A manual emanating from the Department of State Security Services, DSS, which provides tips against kidnapping for Very Important Personalities, VIPs, is generating controversy among Nigerians.
Concerns are being raised as to why the DSS chose to produce the manual to serve the interest of VIPs, instead of ordinary Nigerians, who are more vulnerable to kidnapping in the country.
The manual is coming at a time when many Nigerians have either lost their lives or valuables, to pay ransoms to kidnappers in different parts of the country.
A copy of the handbook titled: ‘Kidnapping, why me and my family’, was conveyed to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, through a letter dated January 17, 2020, and acknowledged on January 20, 2020.
Similar copies of the handbook were also said to have been sent to top government functionaries, including Heads of Government Agencies, Departments, Boards and Parastatals.
Titled: ‘Forwarding of kidnapping handbook’, the letter signed by Ahmed Salisu, on behalf of the Director-General of the DSS, partly reads: “Following in-depth assessment of kidnapping trend across the States of the Federation in recent years, and the seeming lack of awareness of basic preventive tips and guidelines among the populace, the Service as part of its proactive measure against the crime, has produced a handbook aimed at sensitizing Very Important Personalities (VIPs)…”
The introductory note to the manual reads: “Given the pecuniary motive driving kidnapping activities, the affluent in the society become easy targets of attack. However, with the appropriate application of relevant security tips and guidelines, the vulnerability of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) to attacks can be reduced to its barest minimum. This handbook is therefore, designed to specifically acquaint VIPs of important tips that would enhance their personal security and that of their family members.”
A scrutiny of the 19-page handbook showed that it provides the VIPs with kidnapping preventive tips and guidelines under different subtitles.
A tip under the subtitle: ‘Why you and your household may be targets of kidnapping’, reads: “The following if not well managed could expose you to dangers of kidnapping: Your appearance and disposition; your level of popularity; occupying sensitive and important positions in the society; raving flippant and unguided aides; engaging inadequately vetted household employees; inordinate business transactions involving one’s bank accounts without adequate knowledge about intentions; entrusting confidential and personal matters into others; inappropriate disclosure of one’s itinerary, and living a flamboyant lifestyle and inappropriate display of wealth.”
Another tip, which talks about self-awareness, said: “Recognize your self-worth; assess the threat level of your environment, and the perception of others about you in any given location.
“Your Security Aides are there to secure you and your household. They are also to educate you and your household, on security-related issues. Ensure you obtain intelligence relating to the security situation of places you intend visiting for public functions or personal purposes.
“Be humble enough to see things from your Security Aide’s perspective, when you are advised not to visit an area. Your Aides are your buffer against danger, take care of them. Vigilance keeps you at alert when others are not. It entails being conscious of every activity/happening around you and your family…”
Other kidnapping preventive tips for the VIPs as contained in the handbook, advised VIPs on the need for installation of Close Circuit Television Cameras, CCTV, maintaining a moderate lifestyle, avoiding phone calls that discuss financial issues in the public, among others.
A cross-section of Nigerians have expressed dismay and surprise at the issuance of the kidnapping manual for VIPs, wondering why the DSS failed to direct it to ordinary citizens, who are most vulnerable to the crime.
“We sold our farm to secure the release of our eldest brother from the hands of kidnappers”, said Aisha Isa, a School Teacher, in Katsina.
“And our case is not an exception, many families lost their sources of livelihood, because they have to sell everything they have, in order to secure the release of their loved ones. In some instances, the kidnappers kill their victims, even when the ransom was paid”, she said.
“I would not have been kidnapped, if I had access to the advisory”, said a kidnap victim who does not want his name in print.
“I am a Businessman, and had to pay a lot of money to secure my release. I passed through psychological trauma, and my family was also rattled during my days in captivity. Despite assurances by the Security Agencies, it was the money we paid that my freedom was secured”, he said.
“I want to suggest that the Federal Government and the Security Agencies should give equal preferences to the safety of the citizens, irrespective of status in the society. This is the only way we can secure the country”, he added.
The Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, stated that such handbook and other preventive and safety measures, should have been for ordinary citizens who are the most vulnerable.
Itodo said: “I am surprised that only the VIPs were entitled to the memo, when ordinary citizens are the worst hit by kidnapping. Check the statistics, the masses are the most vulnerable, because they do not have the luxury of bodyguards and convoys to protect them.”
On her part, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Idayat Hassan, said that the development is unfair and selective.
She stated: “It is not just unfair, it is also unprofessional and selective action by the DSS, whose main duties are to protect the internal security of all Nigerians. Such action is suggesting that they serve only a few elite groups and the security of Nigerians is not a priority.”
Also, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, CHRICED, Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, maintained that the handbook should have been released to the Nigerian public.
“I agree absolutely that the handbook should have been made available to the public, whose taxes and sweat the so-called VIPs are managing. The DSS and other Security Agencies are created to secure the lives and properties of Nigerian citizens, and not for the privileged few”, Zikirullahi said.
Similarly, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, told Daily Trust that it is surprising that such important information was being given to select individuals.
“One would have expected that this should be a public document to protect the citizens from kidnapping and other crimes. One expects the DSS, through its Public Affairs Unit or Department, to publicize this security handbook. Limiting it to individuals and some top government Officials is unfair, especially that this was done with public resources.
“So, the DSS should work with the National Orientation Agency, NOA, to amplify this and other safety and security measures. The agency, DSS, should also work with the Police in this regard”, Rafsanjani said.
Also speaking, Jaye Gaskia, the Executive Director, Praxis Centre and Convener, Take Back Nigeria Movement, TBNM, said: “Given the endemic nature of insecurity in general, and kidnapping in particular, any security advisory aimed at stemming the tide, ought to have been made public and productively disseminated.
“What the DSS has done in these instance smacks of selective protection for citizens, and is the latest indication of the phenomenon, as well as a tragic consequence of elite capture, privatisation, and personalisation of the State.”
Responding to the allegation of selective distribution, the DSS however, stated that the handbook is not exclusive. The Spokesman of the Service, Peter Afunanya, disclosed that the Service conducts regular public awareness on security issues, and engages specific Stakeholders on security tips.
He stated that only recently, the Service conducted a Lecture in the newsroom of a popular online Media, educating Journalists on security tips.
He added that the Service is engaging Traditional Rulers, Government Agencies, Trade Unions, and all Stakeholders in society, on safety measures to avoid kidnapping and other instances of insecurity.
“If the DSS creates a handbook for VIPs, it does not exclude others in society”, Afunanya said.