Kidnapping is a global problem that countries all over the world have had to deal with. In Nigeria, it is some sort of a norm, a profitable business for kidnappers at the detriment of the kidnapped and their families. The governments say they are working hard to stop the norm, but rising insecurity issues in the country say otherwise.
From the rich to the poor, nobody is safe. If the Kaduna-Abuja train attack has taught us anything, it is that anyone can be kidnapped at any time. No one expects or wants it, but it happens. However, where there is a problem, there is always a solution. Kidnapping, like any other societal ill, has its solutions, which shall be discussed in this article.
What is kidnapping?
Britannica.com defines it as a criminal offense consisting of the unlawful taking and carrying away a person by force or fraud or the unlawful seizure and detention of a person against his will. The purpose of kidnapping varies – to force the kidnapped into an unwanted, mostly criminal service, to commit criminal acts on the person, and to demand ransom.
Causes of kidnapping
Poverty is usually the root cause of kidnapping. When a person is poor and hungry, he or she can be propelled to commit crimes to survive. They may think kidnapping is the only way to escape poverty. So they begin to target individuals capable of paying huge ransoms for their release.
Like poverty, unemployment leads one to see kidnapping as a more profitable way of making income. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. When people are not adequately employed, they turn to other means, usually criminal activities, to sustain themselves.
The get-rich-quick syndrome, especially among the youths, has increased the kidnapping rates in Nigeria. These people fancy the luxurious things of life and want them by all means, even when they cannot afford them. They want to drive the poshest cars, live in mansions, throw expensive parties, and travel abroad for holidays. This lifestyle is often unattainable for most people. So many turn to kidnap rich people and demand huge ransoms to afford the life they dream of.
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They say politics is a dirty game. Most times, it’s true. Politicians are known to sponsor the kidnapping of their rivals to win a political position. They employ thugs and other criminal elements in society to do their dirty jobs for them. Some kidnapped victims don’t survive the ordeal as they end up being assassinated, while others will disappear without a trace.
Religion plays a huge role in the kidnapping rates in most countries. In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgents, an Islamic terrorist organisation, have kidnapped many people in northern Nigeria. The Chibok girls and Dapchi schoolgirls are just a few out of numerous cases of kidnapping inspired by religion.
A country where corruption thrives is a hotbed of kidnapping. If a government is corrupt where officials embezzle public funds to enrich themselves instead of helping the masses, then the masses will turn to crime, ergo kidnapping, to survive. The funny thing is some of these greedy government officials end up becoming victims of kidnapping.
Kidnapping in Nigeria
Kidnapping is not new in Nigeria due to the corruption, insecurity, and economic woes the country is experiencing today. There is hunger in the land, a low level of education, lack of employment opportunities, the rising cost of food, etc. So, it’s every man for himself.
Many have turned to kidnapping as a means of survival. Some horrible rich individuals have capitalised on this phenomenon to line the pockets of criminals, particularly youths, to do their dirty jobs for them.
Kidnapping is also a result of religious intolerance. We all know the story of Boko Haram, an Islamic militant organisation terrorising the people of Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram has caused a lot of havoc in the country, such as bombings and killings, but the kidnapping cases have gained global attention. To this day, some Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in 2014 have not been released. Leah Sharibu, a Christian school girl from Dapchi, is still in Boko haram custody.
Also, a new sect of terrorists popularly known as bandits are terrorising the country. Unlike Boko Haram, who are mostly confined in the North, these Fulani Herdsmen known as bandits are all over the country, operating mostly in the rural areas where they destroy villages and communities and kidnap the residents. They also terrorise farmers in their farmlands which has affected agriculture in the country. Bandits are also on the roads and railways, waiting to attack trains, motorists, and passengers. The Kaduna-Abuja train attack is still very fresh in our minds.
These cases have drawn global attention. Countries like the United States, Cameroon, and Chad have joined the fight against kidnapping in Nigeria. International organisations like the United Nations, and Amnesty International, among others, have also joined the fight. It is now left to the Nigerian government to leverage their help to curb the menace of kidnapping in the country.
History of kidnapping in Nigeria
The history of kidnapping in Nigeria can be traced to the Niger Delta militants who were kidnapping expatriate workers to draw attention to the plight of the indigenes of the Niger Delta region. The Niger Delta region is an oil-rich region from which most of the country’s GDP is generated. However, the oil exploration in the region became more of a curse for the people rather than a blessing. There was oil spillage in the rivers, which caused a lot of fishes to die, thereby affecting fishing, one of the basic means of sustenance for the people.
People also lacked clean water to drink. The air was also polluted, leading to a lot of diseases. The worst part was that there was little or no infrastructure development in the region despite providing most of the nation’s wealth. Therefore, militants turned to kidnapping to pass a message to the government and international community about the many years of injustice, exploitation, marginalization, and underdevelopment of the oil creeks in the Niger Delta region.
At first, only expatriates were kidnapped, but the focus later shifted to politicians’ relatives, those in the Diaspora, and now just anybody.
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Punishment for kidnapping
Many countries worldwide have enacted laws to punish kidnappers. In Nigeria, some states, particularly Anambra State, have passed laws that anyone found guilty of kidnapping should be sentenced to death. Also, properties purchased from kidnapping ransoms will be destroyed.
On the federal level, a bill seeking to introduce stiffer punishment for kidnapping, wrongful restraint, and wrongful confinement for ransom passed the second reading in the Senate in 2021. The bill titled “Abduction, Wrongful Restraint and Confinement Bill 2021,” prescribes life imprisonment for the offence of kidnapping and up to 30 years of imprisonment for the recipients of any proceeds of the act of kidnapping.
In April 2022, the Senate finally passed a bill that mandates the death penalty for convicted kidnappers where the abduction leads to loss of life and life imprisonment in other cases. The bill also imposed jail terms of at least 15 years for paying a ransom to free someone who has been kidnapped.
Kidnapping for ransom
The new Nigerian law on kidnapping and other criminal acts also includes outlawing paying for ransom to free the kidnapped with the punishment of up to 15 years in prison for defaulters.
The law was met with mixed reactions as many Nigerians have resorted to paying ransoms to free their kidnapped loved ones. Also, the security sector has been less than impressive in its efforts to curb the menace. Therefore, the public has lost faith in them and resorted to helping themselves through other means. Today, people still pay ransom to free their loved ones in captivity despite the controversial law outlawing the act.
How to tackle kidnapping in Nigeria
- Employment opportunities should be provided. Youths should be empowered with relevant skills and capital to stand independently.
- Government should ensure more effective border control.
- Each Nigerian or person living in Nigeria should have a reliable and unique identification number such as a National ID card, driver’s license, and voter card for tracking social benefits and other identification purposes.
- Security agencies should be adequately equipped to curb the menace.
- Corruption in the Nigerian law enforcement agencies should be curbed. Local and Nigerian law enforcement agencies should also have a better relationship.
- In addition, the Nigerian government should establish dedicated community policing, where traditional leaders, religious leaders, youths, and other social organisations within communities are involved in security.