The rate at which kidnappings occur in Nigeria is becoming something of a national embarrassment. No day passes without the sad news of persons kidnapped in gruesome circumstances. Today, anybody, including students and children, considered worthy of attracting a ransom is a potential victim. Kidnapping has kept the giant of African in a state of dilemma. Nigeria, a land where people see bad behaviour as means of making huge money has taken to kidnapping as a means of getting wealth. Kidnapping is a global and historic issue in Federal Republic of Nigeria, and other parts of the world, and good governments are doing as much as they can to ensure that this great problem is put to an end. Before writing further on the topic, kidnapping will be defined. Kidnapping according Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is abducting and holding anybody captive, typically to obtain ransom. Though the definition given by the dictionary is to obtain ransom, some modern day kidnapping have gone beyond that. Some people kidnap these days for the achievement of their evil motives like rituals and terrorism related kidnappings. In terms of ritual kidnapping the kidnappers are not ready to accept any material or monetary gain from anybody.
The rate of kidnapping in Nigeria has risen considerably in the past few years and it has become quite alarming. People are being kidnapped on a daily basis in the country thus making kidnapping more or less a fast-growing crime. With the statistical belief that one out of every 5 Africans is a Nigerian, it may not be wrong to say with her population and the increase in the wave of kidnapping, Nigeria has more potential kidnap victims than most of her West African neighbours. In the past, the rich in Nigeria feel happy for the accumulation of wealth which makes them to move freely in the society. In the present time, the rich people are highly afraid to move freely without being assisted by security men because of the fear of kidnappers. Today in the country, the poor, the rich, young and old people are facing their individual challenges as they are all seen as potential victims depending on the motive of the kidnappers. In some cases, people stage their own kidnapping, where they have colluded with kidnappers to abduct them and when they have been paid a certain amount of money; they will share it with the supposed kidnappers.
In recent years, attention has turned to this issue in this part of Africa which is mostly carried out by Boko Haram. Both national and international bodies are coming together to see if the incidence can be reduced, and a lot of countries have pledged their support. Facts and figures show that the kidnapping frequency in the country is high. The causes of kidnapping are many, such as unemployment, corruption, greed, poverty, illiteracy, politics, religious cause and the widening gap between the rich and the poor is also one of the major cause. The gap keeps widening day by day and the average youth has difficulties in seeing legitimate means of earning a decent living. Lots of unemployed youths have taken up kidnapping as a profession since they see it as a money-generating tool. Unemployment which happens to be one of the greatest problems facing this country drives young and able men and even women to engage in such evil business. The most worrisome of it all is that some of the victims of kidnapping die in the custody of their kidnappers. This is due to the fact that they are usually locked up with little or no attention paid to their physical needs or hygiene. It would also be noticed that treatments meted out to victims vary. Some of the kidnappers are harsh and hostile while some are not but usually kind. Some can even go as far as raping their female victims, leaving them bruise, with a stigma that will linger on for the rest of their lives if they ever come out of the kidnappers den alive. Some of the victims have to cope with post-kidnap trauma even years after being released.
The fact that most kidnappers don’t get prosecuted has also given impetus to more people to join the trade. Sadly, there seems to be no end in sight to the scourge that rakes in hundreds of billions Naira in illegally acquired wealth. Many lives have also been lost in the hands of kidnappers. Nigeria was listed as the 6th worst country in terms of kidnapping, a situation that has made some countries issue constant travel warnings to their citizens about Nigeria. Findings have revealed that while high profile cases get wide-ranging media attention, a lot of kidnapping incidents are resolved without publicity. Many people prefer to quietly pay the demanded ransom quietly and just move on as soon as the release of the victim is secured. According to a report by Street Journal has found out that in their demands for ransom, kidnappers usually capitalize on the victim’s family.
Some recorded cases of kidnapping in the country.
One of the biggest kidnapping cases that have drawn both local and international outcry and condemnation is that of the one perpetrated by the daring terrorist Boko Haram. On April 14 2014, dozens of heavily armed Boko Haram insurgents stormed a government-run boarding secondary school in the town of Chibok in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, abducting scores of schoolgirls from their dormitories. It was reported that about 276 female students were abducted. Some have been recused from their abductors but the others are yet to be reunited with their family.
On November 13 2016, the Human Resources Manager of Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Istifanus Bello Gurama was abducted and killed after he went to pay ransom for five workers of Dangote Company that were kidnapped. The kidnappers killed him after they discovered Gurama came with just N5.6 million, instead of the N100m ransom they had demanded.
On November 26, 2016 a female lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, Christie Agbulu was kidnapped. It was reported that she was kidnapped as soon as she arrived the state and her abductors used her phone to demand the sum of #150,000 as ransom. But after some days security operatives found a decomposing corpse which was said to be that of Miss Agbulu and was handed over to her family for proper burial.
Damilola Rofiat was a 400 level student of Osun State University. She was kidnapped on the 22nd December, 2016 by a taxi driver whom she boarded his vehicle from the Ipeju-Ijesa campus of the university. The driver was later apprehended by the police, who confessed to kidnapping Rofiat by using a charm to hypnotize her. She was later found death in a bush.
At about 9.30pm local time, on 13th January, 2017 at the premises of the Nigerian Tulip International Colleages (NTIC) Ogun State, a group of people armed with dangerous weapons gained entrance to the girls’ section through different means and kidnapped three female supervisors, a female cook, a female teacher (Turkish) and three students.
On the 27th January, 2017, three friends, two females and a male were kidnapped in Wuse 2, Abuja. It was gathered that they went to buy ice cream and cake in celebration of one of the lady who added a year to her years. It was also reported that their abductors later contacted their family to pay the sum of $300,000 as ransom.
Having identified some of the root causes of rampant kidnapping in the land, what are the ways out of this scourge, which is fast becoming a national problem?
First, government should be alive to its responsibilities to the citizenry. Section 14 sub-section 2b of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, states that: “It is hereby, accordingly, declared that: the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Therefore, where the state fails in this basic responsibility of catering for the security and welfare of its citizenry, there is trouble.
The federal government should also try and eradicate the high level of poverty in the country, which is making many able youths to engage in crimes. This will go a long way in engaging the teeming youth in gainful enterprise and by so doing, they will shun crimes. The popular saying that an idle hand is the devil’s tool becomes apt here.
Political leaders should shun corrupt practices and avoid embezzling public funds put in their care. Rather, they should map out strategies to ensure better lives for all. This will drastically reduce the challenges of kidnapping.
There is also the need to amend state and federal laws as they deal with issues of kidnapping. Putting in place stringent laws that adequately punish kidnapping offences will serve as deterrent to those who might want to be involved in the crime. An example is in Lagos State, it would be noted that Governor Ambode recently signed a law stating death penalty for kidnappers whose victims died in their custody, while it will be life imprisonment for those that freed their victims after getting paid.
Government should also ensure that security forces, especially the police, are given adequate training and equipment to combat the menace. And any security operatives found guilty of working with kidnappers for his or her selfish reasons should be given the appropriate punishment.
There is also the need to provide adequate sensitization drive by government. The people should be educated on the stringent punishment that awaits anyone found culpable of kidnapping through the various available media. Social infrastructure such as good road networks, potable water, stable power supply, free education and comprehensive healthcare delivery should also be provided for the citizenry. These will go a long way in curbing the menace and reducing it to the barest minimum.
In conclusion, no government worthy of its name should fold its arms without doing anything to curb such national malaise. Therefore, this should serve as a call to the government to brace up to securing lives and property in the country, as no one is immune to kidnapping.
By: Pupwaya Timothy Dibal