If you think that going home to Nigeria on vacation during Christmas is not a dangerous thing, think again. We have lost a few friends at the hands of these robbers. Mr. Dan Akusiobi in this forum tells this writer these robberies are common along Bini and Agbo roads. My friends, please be extra careful. As the number of Nigerians being killed while visiting home on vacation is increasing, sane people are beginning to be concerned. Kidnapping is so common in southern Nigeria, it is considered a lucrative business. it is so prevalent it goes unreported and rarely makes the front page, unless it is a high profile case.
The 82-year-old mother of Nigerian Finance Minister Dr. Okonjo-Iwealla, was kidnapped and later released five days later after a 10million ransom was paid. It made headlines. Read: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2012/12/how-okonjo-iwealas-mother-was-released-n10m-ransom-paid/. Many businessmen, college teachers, and football players have been kidnapped for ransom. The Government of Nigeria and politicians have become willing partners in the crime by paying ransoms. Armed robbers seem too often to operate where laws are lax and people inattentive.
Many vacationers are choosing to forego visiting home for fear of meeting their untimely deaths; others would rather spend their time in Hausaland or Yorubaland than in Igboland. It appears that a vacationer is more likely to be abducted or killed in Igbo states (Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi, or Abia) than he is in Lagos or Kano. Recently, Houston-based Nigerian American couple were gunned down last December along the Benin-Onitsha road . Mr. and Mrs. Don and Nkem Okoro arrived in Nigeria on December 21, 2014 and were on their way to a funeral when armed robbers attacked the SUV they were travelling in, killing everyone inside, including a 3-year-old girl. Don and Nkem Okoro are survived by 5 children. Read more: http://naijagists.com/photo-texas-based-nigerian-couple-killed-by-robbers-during-vacation-in-nigeria/ See also: http://www.nigerianfm.com/armed-robbers-kill-popular-houston-based-don-nkem-okoro
Armed robbers seem too often to target Christmas vacationers from obodo oyibo (white man’s land) and those attending relatives’ funerals from America that is full of dollars. The aim of these robbers is to disinherit travelers of their valuables or deprive them of their lives. The killings of Nigerian-American vacationers of Igbo extraction have reached an alarming alacrity or frequency there is reason for concern. We should no longer consider such crimes as happenstance or coincidence.
What appear to be random acts of juvenile delinquency are truthfully well orchestrated murder plots. Factors to consider when evaluating your chances of surviving being gunned down in your Igbo State while visiting your relatives include but are not limited to: (1) opportunity; (2) greed of folks back home; (3) family politics where the have-nots attempt to eliminate the haves for some reasons that include jealousy; (4) availability of unemployable, gun-toting assassins hired to settle family disputes. The Governors of Igbo-speaking states with endemic kidnappings are urged to leave no stones unturned to provide meaningful security measures for their citizens. We believe that some of the abductors and killers are either well known to the governor’s security forces or are on the payroll of some hideous individuals or organizations.
We reject the assumption that unemployment is the root cause of rampant kidnapping. Though jobs are becoming plentiful and wages are improving, yet kidnappings for ransoms continue to rear their ugly heads. The average Nigerian kidnapper, who uses unemployment as reason to rob and kill, ought to find a better excuse. Why does a university graduate kill? He is too lazy to find a better use of his knowledge, isn’t he? He chooses kidnapping for ransom as an easy way to eke out a living or support existence.
Mr. J, an Anambra Igbo university graduate was able to avoid a criminal lifestyle and gang activity by setting up a debt collection agency for wealthy merchants in Lagos, and he did that while working toward and obtaining the Master’s degree in political science. Gideon, an Edo State undergraduate student says he doesn’t want any part of armed robbery so he is tailoring for people while pursuing his studies. He helped this writer buy a few yards of textile with which he sewed a pair of trousers and a jumper. He hopes to continue sewing until he graduates and eventually own a tailoring business. This is an example of how Nigerian college students can be self-employed and self-sufficient without participating in the underworld.
Talking about the underworld, who is this kidnapper that abducts and kills Nigeria vacationers? A kidnapper appears to be indolent, idle, lethargic, sluggish, and slothful, egotistic, self-centered. He lacks resourcefulness, and he is devoid of any serious attempts to honestly fend for himself. He doesn’t want to retrain for available work, and he’s too dependent upon government to find him a job. Failing to find a job he thinks he deserves at a salary he wants, he joins gangs to harass members of society. He robs at random and kills out of fear being identified. He has run out of patience for easy hand-out/dole-out from relatives or sympathetic Diaspora Nigerians who wire dollars home each month by Western Union transfers. Diaspora Nigerians share the blame for encouraging relatives back home to become dole-out or hand-out population.
The kidnapper is a ransom-seeker willing to be hired out to extort or kill in order to satisfy an expensive lifestyle. He drives the latest vehicle and lays in or waits around expensive hotels with a retinue of prostitutes. He is a dispassionate extorter who extracts valuables under duress or by threat or force; by shaking victims down; or by wrestling or wringing out valuables that might include watches, cell phones, dollars, pound sterling, or innocent lives. The kidnapper-assassin lays in wait for his target to approach. Don’t be caught unawares.
A Nigerian vacationer may heed all regular security measures available in Nigeria against a kidnapper and still feel unsafe. Regular measures taken against abduction include being aware of one’s surroundings at all times; avoiding overcrowded places like churches, motor parks and open markets; and staying away from boko-infested States in Northern Nigeria. When these measures are not adequate, one would cobble together one’s own security strategies. These strategies require some thinking.
In order to protect yourself from being a victim of senseless kidnapping, you the victim ought to bring into play an element of surprise. Arrive in Nigeria unannounced, and keep people guessing about dates of your arrival and departure. Change your itinerary and location as frequently as practicable. Do not be too predictable. Arrive at home unexpectedly and depart without prior warning within a few hours/days after or before the date folks expect you. Leave social events all of a sudden, saying you’d be back and never show up. You don’t owe a soul an explanation.
Do not be too flashy, flamboyant, or ostentatious. Flashy stuffs get you in trouble because they attract unneeded attention, Flashy stuffs may include sleek automobiles, Mercedes, SUV’s , gold watches, cameras, and latest iphones. It is advisable to travel light. Leave expensive jewelry, clothes and American stuffs behind in the United States. Such stuffs invite unnecessary attention in addition to marking you as “that rich, stupid American.” Being flashy or showy in Nigerian social gatherings is an invitation for pickpockets and unscrupulous persons to follow you home and pay you a surprised visit later at an uncomfortable hour usually in the middle of the night.
Thieves are often interested in discovering the extent of your flashing or stuffs (that might be glistering, filtering, and glittering) in order to dispossess you of your flashers. If you are travelling within Nigeria, it is wise to use modest means of transportation usually a big public transit, not flashy American-spec vehicles nor the speedy small 504 vehicles that would kill you instantly in an accident. If you are a Nigerian lover of women, watch out for girls whose boyfriends could bushwhack/ waylay/ambush you then put a bullet into your stupid head. That would put your oke mkpi (he goat) sex drive permanently out of operation.
Blend In as much as possible within Nigerian society like a chameleon, getting into the local dress codes and social behavior with sandals, dashiki, trousers, etc . Be a regular Nigerian and do not stand out as a foreigner. Stop big grammar. Speak pidgin or local dialect like an uneducated truck pusher or okada rider. Be an enigma, a person that is not fully understood, but surrounded by mystery, riddle, or puzzle.
Avoid being too loquacious. A typical Diaspora Nigerian robbery target is wordy, long-winded, effusive, garrulous, rambling, or simply a talkative boaster Control too much talking; be a man of a few words. Speak the local dialect with its pidgin and broken verbs, the usual Nigerian bullshit. One who wants to stay alive and avoid being a victim for kidnappers, is taciturn, reticent, reserved, aloof, distant, introverted, or simply quiet.
Avoid ostentatious parade of your physical attributes, educational attainment, or money. Not everyone loves your success. Steer clear of lavish parties that attract the attention of kidnappers and killers. There should be no spreading of green American dollars or dirty Nigerian naira at funerals, churches, dance parties, or so-called important occasions.
Avoid accepting invitations to be at the head tables reserved for the “big men” whom locals expect to give the fattest “dash “ consisting of a thick envelopes containing dirty Naira or ebenebe (wonderful ) green Dollar bills. You are a simple fool if you are in the habit of going to the black markets with friends to exchange 1,000 U S dollars into 200,000 Naira and walk around with a noticeable money sack. You are a bigger fool if you think that kidnappers have not marked you down as an easy target.
Do not be ashamed to make a poor mouth when a cousin or aunt asks for a dash (money). Tell the person asking for money: “Oga, I no get-oo. My wife no get kobo-o. My pikins no kobo to eat food-o. I de starve- o.” Then squeeze your mouth tight to look like a starving idiot. Look ugly and angry and hungry to keep the beggars away. Nigerians often say: “A hungry man is an angry man.” Show you’re really having a hard time that only money can ease. Ask your relatives for dash or loans to keep them away even if you know they don’t have shishi (kobo). A. Okolo, PhD, knows how to deal with Naija relatives begging for money. He goes home every December and nobody bothers him. He dresses in short knickers and short sleeved shirts right from the airport. He is hefty and very black like ozodimgba (male gorilla).He says he drinks whisky until his eyes are red, and if any one looks askance at him or appears to ask for anything, Dr. Okolo throws hard punches and kicks awusa dombe. He has such a reputation people are scared to approach him.
Warn your wife against bragging about her nurse’s salary. Tell her: “Honey, please don’t parade your nurse’s uniform or display your collection of gold and diamond jewelry for envious neighbors because they could rob you.” Make sure both you and your spouse do not disclose in words or actions that you are very wealthy Americans or are loaded with dollars. Don’t promise to give loans. Instead ask people to loan you money because “things hard –o for una Naija.”
Avoid eating kola nuts and drinking palm wine, kai-kai or burukutu in public with friends if you don’t want to die from food poisoning. Avoid fraternizing excessively with younger/unemployed nephews who might bring armed robbers to your hide-out in the middle of the night. Avoid making promises of financial support to relatives that you know you cannot keep. Talking of money to homefolks is like waving the big red flag before the bull . Asking relatives to change American dollars to Naira in the black market is like throwing a bloody limb in front of the great shark. If you must give gifts, do so in Naira and in small amounts, not in dollars. Complain excessively when bringing our a Naira.
If you are building a house in the village, construct an accommodation with the specifications of Alcatraz or ADX Florence prison , built in Florence, Colorado as the most secure prison within the United States. Build your home like the maximum security prison in mind with heavy iron bars in every door and window; and double iron doors are between floors. The idea is to never give a kidnapper the opportunity to enter your house at any time.
Whenever possible, vary your sleeping arrangement. Stay at different places nightly; at moderately priced hotels in your town; in your relative’s house with adequate security bars; or at undisclosed bed-and-breakfast motels in a neighboring town. Whenever budget allows, hire off-duty armed policemen or off-duty soldiers to provide additional security. But remember hiring armed guards may be paid off by enemies to give out information about your whereabouts . Hiring armed guards may cost you anywhere between 20,000 Naira (100 dollars) to 200,000 Naira (1,000 dollars) for a few days. If you can afford it, do so.
These are short-term measures one can take to minimize the chances of being kidnapped or killed while vacationing in Nigeria. A long-time measure would include putting pressure on your State Governor and legislators to make the consequences of kidnappings as unpleasant as possible with the possibility of capital punishment as ultimate deterrent. The Nigerian Constitution ought to include the provision giving me the right to bear arms for personal protection and protection of others. Many people would rather be caught with a loaded gun than be caught empty- handed when kidnappers attack. The rates of Nigerian kidnappings would come down significantly when kidnappers found citizens had the right to carry open and concealed weapons for their protection.
James C. Agazie (JD, EdD, MS, MA, BA) completed his primary and secondary schools in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States for advanced degrees in mathematics, education and law. His teaching and counseling experiences have taken him to primary schools in Nigeria, Enugu IMT, several secondary schools and undergraduate and graduate universities in the United States. Dr.Agazie lives in and writes from Georgia, USA. Please check website www.chatafrik.com for some of his other essays.