The spate of hostage taking in Nigeria has shot the country into the number four position in global ranking, according to the American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

Although the Bureau did not disclose the three countries ahead of Nigeria in the ranking, it explained that the cases of hostage taking across the world have been under-reported.Hostage taking in Nigeria assumed a frightening dimension in the wake of the militancy in the Niger Delta, leading to incessant kidnapping of expatriates working with oil firms and affluent Nigerians or their relations.

Commercial hostage takers kidnapping people later emerged and the scourge spread to the south-east.

An FBI agent, Ms Jennifer Dent, who disclosed the ranking of Nigeria as number four in the world in hostage taking in Lagos, also identified Nigeria as the greatest threat to cyber security in Africa.

Speaking at a lecture organized by the Hubert H Humbert Fellowship Program Alumni Annual lecture at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), she shared the story of how her experiences in Nigeria has been quite unlike any other, having worked in nine different African countries including Rwanda. Posted to Nigeria in 2009, Dent recalled how her first Christmas vacation in the United States was rudely interrupted by a call with the unexpected news: A Nigerian youth, Farouk Abdulmutallab, had just attempted to detonate an explosive on board a Detroit, USA bound aircraft on Christmas day.

The FBI agent said the experience of the September 11, 2001 bombings of the World Trade Center in New York had people blaming the lack of cooperation of the various security agencies for the mishap. That consciousness, according to her, is therefore brought to bear upon the training provided to Nigerian security personnel by the FBI working in Nigeria. Fielding questions, Dent gave kudos to the EFCC, whom she said has been working tirelessly to improve Nigeria’s image.

Another United States Consulate official who spoke in a lecture entitled The Challenges of Law Enforcement in Nigeria: Taming the culture of Impunity, was its regional security officer, Brian Buchnam, whose previous international postings included Haiti, Iraq and Rwanda, where he worked with Dent. Bucknam also shared his experiences while working in the police in the United States, saying working in the police department of a major city is “nothing like the movies in Hollywood”. He concluded, however, that nothing prepared him for the “Al Qaeda in Lagos”.

According to him, many officers join the police force with great passion only to have it diminished fifteen years down the line due to frustration. Furthermore, he expressed faith in the Nigeria Police, and enjoined fresh entrants to “Join the police for a higher purpose”.

“We have a lot of power. We can arrest people, we can kill people if it is justified, therefore we have to remember that with great power comes great responsibility… Character is what you do when no one is looking. Let it mean something if you make an oath. Police is a direct reflection of the community”. He added that police in a modern society needs a lot of skills because their job requires them to wear a lot of hats in different situations, including those of a doctor and marriage counselor.

Also speaking at the seminar, Lagos State Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, who was representing the Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, used the opportunity to call for community policing as the solution to the Boko Haram and other terrorism trends, arguing that bringing police and other security personnel from other parts of the country to Lagos makes it difficult for the personnel to duly investigate criminal activity and enforce the law, being aliens in their new communities. Suggesting amendments to necessary policies in this regard, Ipaye submitted that trading blame is not the solution to rising insecurity and impunity. “We must identify problems and do all we can to solve them”, he said.

Other speakers at the lecture, chaired by Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, President of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, included the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terrence P McCulley; and Chief Judge of Lagos, Hon. Justice Inumidun Enitan Akande, represented by Hon. Justice Ope Sanwo.