappings in the Northern part of the country has reached an alarming stage. Back in the 90’s and early 2000, I could travel out of Kano State, and come back at anytime of the night, but it beats me that presently, traveling by road to Kano even during the day is no longer safe due to the high rate of kidnapping along the Kaduna-Kano road.

According to International Committee Of Red Cross ( ICRC), the number of people being registered missing in Nigeria as at 2021 is 24,000.

Ritual killings, kidnappings and abductions has led to a large number of missing persons in Nigeria.

Efforts to secure a data base that contains the profile of every Nigerian citizen has been bungled on the threshold of corruption. This has made the search for missing persons frustrating.

In the Northeast of Nigeria, people who were abducted by insurgents or fled from towns attacked has led to an increase in the number of missing persons in the region.

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Families of more than a dozen people have not yet gotten answers to the where about of their wards who disappeared after demonstrations against the disbanded police Special Anti- Robbery Squad, commonly known as SARS at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.

The police custody has also become the first place to look when a young man is missing, as the Nigerian police usually target and detain young men with laptops, iPhones, shredded jeans, decent cars and tattoos as they are profiled as internet fraudsters.

It is sad enough that according to a report in the medical journal Clinical Anatomy of 2011, more than 90 percent of the cadavers used in the majority of Nigerian medical schools are suspected criminals who died of gun shot wounds, and are usually males between the ages of 20 and 40.

Dead criminals are regarded as government property in Nigeria, so giving them to medical schools is backed by law. Unfortunately these are among the missing persons in Nigeria as their relatives never get to know they have been killed.

Saadatu Mohammed, while recounting her ordeal with kidnappers, said she was taken from Wuse in Abuja to Lokoja where she met other victims who were later killed.

“Few years ago, I met two men around Wuse, where I went to collect my birthday cake from the bakery. I was hypnotized because they asked me for money and I took them to the ATM where I withdrew a huge amount of money, then they took me to their car and we drove for hours to an unknown destination. They put me in a room where about eight persons were tied on their legs. After four days they took me out of the room and drove me to a place where I later found out was the outskirts of Lokoja, but before I left some of the people I met in the room were killed.

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“I began to trek and after a while, I met a police check point and I alerted the policemen that I was dropped along the road by unknown men and after asking me a few questions, they were able to trace my hometown in Okene.

“By the time I got home, I met my family who had sent my picture and information to the police and TV station, that I was missing. I couldn’t narrate what happened to them as the kidnappers told me that if I said anything to anyone, I would die, but after much persuasion from my mother, I narrated the story of all that happened to me.

Another woman gave an account of how a missing girl was found in their estate in Nasarawa state around 9.00pm last month.


“I am a Civil Defence officer. Last month, I came back from work at 9.00pm and I saw a girl around hanging close to my gate, she was looking distressed, so I asked her what she was doing there and where she was coming from.

“After much interrogation, she said she fought with her younger brother, so her mum threatened that when she comes back she will give her a mark on her body and in a bid to escape her mum’s punishment she ran away from home. She said, she kept walking till she found herself in the estate. I asked her if she knew her parents phone number. I tried the phone numbers she gave me, but they were not going through, so I asked for her house address and she gave it to me. I called the attention of the estate security and one of them followed me and we were able to locate her house that night. We met her mother with neighbours outside and her mother was crying that she may have been kidnapped and killed.

‘We handed the girl over to her mother that night and she thanked and prayed for me.”

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To reduce the menace of missing persons in Nigeria, various steps needed to be taken as it is a matter of urgency.

The National Technical Committee (NTC) which was launched in August 2018 by the Federal Government on the Establishment and Management of a Data Base on missing persons in Nigeria should become effective as it has been redundant since its inception.

Parents should also set boundaries about places their children go and stop threatening them when they misbehave, but rather correct them with love, to avoid them missing in a bid to escape from their parents’ wrath.

There should also be an effective control of all Nigerian borders while a unique identification number be provided for each Nigerian as this will give way to weed out illegal immigrants who cannot properly identify themselves.

This has worked effectively in advanced countries in their fight against crimes.
The government and entrepreneurs should assist in creating job opportunities and skills acquisition for the youth as the high rate of unemployment in the country has given the unemployed youths the opportunity to venture into kidnapping for ransom and rituals for money making and this is one of the major cause of the alarming rate of missing persons in Nigeria.

All forms of logistics to kidnappers should be cut off. The government should establish agencies that understand the local logistics of how the kidnappers obtain their food, water, ammunition, telephone, their means of communication and transportation, how they gather information about their victims. If all this logistics to the kidnappers are cut off, it will bring an end to kidnapping for ransome in Nigeria.

Corruption should also be curbed within and among Nigerian law enforcement agencies.

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