INCREASING WAVE OF VIOLENT CRIMES IN ABIA STATE: THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH

INCREASING WAVE OF VIOLENT CRIMES IN ABIA STATE: THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

Crime is as old as man. It started according to biblical account between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:8), leading to the gruesome murder of the latter by the former. Since then, crime has been present in every society as no society is immune from the cankerworm. It is an inevitable aspect of human society. It impinges on reality, an inescapable commitment of choices and decisions, actions and inactions, omissions and commissions. Though crime is a social reality, what differs is the degree and prevalence of the upsurge and the response mechanism to tackle it.

As a microcosm of that human society, Abia appears to be in the throes of crime epidemic, displaying in the convulsive wave of both violent and non-violent crimes. However, the wanton escalation of violent crimes has been devastatingly worrisome. The state has recorded unprecedented cases of violent crime. In recent years, Abia has known no peace. The spate of armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom, murder, rape etc., in the state has assumed hellish and nightmarish dimensions. The devils of the underworld are always in the saddle holding ‘God’s Own State’, as Abia is fondly called, at the jugular, as they terrorize Abia and the neighbouring states with relish and reckless abandon. In the glare of everybody, they normally come – kill, steal, destroy and kidnap; and often without let or hindrance.

More worrisome is the fact that those bandits operate with impunity as they can comfortably send threat letters to their would-be victims to inform them of the date and time they are coming to strike. The Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation (HRJPF) noted this and in a press release on June 9, 2010 lamented the situation in the following words:

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As an indication that Abia has degenerated to a failed state in Nigeria, armed robbers and kidnappers now give NOTICE before they strike, as vividly shown by the invasion of First Bank P.L.C and fidelity Bank P.L.C, both in Port Harcourt Road, Aba on Wednesday, June 2, 2010. Recall that they had written to inform them of their intention to rob them and eventually did, to chagrin of all. And while the people of Enyimba city, as Aba is fondly called, were still writhing in the pains inflicted on them by last Wednesday’s robbery attack, which culminated in the closure of banks and other financial institutions in Aba; no fewer than eighteen persons were kidnapped along Aba-Ikot-Ekpene Road, Ogbor Hill, Aba yesterday, June 8, 2010.

Whenever they write, they always keep to their promise. They always come at the

exact time and succeed, leaving the security agents to be hapless. In their brazen fashion they

did even “write letters to all the markets asking people to contribute certain amount of money for them. Most of the markets did and these monies were given to these hoodlums”(www.vanguardngr.com/2010/11/kidnap-un). As a result of this soaring criminality and insecurity in Abia, most residents have left and relocated to safer places. “In

most cases, people who refused pretended to be either mad or were stricken with strange

disease” (www.vanguardngr.com/ 2010/11/kidnap-un).

The rash of criminal activities in Abia came to national consciousness on Sunday July

2010. Officials of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) who were returning to their

respective bases from the meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Union

in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, were abducted in Umuafor Ukwu in Obingwa Local Government

Area. This is coupled with the heartless abduction of the fifteen school pupils of Abayi

International School on Monday October 27, 2010. The abduction of these infants expectedly

generated  a  lot  of  condemnation  by  UN  Children’s  Education  Fund  (UNICEF),  other

international bodies and Nigerians themselves. Sampson and Amodu (2010) reported that the

representative of UNICEF in Nigeria Dr Suomi Sakai strongly condemned it; “Under no

circumstance would children be the target of violence…Kidnapping children for financial

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gain is simply heinous”            Also the editorial comment of  the Daily Sun October 4, 2010 is

worth reflecting upon;

The kidnap of primary school students is not only pathetic but also shameful and deplorable, it shows that the Nigerian society has degenerated and descended so low that pupils can be seized without any compunction. That school children are kidnapped shows the bleak security situation in a 21st century Nigeria. The act is highly reprehensible and presents a heinous crime against humanity, childhood and innocence. It is indeed a crime against children who are the future hope of the nation. Those that indulge in this inhuman act are indirectly mortgaging the future of this country.

Although like some other states in Nigeria, Abia had been experiencing criminal activities.

One can still recall that it was at the height of criminality in Aba that the famous Bakassi

group was formed in November, 1998. However the frightening dimension it has assumed

requires extra ordinary measure. Kidnapping which started in the Niger Delta area as a means

of calling government attention to the neglect of the oil producing region, has unfortunately

become a lucrative enterprise in Abia. In its editorial of Friday, October 1, 2010 The Nation

lamented thus:

It is so rampant that banks close down for days in order to avoid being helpless targets for rampaging robbers. Markets and fast-food outlets are deserted because the patrons know that they could easily be seized by kidnappers if they appear in such places in the wake of these kidnapping, private schools are being shot down as well. Investment and commercial activities have plummeted as businessmen, professionals and other citizens withdraw from the state’s urban areas to safer places.

Corporate and financial institutions especially banks, in order to avert armed robbery

attacks  have  beefed  up  security  around  their  premises, even  to  the  discomfort  of  their

customers, who are subjected to serious security scrutiny before being allowed into the bank

halls to access banking services. In some banks, they even moved bulk money by helicopter

when bullion vans became the targets of the hoodlums. It was so disturbing that military task


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