Following the abduction of six sisters and their father in the Bwari area council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), along with the tragic killing of one of them, Dr Isa Pantami, former minister of communications and digital economy, has disclosed that a friend has volunteered to contribute the remaining N50 million out of the initial N60 million demanded by the bandits,leadership report.
Despite Pantami’s stance against paying ransom to criminals, he explained on his social media handle that he resorted to soliciting for the ransom after the kidnappers killed one of the sisters. Pantami also criticized security agencies for not effectively tracking calls and digital imprints of kidnappers after the synchronization of Subscriber Identification Modules (SIMs) with National Identification Numbers (NINs) in 2022, an initiative carried out during his tenure as minister.
While Pantami’s claim coincided with the police stating their efforts to rescue the victims, the kidnapping incident and subsequent killing of one sister, Nabeeha, highlight an alarming trend of such acts in Abuja. Conflicting reports suggest over 15 persons have been kidnapped in the FCT in 2024, contributing to nearly 50 kidnap cases involving over 200 individuals in the last three years.
The surge in kidnappings has resulted in significant economic losses, with a reported payment of N653.7 million in ransom between 2021 and 2022. Despite security agencies discouraging ransom payments, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill in 2022 imposing jail terms for paying a ransom to free kidnap victims.
Pantami’s decision to seek ransom drew criticism on social media, with some accusing him of not acting appropriately. Responding to questions about his NIN-SIM policy, Pantami stressed that the policy has been effective, but its utilization by relevant institutions is essential. He expressed frustration over the lack of implementation despite threats to his life during the policy’s reintroduction.
In December 2020, Pantami directed the linking of subscribers’ SIM cards to their NINs, with the aim of enhancing national security. However, the increase in kidnapping incidents has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the SIM-NIN synchronization. The acting director of Defence Information and the director of defence media operations did not provide specific responses to Pantami’s claims.
Meanwhile, the Force PRO, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, assured that the Nigeria Police Force had initiated a comprehensive plan to address the abduction and prevent further occurrences. Adejobi emphasized the need for discretion to avoid compromising ongoing operations and encouraged open communication to provide support to affected families.