Kidnapping in Nigeria remains a major security threat. We decided to conduct a kidnap threat analysis
based on incidents that were reported in the local media from January 2017, to September 2018.

• There will be a likely increase in kidnapping in October and November 2018
• Kaduna received the highest open source media reports, particularly in 2018. This is due to the
increased kidnap attacks along the highways and incessant kidnap incidents in Birnin Gwari LGA.
• Travelers transiting through Kaduna, Rivers, Kogi, Delta and Ondo, have a higher chance of being
abducted between the hours of 9am-2pm, or just at the start of dusk at 7pm.
• Kidnapping in Nigeria is a lucrative venture because Nigerians pay the ransom, and it persists because
criminals get away with it. The fundamental cause of kidnapping in Nigeria remains poverty. There is
an alarming increase in drug use among idle Nigerian youths introduces a new threat dimension to

Kidnap levels in Nigeria between 2017 and 2018 (up to the 3rd quarter) has remained relatively the same.
In 2017, June and July reported the most kidnap incidents. The same pattern was repeated in 2018 with
June and July also recording the highest cases.


Kidnapping in Nigeria is a lucrative venture because Nigerians pay the ransom. And quite frankly, you can’t blame them because securing the release of their loved ones is the priority. Pouring through the details of kidnap incidents reported in 2018 thus far, reveals some of some of the triggers, motivation,and reasons why kidnapping persists.

The overwhelming reason has to do with the fact that the criminals get away with it. There were multiple
examples of cases where the kidnappers arrive shooting sporadically to announce their arrival because
they know they are unchallenged and know they will not be met with any resistance. There were yet still
numerous kidnap incidents that occurred in broad daylight. Again they know there will be no police
presence and they can do whatever they want without any resistance from any of the government
security forces.

The fundamental cause of kidnapping in Nigeria remains poverty. An example was an incident which took place in Imo state, where a group of armed young men went to a mortuary, stole (or abducted) a corpse and demanded N5 million from the mortuary management for the body to be released. That case was probably a combination of poverty and likely intoxication.
There is an alarming increase in drug use among idle Nigerian youths. Just as the military frequently finds drugs in possession of Boko Haram terrorists up north, there are also several cases of drugs being found on kidnappers across the country. An example was an incident in Ondo state where a kidnapper had taken Tramadol prior to going for an operation. His gang planned to kidnap a pharmaceutical shop
owner. The victim raised an alarm and the kidnappers fled. However, this criminal under the influence of drugs, kept stumbling and was eventually caught. He was still passed out 6 days after the incident.


Groups involved in Kidnap for Ransom in Nigeria varied. They included miscreant unemployed youth,
professional crime syndicates, nomadic criminals/bandits, cult groups, and “known” individuals such as
relatives or employees, (this was mostly the case in the abduction of children).


In Niger state in July, a security guard abducted the child of his employer, while in Lagos in June, a waiter
abducted his boss’ grandson, and then demanded ransom. On both cases, the children willingly followed
the staff because they were familiar with the abductors.

Cult Groups

Cult groups frequently partake in kidnapping in Nigeria, especially in Akwa Ibom. February was a
particularly heated month for cult related kidnap in that state. A village head of Ikot Edet in Etim Ekpo
Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom was abducted from his palace. Reports indicated that he was likely targeted because he had been speaking out against the activities of cult groups on the area. Within the same community, a youth leader of Udianga Enem community in the Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State was abducted around 6am from his residence. He was targeted because he had been actively raising funds for security in the community.

Professional Syndicates

The persistent cases of abduction particularly in Northern Nigeria and in the Niger Delta revealed more
professional kidnapping syndicates. Below were some observed TTPs (trends, tactics and procedures).
Dress and Appearance.
A common dress code for kidnappers were military fatigues. In Bayelsa in June, gunmen in military
fatigues abducted the wife of a prominent retired oil worker. Also in Bayelsa in July, a politician was
abducted by gunmen dressed in military fatigues. In June in Ekiti, petrol station manager and his wife
were abducted by about 6 gunmen in military uniform; they demanded 15 million in ransom.

The Nigerian military probably needs to look into uniform redesigns. In addition, more should be done to reduce the ease of obtaining uniforms.

Shooting in the air

Persistent shooting in the air to announce their arrival and to scare off locals is a favored kidnapper
tactic. In July in Birnin Gwari, armed bandits intercepted Cement trucks and passenger vehicles, shooting sporadically, killing one and abducting a few others. The same tactic was used in the Bayelsa abduction of the retired oil company worker’s spouse.
The incident occurred around 11pm in Sambo-Ama, Twon-Brass community. The kidnappers shot
sporadically in the air for over 30 minutes before they abducted her and left. Again, the attack took place
at night, with all the noise and shooting, for 45 mins, there was no emergency law enforcement response.

It is important to note, that the kidnappers came in on a boat. So even if response came, would the
security response have been via water or air-borne, with night vision full motion video to trail the
criminals? It is important that the various states understand the threat unique to their environs and equip their local police commands to effectively tackle it.
In April, a Sawmill operator was abducted from his office in Asaboro Waterside in Sapele, Sapele Local
Government Area of Delta State. The kidnappers came round 12 noon on speedboats, went straight for
their target and left. They shot sporadically as they left and despite the sporadic shooting in broad
daylight, there was no immediate response from Security forces.

Ransom amount

The ransom amount demanded by the abductors is also an indication of the whether or not the
abduction is being perpetrated by seasoned professionals or not. More amateur kidnappers demand
ransom in the hundreds of thousands. The more professional syndicates demand in the millions. The
average ransom request seen this year was approximately N15 million.

Payment of ransom is usually not reported publicly, but there are many indicators that reveal ransom is frequently paid. This then presents a unique opportunity for law enforcement to track down kidnappers through electronic signals used in tracking/tracing the dropped off hard currency. Other global anti money laundering tactics can be applied to follow the money trail.


We noted an interesting kidnap tactic that was used in Zamfara and Kaduna, where the kidnappers would release one of the abducted victims with a phone or phone number to be used to establish
communication for ransom negotiation.
In January, in Zamfara, two children of a Zamfara politician were kidnapped. The gunmen came on
motorcycles, around 1am, shooting sporadically in the air. They went straight to the target’s house, took
the two offspring, then later released one of the children with a phone number with which the abductors
were going to maintain contact.
In May, there was an abduction in Kaduna in a village in Birnin -Gwari. They attacked around 2am and
went straight to an Alajih’s house and abducted three of his wives. They then released one with a phone
to give her husband for further communication.

The use of biometric forensic analysis on such devices could help in identifying the identities of the kidnappers. Again, another case for the importance of maintaining biometric databases. Also, having quick intervention and cooperation with the Telecoms companies, to track the origin and destination of communications is vital.

It is possible it could be the same group that utilized this tactic. One key pattern of theirs is they take the
time out recce and scout out their targets in advance. This will explain why they know exactly where to
go during the dark hours.


When analyzing the target profile, there was a pitiful exposure of numerous child abduction cases, with
incessant reports of such in July 2018.
• There was an abduction of children in Bayelsa. They were lured using sweets, while being
watched by their older sibling of 11yrs old.
• There was another abduction of a child by the security guard in Niger state. The child willingly
followed the known security guard.
• There was yet another child abduction in Anambra as a 3 year old disappeared while at a
function with her mother. The Anambra police actually noted that there have been multiple
abduction of children within the state.
• And yet another child abduction in Rivers state where a man used a toy to lure and abduct a 4
year old while his family was attending a function around 12 noon
• There was an abduction of a 4 year old from a Lagos Church luring the child with N50. Others saw
and raised an alarm. He was apprehended
• A 6 year old in Delta disappeared. He never showed up to be picked up by his school bus.
• In Anambra, two children were abducted from school in Amawbia Akwa South LGA.

There was an abduction from a university in Akwa Ibom. About 8 armed men stormed the female hostel
of the school at approx. 2.30 am and abducted 3 female students. The university has no fences, and the
security guards were unarmed and therefore in no position to protect the students against armed
criminals. Due to the location of the incident, it was likely carried out by a cult group. No word of ransom
demands, meaning these girls are likely being abducted for sexual exploitation, retaliatory attack or
It was interesting that this incident like many other school abduction cases in other parts of the country
didn’t garner news coverage because it wasn’t up to 200 children who were taken at once. Or because it
didn’t involve an internationally known terrorist group.

Other Targets
University lecturers, Clerics/ Clergy Men, politicians, and their family members also appeared to be
preferred abduction targets. There were quite a number of cases of Priests getting abducted in Delta,
Enugu, Kogi, Abuja, Edo, Kaduna and Akwa Ibom. Clergymen are a major target down south most likely
because it can be lucrative to take them as the congregation puts money together for their ransom.


Birnin Gwari came out as the top kidnap Local Government Area in Nigeria. Locals say the attackers are
using corridors of Kamuku forest and Kuyambana forest in Zamfara State to terrorize farming
communities in Birnin-Gwari local government territories. There are also suppositions that the influx of
bandits who are being chased from Zamfara State by the military are the ones who are migrating to the
Birnin Gwari area to perpetrate crime.

Most incidents reported in Birnin Gwari occurred while the victims were in transit. While over 66% incidents occurred in broad daylight.

Some noted TTPs included the carting away of cattle used for animal traction by the villagers in their
farms. Similar tactic to what Boko Haram does in the North East. It is common with groups living in the
outskirts who need livestock to survive in the wild. There are also frequent abduction of females possibly
for sexual purposes.


• There is likely to be an increase in kidnapping in October and November this year for two
• First, it’s the typical spike prior to the holiday season where the criminals also need extra funds
to celebrate the end of the year activities.
• Second, it is also election season which frequently ushers in increased crimes including
abductions, assassinations, homicides, riots, traffic robberies and more.
• Kaduna, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Zamfara Kogi, Delta, Ondo and Katsina will likely record the most
kidnap incidents the fourth quarter of this year.
• Travelers transiting through Kaduna, Rivers, Kogi, Delta and Ondo, have a higher chance of being
abducted between the hours of 9am-2pm, or just at the start of dusk at 7pm.


• The fundamental cause of kidnapping in Nigeria remains poverty and lack of adequate police
presence in many local communities. There is an alarming increase in drug use among idle
Nigerian youths. This likely encourages young jobless Nigerian youths to engage in crime.
Tackling these issues will be a first step in curbing the kidnap epidemic in Nigeria.
• Cult groups and other kidnap syndicates like typical insurgent groups run effective HUMINT
operations where they have information gathering units within the communities, feeding back
information that directs their target operations. The local police must begin to engage in such
proactive intel operations in the form of constant vigilance, which will lead to preventing kidnap
cases before they even occur.
• The Nigerian military probably needs to look into uniform redesigns as well as minimizing the
ease of obtaining uniforms.
• There is the need for a three-digit emergency phone number that residents can call the minute a
criminal operation is imminent or ongoing, including when they hear sporadic shooting in the air.
If the kidnappers know police response will be there within minutes and that they will be caught,
they will be deterred from their nefarious act.
• Nigerian police in Kidnap prone areas need to have a robust emergency response squad. These
have to be tailored to the specific needs of the communities. For example, state with water ways
need maritime or aerial rapid response units. While locations where kidnappers have been
known to utilize motorcycles, need rapid motorcycle response units.