A Nigerian Senator Onyewuchi has sponsored a bill to criminalize ransom payment to kidnappers. His reason is that kidnapping has become very lucrative. A recent report estimated that about $18.3 million was paid as ransom between 2011 and 2020.

         Senator Ezenwa Onyewuchi

The Senator believes that continuous payment of ransom keeps enticing unemployed or rouge Nigerian youths to consider kidnap for ransom as a legitimate form of business.

The senator is right in that the kidnapping situation in Nigeria has gotten significantly worse. This issue affects all states across Nigeria and our reports show that North West and North Central Nigeria have been the hardest hit in recent times.

A Risk Consultancy report in November, 2019, stated that Nigeria has the highest rate of kidnap for ransom of both locals and foreigners in all of Africa.

Bulwark Intelligence Statistics of kidnap victims with an emphasis on 2021

But I think what the senator has conveniently forgotten to address is the fact that the Nigerian security architecture is currently unable to put an end to, or effectively tackle the kidnap threat.

It is clear the Senator has not had a loved one kidnapped. If he has, he will understand that in Nigeria, authorities quietly advise the victims’ stakeholders to pay the ransom to ensure the safe release of their loved one. If the police do know where the kidnappers are, they prefer to swoop in after the victims have been released, to limit the fatality risk to the victims.

There are several flaws with the Senator’s reasoning in introducing this bill. He stated that in countries like the U.S and the U.K ransom payment is not supported; and he went ahead to cite the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 and the U.S’s strict no-concessions policy on the payment of ransom.

What the Senator has neglected to consider is that these countries have robust security and emergency response architecture to prevent kidnapping in the first place. Victims in the countries the Senator cited, get overwhelming support from the government in the event of a kidnap.

The U.S government for example, have an elite team of highly trained special forces men that will swoop in and conduct a rescue operation – anywhere in the world – which is often fatal for the kidnappers and almost always guarantees the safe return of the victim.

In Nigeria on the other hand, the victim’s families are often left to sort themselves out. And I don’t know of anyone who will not acquiesce to the orders of a gunman, when the gun is pointed to their head, if they know obedience will save their lives.

The Senator needs to understand that certain kill/capture of kidnap perpetrators is a stronger deterrence of kidnap for ransom, not punishing loved ones for paying the ransom to rescue the victim.

Either way, I know the average Nigerian is not worried about this bill, because like many other laws in the land (including the law against kidnapping), I doubt it will be effectively enforced.


Tanwa Ashiru

Tanwa Ashiru is the founder of Bulwark Intelligence and is a U.S Air Force veteran with over 12 years of experience in All-Source Intelligence and counter improvised explosive device (CIED) Analysis. She has a Masters of Arts in Intelligence Analysis with American Military University and has been involved in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in support of Multi-National Forces in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa.

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