The evolution of kidnapping in Nigeria has matured into varying forms that were hitherto uncommon. There are different types of kidnapping beside the one for ransom that is prevalent now. There are kidnappings for political reasons, for rituals, for religious reasons and of course the original type which is the kidnapping of children by a parent, because of custody issues.
BRIEF HISTORY OF KIDNAP IN NIGERIA
Before colonial Nigeria, kidnapping was a means of sourcing for slaves to be sold to foreigners. After the abolition of slave trade, kidnapping for rituals continued in many countries and regions in West Africa. Fetish and animist beliefs have allowed such practices especially in Nigeria.
In the recent past, political kidnapping was introduced by the Niger Delta militants, who targeted foreigners, especially Americans and the British, mainly to draw attention to their plight of environmental degradation, caused by oil and gas exploration and production. The hostages were usually kept for a week and released after a press conference, which will be broadcast by CNN and BBC. This trend continued and actually brought the desired publicity to the Niger Delta issue.
Kidnap for ransom in the Niger Delta started when an international oil company was not patient enough for negotiations to go through, went ahead to pay N300, 000 as ransom to release of their expatriates. The introduction of this large sum of money at that time, made the militants rethink the whole process of taking hostages and releasing them after achieving the publicity they desired. They also saw it as a means of financing their arms and ammunition purchase.
Kidnap for ransom proved very lucrative, as companies started paying large sums to get their men freed. When the international oil companies re-strategized and hardened the protection around expatriates and other company employees, the militants turned their attention on high net-worth Nigerian individuals.
The trend continued, until the federal government of Nigeria introduced the amnesty program. The militants surrendered their arms and ammunition and stopped the kidnappings. But it was too late. Kidnapping has given birth to copy cats, especially in the eastern states of Nigeria.
KIDNAP TRENDS IN NIGERIA
From the Bulwark Intelligence chart analysis, Road kidnaps have recorded the most incidents, this is because Kidnappers prefer to strike where security is weakest; in transit. Few kidnappers have the capability to breach security at work sites and residences, when resident kidnap occurs; it is likely the perpetrators had assistance from an insider.
In the South-South region, Mondays recorded the most kidnap incidents.
Tuesdays and Thursdays recorded the most kidnap incidents in South-West region.
In the North-West region, Fridays tend to be the most preferred day for kidnap incidents as more commuters travel for weekends breaks.
All types of kidnapping came into play. Kidnappers were busy carrying out virtual, express, and political kidnappings. High net worth individuals were also kidnapped, including relatives to these high net worth individuals.
Kidnapping became so rampant that Nigeria took its place as the third most likely country where an individual can be kidnapped, according to the Global Kidnapping Index. Foreign embassies and consulates were constantly issuing travel advisories on the no-go areas in the country.
Over 200 school girls were kidnapped by the Boko Haram insurgent group in the North-East of Nigeria. The uncle of the former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan was kidnapped. The mother of a top minister of the government was also kidnapped.
Some high profile cases were not reported and quietly settled. The low risk and high reward crime festered uncontrollably across the country. The security and law enforcement agents also were under pressure to re-strategize and find quick solution to the national menace.
But in a country of disparities, it is very difficult to bring such a crime under control.
WHY KIDNAPPING PERSISTS
The Nigerian economy has not been doing well due to corruption in high places. There is widespread unemployment, poverty, illiteracy, greed and politics; all anchored on low morality and corruption. Some people go hungry for two days, while others are busy embezzling public funds and living flamboyant lifestyles. The quest for money has become the daily preoccupation of the citizenry.
A woman was arrested when she arranged to get herself kidnapped in order for her husband to pay a ransom which she will collect and share with her accomplice. Just last week, the story of a Lagos chief (Baale) made the headlines, when security agents found out that the chief actually faked his kidnap. He colluded with his brother to report the case of his kidnap to the Police and asked the market in his area to close down, while he took off to hide in plain sight in Ibadan, about 100 kilometers away.
NEW HEIGHTS IN KIDNAPPING IN NIGERIA
The celebrated case of kidnap kingpin, Chukwudi Onuamadike a.k.a Evans revealed the super level that kidnapping has reached in Nigeria.
Evans collected ransom in US dollars, up to one million. Sometimes he keeps his hostages for months until they complete payment of the ransom. Interestingly, most of these cases were not reported to the law enforcement or security agents. This may be as a result of reports that his victims were involved in illicit businesses.
He introduced ingenuity and smartness into the “business” by using several cell phones with several SIM cards, to beat the tracking system of the security agents. However, he was caught and will soon have his day in court.
SOLUTION TO KIDNAP IN NIGERIA
How do we get out of this menace? Simple. Kidnap is a low risk high reward crime. The first thing to do is reverse that trend by making kidnap a high risk and low reward adventure. The criminal justice system must be made effective to arrest, prosecute and give stiff jail sentences.
This will serve as a deterrent to those thinking or planning an adventure in kidnapping. Secondly, there should be a government policy on non-payment of ransom; then empower the security agents with the necessary tools to fight kidnappers.
Otherwise, the present kids-gloves approach of the government will escalate this crime until we achieve the number one spot of kidnapping in the world.
Written by Bulwark Intelligence Senior Contributor:
Dennis Amachree, MON