The Nigeria National Police has appealed to all citizens to play a role in stopping the spate of kidnappings that have plagued the country, particularly in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
This comes as kidnappers Sunday freed four Nigerian journalists who had been held hostage for a week.
Emmanuel Ojukwu, assistant commissioner and first public relations officer for the Nigeria national police, says the kidnappers released the journalists as security forces closed in on their location in Abia state.
“You are aware the moment they [the journalists] were abducted by the criminals the Nigerian police launched a massive onslaught against the suspected areas, and so the criminals surrendered their captives,” he said.
Ojukwu said the released journalists told police that they were treated humanely by their captors, although they said their ordeal was traumatic.
“The hostages told us they were fairly treated. They were blindfolded, but they were normally treated,” Ojukwu said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan reportedly welcomed the journalists’ release.
Ojukwu said President Jonathan did the right thing by ordering the arrest of the kidnappers.
“Every Nigerian, including the president himself, is concerned about the safety of other citizens. Wherever an event of nature occurs the whole nation goes into grief. The president did the correct thing like every other good president would do, and the police acted in line with their mandate to save lives and property,” Ojukwu said.
Kidnappings are common in southern Nigeria, although journalists are rarely targeted thanks to their low incomes.
Ojukwu said the police would like for the general public to get involved to help put the kidnappers out of business.
“We have also made that observation about prolific offenders in that sub-region, and we are mobilizing the communities, all stakeholders, opinion leaders and the common man in the society to know that they do have a role to play in their own security and then in the national security. And, that is paying off dividend[s] already,” he said.
The kidnappers initially asked for more than $1.7 million as ransom, but Ojukwu said no ransom was paid and Nigerian police are not in the business of paying kidnappers.
“The Nigerian police is against the payment of ransom to criminals. We’ve always been on top of the situation. We’ve been arresting many of them and bringing them before the law court. Anybody who intends to make money from such criminal activities will fail like others before him," Ojukwu said.
Ojukwu said Nigerian police have begun community policing to fight the spate of kidnappings.
He also said Nigerian police need training and equipment to fight criminal elements before they develop.
“We [are] asking members of the community to give the police good timely information so that we can nib such crimes in the bud. And, the police is getting more and more proactive in its crime prevention efforts,” Ojukwu said.