Federal Capital Territory (FCT) kidnappers are growing more daring by the day as they are now collecting ransoms from their victims via bank accounts instead of cash.
During the last week alone, Shauntv reported two kidnapping operations by armed men in the Tungan Maje community on the outskirts of the city. On Wednesday, the marauders returned to the community after abducting six people a day earlier.
In the last few months, incidents have spiked in other FCT suburbs such as Kuje, Bwari and Abaji.
In contrast to the usual practice of kidnappers releasing their victims after collecting cash payments, a new trend suggests they are devising new methods for obtaining ransom payments.
Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), claimed that terrorists and kidnappers had begun demanding ransom in cryptocurrencies.
Despite not identifying which groups of criminals used such a method, the ex-central banker said the new trend called for more government regulation of the cryptocurrency market around the world.
Many Nigerians have complained about how banks make it difficult to retrieve information about criminals who defraud members of the public using bank accounts.
Abuja resident Hamisu Ibrahim spoke of how “bureaucracy” in the bank resulted in him losing money to criminals after making payment.
A financial fraud expert, Umar Yakubu, said detecting criminals who follow formal financial systems is easy unless the will is lacking.
‘How kidnappers made us pay to bank’
During a shopping trip to the Ibrahim Babangida Market in Suleja, Niger State, kidnappers picked up Mrs Aminat Adewuyi and four others at Madalla junction on Wednesday, June 16.
It has been reliably reported that the victims’ relatives paid ransom money ranging between N500,000 and N1,000,000 to the kidnappers’ designated bank account before their release.
Mrs Adewuyi’s brother, who requested anonymity, said that during negotiations with the criminals, they initially demanded N5 million from each victim.
After two days and much begging, the kidnappers agreed to collect N500,000 from Adewuyi’s relatives.
According to the negotiator, the criminals threatened to kill the woman if the ransom was not paid within 48 hours and insisted that they prefer to collect the ransom by bank transfer rather than cash.
A copy of the ransom payment slip obtained shows that Adewuyi’s husband paid the sum of N500,000 into an Access Bank account with the number: 1403762272 and the name Badawi Abba Enterprise.
To Daily Trust, Adewuyi described her ordeal, saying, “We boarded a bus opposite SARCO filling station, near the NYSC junction in Kubwa, when we were going to Suleja Market.
“Most of the passengers in the bus alighted at Zuba. While the driver wanted to drop off the remaining few passengers as well, he managed to take us to Madalla junction – the road that leads to Dakwa.
“At the junction in Madalla, the driver told us to board another bus to Suleja. There are five of us (women) who stop a vehicle calling “Suleja!” Suleja!!The bus driver settled him, and we left.
The driver ‘centrally locked’ all the doors and wound up all the windows as soon as we entered. We knew that all the glasses were tinted at that time. Four of us sat at the back of the car, a fifth sat together with a man in front, including the driver.
Once they had whined up the glasses, they brought out guns, knives, and bottles of coke, saying we should cooperate. We were ordered to drink the codeine-laced coke, but I refused.
“The man in front of me raised a knife and gave me only codeine to drink, but I pretended to take it. The vehicle was so tight that he could not use his weapon.
When we reached the bush where they took us, some of the victims who took the coke were already asleep.
“Despite the fact that I didn’t sleep, I can’t remember where we were taken. The vehicle that conveyed us turned left immediately after Kwata (the popular place that sells meat) before Suleja. Kwankwashe is after Kwata.
When our vehicle couldn’t continue because the remaining route was a pathway, three men waiting for them with bikes conveyed us with their bikes into the deep bush.
“There was only one house in that bush. They kept us there and they were giving us bread and sachet water. One of us was released that same day because she had money in her account and transferred it to them immediately, we got there.
As soon as they couldn’t get an alert from my husband, they sharpened their knives to slaughter me. I was saved only by God that day.”
Adewuyi’s husband reported the matter to the Anti-Kidnapping Unit of the Nigerian Police in Jabi at the time.
ASP Mariam Yusuf, the spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, said the command has deployed overt and covert strategies to checkmate criminality within the FCT including special anti-kidnapping operations.
Experts say it is now possible to detect kidnappers’ political choices
Umar Yakubu, a former staffer of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a financial crime expert, said that finding criminals who have collected ransom through financial institutions is increasingly a political decision.
Yakubu, who is also the CEO of the Counter Fraud Centre, said with such developments, there will be no end to the criminality and it will continue to harm the economy.
According to him, a major feature of crimes and criminality is evading detection through stealth. The purpose of law enforcement agencies is to detect criminal activity through investigation.
However, if we have a situation where criminals are demanding ransom payments through financial institutions, where all customer due diligence records are kept, then we must be concerned. They are not afraid of being detected.
Therefore, it does not make sense to waste time and resources attempting to identify them. They should be known. It is the government’s desire to open a war front that can never succeed. Kidnappings for ransom have never been paid through bank accounts in Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, India or other countries where kidnappings are frequent.
”The government needs to rethink because this action would lead to the creation of a whole new criminal industry.”