Kidnapping is generally a global security challenge just like other crimes such as theft, murder, fraud, etc. According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, “Kidnapping is the crime of taking somebody away illegally and keeping them as a prisoner, especially in order to get money or something else for returning them”.
Although kidnapping is a crime that occurs worldwide as stated earlier, Nigeria is seeing a wave of kidnapping that is cutting across every socioeconomic class. In the past, there were cases of Niger Delta militants kidnapping foreign oil workers mainly in protest against the way the region had been exploited and neglected in the course of drilling oil from the land.
There however have been other cases of kidnapping which involves abducting people on the highway or even going as far as to the victims’ houses to abduct them, even at places of worship and in schools ranging from primary to our universities. Although it has been a regular trend in Nigeria for decades, the events of the past few years have been a cause for concern.
So, what could really be the cause or causes of this menace? They include, but are not limited to, the following;
The main purpose of kidnapping in Nigeria, just like in other countries, is usually for ransom. However, there are also politically motivated kidnappings and kidnapping for ritual intents amongst others. Most people that kidnap for ransom usually request for hug e sums of money from the individual or his/ her family members in exchange for getting freed. This is usually followed up with a threat of killing the victim following failure to comply. The victim at the end of the day has to empty his/ her bank accounts just to meet the request of these kidnappers. Sometimes it just comes down to negotiation as the victim might not have the amount of money that is being requested. The victims sometimes still get killed either way because he/ she either did not pay the ransom at all or did not pay completely, the kidnappers fear that releasing the victims could expose them or that the kidnappers are just plain wicked. Political motivated kidnappings are usually orchestrated by political opponents who have an axe to grind with the victims. Those who kidnap for rituals do so with the intent of getting rich quick or attaining certain supernatural goals.
Kidnapping has become a very lucrative business in Nigeria. Millions are carted off as ransom for abductees. Some people even orchestrate their own abduction so as to extort money from their loved ones. The industry is so large it has become syndicated and kingpins now call the shots. A good example was Chukwudi Onumadike popularly known as Evans. He was called “the billionaire kidnapper” and he was believed to be one of the richest criminals in Nigeria. He was wanted in three states – Lagos, Edo and Anambra. He ran a syndicate and he allegedly had ties with politicians. He was finally arrested in 2017 and he has been on trial ever since. The likes of Evans continue to thrive in Nigeria because of the lack of security in the country and the high levels of corruption.
In whatever form, kidnapping has become a major menace in the society and it has reached an alarming rate that we can no longer ignore. Kaduna, Sokoto, Edo, Delta, etc. have all experienced the scourge of kidnapping in recent times. This nefarious act has led to various consequences such as;
Loss of lives – When the victim gets killed due to failure of the family and friends to comply with the directives of the kidnappers such as failure to meet the required amount of money demands or contacting security agents. In some cases, the kidnappers never had any intention to release the victim and as such they kill their victims regardless. Recall the EYN pastor who was abducted by Boko Haram and beheaded despite the fact that they were offered 50 million naira for his release. It could be argued though that they were not impressed with the amount as they had demanded for much more than that. Whatever their motives, the innocent man lost his life.
Loss of resources – The victim or the victim’s family and friends have to part with a lot of money just to secure their release. Those who cannot afford the ransom are thrown into debt and penury.
Depression – As long as the victim remains in captivity, there would be psychological imbalance, anxiety and depression, both for the victim and the family and friends.
Increase in crime – The success of current kidnappers only encourages others to engage in the act as it is proving lucrative and the perpetrators get away scot free.
One is forced to ask what roles the security agencies have played so far in curbing this menace. Their efforts, no matter how much have proven inadequate to nip kidnapping in the bud. In all fairness, the police have actually secured the release of some victims while in other cases the perpetrators are caught after they have murdered the victims. But despite that, a lot of cases have gone unresolved. There is little to no trust in the police for the protection of lives and properties. As such, people are more inclined to meet kidnappers demands rather than report to the police. Roadblocks and security checkpoints have been mounted on various highways, but that does not seem to deter the kidnappers.
At the end of the day, the buck stops with the government because no matter how careful we are we would always be at the mercy external forces. How do we secure ourselves when we travel? How do we secure ourselves while we run our day to day activities? The government needs to change its strategy so as to eradicate the blight of kidnapping.