|(Image courtesy of Vanguard Newspapers)
Before now, we have come to associate kidnappings with the oil producing areas of the country, the south east, and not too long ago, the Northern parts of the country through Boko Haram. These kidnappings have been driven mostly by political leverage and financial gains. Folks living in Lagos have mostly felt a sense of immunity to this malaise until recently. There has been a spate of kidnappings in the Ikeja, VI and Lekki areas. Victims have been Nigerians and expatriates alike. In the past week there have been reports of four Lebanese and a Briton kidnapped and freed after ransom negotiations. A common modus operandi for kidnapping locals is to block them off in traffic or at the entry gates to their homes, after which they are taken to ATMs and their accounts drained. There have also been stories of situations where, upon discovering a healthy balance in the victim’s account, they are kept for a longer period and their family is contacted to empty same accounts with signed cheques, etc.
Someone told a story of how he was taken one early morning on the Lekki – Epe expressway by VGC roundabout. His jeep was suddenly hit from behind by another vehicle. As expected, both drivers pulled over a short distance away to sort out the issue and the two guys who alighted from the car that hit him suddenly brought out guns and whisked him away after combing his car for his briefcase, phones, etc. Blindfolded, he was taken to a flat somewhere in a compound with other occupants. Because it was very early in the day, it was easy for them to bring him in unnoticed. All day they would play gospel music and greet their neigbours with phrases like “we bless God”, “Calvary greetings to you Ma”, etc. So they put up the face of good Christian businessmen sharing a flat, whilst unbeknownst to their neigbours, they used the place as a holding pen for their victims. Luckily, he was released unscathed after two days of negotiations and payment.
Release of kidnap victims may sometimes be complicated leading to injuries and loss of lives.
Here are some prevention tips:
· Outings in the late hours and very early hours of the day should be curtailed, if possible, completely avoided.
· Maintain a low profile; do not display large sums of money, jewelry or other apparent evidence of affluence. Be discreet.
· When out on the road, be alert and take note of unusual happenings like vehicles trailing you, if you have any reason to suspect foul play drive to a safe haven like a police station rather than drive home; if you observe a strange vehicle or persons around your home, discreetly call law enforcement agents for help.
· As much as possible, avoid lonely routes so you do not become an easy target.
· Ensure you carry out background check on drivers, house helps, home lesson teachers and other non family members that are likely to have access to your home.
· In case of an armed attack, remain calm and observe the following precautions;
o Respond to the assailants’ instructions calmly and promptly, without questions
o Do not resist, stay calm and avoid direct eye contact with assailant
o Avoid sudden physical movements, make your hands visible – do not undo seatbelt without permission
o Do not get caught in the cross fire with police response teams, take reasonable precautionary steps like lying flat on the ground or raising up your hands above your head.
· Ensure you have your local Nigeria Police emergency numbers saved on your cell phone