Key tracking equipment deployed by the police to go after kidnappers, bandits and terrorists has remained inactive since the beginning of the year amid raging violent crimes across the country.
Multiple reliable sources, who confided in Sunday PUNCH, attributed the downtime to non-subscription and failure to engage the relevant company to carry out system upgrade, among other challenges.
At least 2,943 people in Nigeria have been abducted across the country in the last six months since the critical tracking technology was down.
Experts have noted that the use of mobile devices by kidnappers to negotiate ransoms makes it possible for law enforcement agencies to determine the movements of the cell phone owners.
Even if users have their location services, cellular data and Wi-Fi disabled, tracking system enables law enforcement agencies to have access to the technology that can determine the location of a mobile device at a specified time.
Senior police officers, including two commissioners of police who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said the platforms used in tracking phones had been bad since January.
They said in certain cases that were of national interest, the police had to rely on the Office of the National Security Adviser in tracking bandits.
One of the commissioners of police, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the condition of anonymity, said the equipment was handed over to the police by the Nigerian government a few years ago during the tenure of IGP Solomon Arase and was installed by a Nigerian company.
“The equipment was given to us by President Buhari. The thing has not been working because those who are supposed to ensure that it runs well have not played their part.
“They claim that they are being owed money for the subscription.” he said.
When asked to explain how the subscription works, the CP said the police had not paid the fees since 2015 and the police had had to rely on the DSS.
He added, “From what I gathered, subscription fees are meant to be paid yearly but you won’t believe that the police have not paid since 2015. Initially, the company gave us a grace period but they have now cut off the police completely. We now rely solely on DSS and NSA office. It’s a terrible situation and it has worsened the insecurity in the country. The Police Trust Fund promised to help but we have not seen any action yet.”
Another police commissioner confirmed the development but said efforts were being made to restore the equipment.
The police commissioner added that the platform was undergoing a system upgrade which would soon be completed.
He added, “You know this thing is technology just like computer so we do upgrades from time to time. A lot of people on the field don’t even understand how it works. It is undergoing an upgrade because you have new features coming in from time to time. There are new technologies that you have to update to enhance their capacity.
“We have some new equipment which we need to adjust so they can link together. Some are still working. It is not as if all components are shut. That is what is happening.”
Efforts to speak with the Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls nor a text message on Friday.
Amid the prolonged police tracking system glitches, at least 2, 943 people in Nigeria have been abducted across the country in the last six months even as the police platform used in tracking phones has shut down, making it difficult for the police to track bandits, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
Sunday PUNCH also reports that at least 348 students are still in captivity including the 121 students of Bethel Baptist School, Kaduna.
The figure on the abductions is based on data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project of the Council on Foreign Relations, an American think tank, and edited by a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell. Some of the data was also verified by this newspaper through a manual tally of media reports from several newspapers in the last six months
The NST tracks violence in Nigeria through data based on weekly surveys of Nigerian and international media and only records cases that have officially been reported.
Of all the states that are mostly affected, only the Kaduna State Government has been releasing a quarterly report on abductions and had stated that between January and March alone, 949 persons were kidnapped in the state.
Sunday PUNCH observed that of about 3,000 people abducted this year, not less than 800 are students. The figure doesn’t include the 344 schoolchildren of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, and 80 pupils of Islamiyya School, Mahuta, both in Katsina State in December 2020.
Some of the notable mass school kidnappings of 2021 include the abduction of 279 schoolgirls of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State on February 26; the kidnapping of 136 pupils of Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School, Tegina, Niger State on May 30; the abduction of 94 students of Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, Kebbi State on June 17 and the latest abduction of 140 pupils of Bethel Baptist School, Kaduna, out of which 19 escaped.
About 39 students at the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna were kidnapped on March 11 while 23 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna were also taken on April 20.
According to the NST, between January and June 2021, the North-West had the highest number of abductions with 1, 405 cases reported. The North-Central witnessed 942 kidnappings while the North-East had 210. The South-South witnessed 140 cases of abductions while the South-West and the South-East recorded 169 and 77 respectively.
The local governments with the highest number of abductions were Rafi in Niger State (443), Talata Marafa in Zamfara State (317) and Shiroro in Niger State (225). Maru in Zamfara State recorded 195 abductions while Kajuru in Kaduna State witnessed 145 kidnappings within the period.
According to NST, Niger State had the highest number of abductions at 795 followed by Zamfara State which witnessed 523 kidnappings. Kaduna had the third-highest number of abductions at 479 while Katsina recorded 289. Borno and Kebbi states recorded 115 and 103 cases respectively while Oyo had 63.
According to the data, the month of June recorded the highest number of abductions at 1, 344 followed by February which had 709 cases.