By Jerry Ochema:
Kidnapping is the abduction and restraint by force or unlawful transportation of a person, or persons, usually in order to hold them captive against their will. This is sometimes done with a demand for ransom in exchange for releasing them from concealment, or for other illegal purposes. Kidnapping can be accompanied by bodily injury like one of the victims of Evans revealed in the confession made to the police which elevates the crime to an unprecedented level.
Kidnapping has no historical trace to Nigeria but it started as an illicit “trade” in the Niger-Delta Region of the country some years ago when youths of the area used it as a means of livelihood by taking hostage foreign nationals working in the area for exchange of money. Soon after, it spread to other parts of the country that many young Nigerians now engage in it as a “legitimate trade”. In recent times, many of these kidnappers have been caught and really nothing serious has been done as various states of the federation have law to this effect.
Nigerians woke up on 10th of June, 2017 with the news stand flooded with papers carrying headlines of the notorious and highly connected celebrity kidnapper caught with the efforts of the Joint Special Forces led by the Intelligence Response Team, the Lagos State Police Command’s Anti-Kidnapping Unit and Technical and Intelligent Unit of the Force under the supervision of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State with a raid on the criminal’s fortress who is known as Chukwudi Dumeme Onuamadike alias Evans, a native of Nnewi in Nnewi North Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Since the arrest of this vicious leader of a highly organised kidnap for ransom syndicate and criminal gang terrorising as well as responsible for several kidnap of notable/prominent Nigerians, there have been commentaries from various quota as to why he should be set free or not. The police even celebrated in grand style as leaked in some social media platforms for his arrest, an arrest that took them about five years to effect. Good! There is nothing bad in this, but I think we have made enough noise about this and so many Nigerians with the Evans mentality have even condemned the act as if they are clean.
Now the crux of the matter, Evans has committed a serious crime against his people, even humanity and the state and as such he should face the law. This will serve as deterrent for those contemplating such act and those yet not discovered or arrested but I must be quick to say that we have this kidnapping in virtually every segment of the Nigerian society. We have not discovered this because we have labeled some kind of crimes more criminal than the others and also depending on who commits them.
There is “Evans” all across the space and the law should do everything to catch up with them. The man or persons that “kidnapped” all the monies meant for Internally Displaced Persons, the one that “kidnapped” the money for roads leaving the people to suffer is an Evans, that educational administrator who embezzled the money meant for the rehabilitation of schools, hospitals and for power for the citizens to enjoy has already kidnapped the destiny of the school children and the benefits of those whom those amenities are meant for.
Secondly, while we concentrate on this Evans that is making headlines now, what do we do with those Evans are so known and do whatever they like with budget, constituency allowance? Because they are rich and possible are “big men”, we justify their crimes. We hail them. We ask if they are the first of the kind. When a corrupt judiciary sets them free, we open a bottle of champagne and celebrate them. The Evans even tell us how to vote and whom to vote for during elections and toil with our destinies, yet they are hardly brought before the camera for public confession so that they can name who they have cheated and at what tone.
Thirdly, beyond our work places and business places, we have Evans in our places of worship, they call themselves “men of God”, and they kidnap your sense and values, and then replace them with stupidity. They lie, give false prophesy, threaten the congregation with the word of God, do everything to get the people’s offerings and tithes.
There is no doubt to say just like Dumeme Onuamadike (Evans) who has received millions of dollars from his victims, Nigeria and Nigerians have paid over a $300b to many Evans out there in the name of man of God. They use it to buy jets, build very sophisticated mansions that members of their congregation are sometimes intimidated from getting close to. They buy honour and buy the reasoning of their church members. Evans is from a long line of thieves like that. The ones we now hail as heroes. That represents us in lawmaking chambers. That governs us. That claim to be speaking for us.
These days, the activities of many of the so-called men of God throw up moral, ethical and even religious questions. The millions of people that throng some new generation churches to worship need to take a critical look at their spiritual leaders and be sure that the Evans mentality is properly checked. Many of these hapless worshippers hold their pastors in very high esteem as those that will help them with their spiritual redemption. Many believe that by obeying these pastors, they will automatically land before the throne of God in heaven. Consequently, worshipers, especially the womenfolk, are ready to part with anything and everything, some even their bodies; all that is needed only is for the pastor to ask.
It is not as if there are no real men of God. While one may not be able to tell the honest ones apart, the lifestyle of some pastors set them apart. These days, some of these evil pastors secretly drink and smoke, steal, gamble, covet the congregation’s wives, visit herbalists and spiritualists. Many of these evil people have set up churches for no other reason than to make money from hapless individuals in search of salvation. These are Evans oriented behaviors that must be checked.
It is therefore saddened that there are two laws in Nigeria made to protect the rich that have stolen money and the other from the poor. Laws are made to punish the poor who dare challenge the rich or poor people that dare oppose the rich class. There are two types of justice in Nigeria: one for the rich politicians and famous, and the other is for the poor. A lot of suspect stays more than two years in jail before; they could appear in the court talk less of granting them bails. But you see politicians dressed in Evans way of life and, before you your next count, they are already free and travelling overseas.
To even worsen a poor man’s condition, the criminal law has no sympathy for him. Penal sanctions will nonetheless be applied to a starving man if he steals to feed either himself or his dying child. Neither hunger nor starvation is recognised as a defence, since the motive for committing an offence is generally irrelevant. But only the rich can justify their own crimes.
No wonder, and sadly too, conviction seems to be swifter and sentencing more severe when the convict is a poor fellow. How this happens, and why, is not a question to be resolved on the basis of logic. Admitted, there is no written rule of law stipulating this, but judicial attitude which in most cases kidnaps ones joy is responsible for this.
Conclusively, we must quickly write our wrongs especially in the judiciary and urgently arrest the Evans in the system. This is because, some court judgments in corruption cases having attracted public criticisms for being discriminatory between the rich and the poor; but lawyers say the law and not the judges should be blamed for the light penalties given the convicts.
Jerry Ocheme is an Abuja-based commentator on national and international affairs