According to a Freedom House report, Nigeria recorded one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world in 2013. Similarly, the US Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 indicates that kidnapping and related violence were “serious” problems in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, kidnapping grew to become a national phenomenon courtesy the menacing activities of Niger Delta militants in 2006 that originally were campaigning against environmental degradation.
The agitation, fear of the unknown and unending calls for the release of beloved ones escalated the demands of kidnappers and contributed in no small measures to the increasing rate of kidnapping cases. Often, family members of victims go through traumatic experience while some even lose their lives in the process of meeting the tough demands of the kidnappers.
In some cases, ransoms were paid and captive unreleased while some were released dead or later recapture to make stiffer demands. The effect is more enormous on the victim, who may likely live with depression, everlasting fear and above all lost of trust in people which might likely lead to depression.
Initially, the menace was limited to the oil servicing employees, particularly the expatriates within the southern axis of the country, where security and safety became a matter of negotiation. The dearth of loose money from the multinationals eventually made kidnappers shifted attention on perceived rich individuals. So, the charade continues unchecked, bargaining continues and money continues to come in for the kidnappers and their powerful god fathers.
In 2015, the world woke up to the dramatic turn in the method of kidnapping and abduction in Nigeria as Boko Haram members abducted 150 girls from Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Maiduguri. Naturally, global attention was focused on Nigeria for the safe return of the school children. Five years after, Nigerians are still waiting for the safe return of the remaining girls still held hostage by the abductors. It later became a frequent operation in the area as the Dapchi abduction in February, 2018, followed the pattern.
Kidnapping has, no doubt, become a booming venture in our nation. This is partly as a result of security lapses, inability to sustain the integration system of amnesty beneficiaries properly into the system, lack of basic amenities, unemployment, corruption, fragrant flaunt of wealth by the rich and, perhaps, most importantly lack of transparency and accountability of stewardship by Public Office.
Lack of political will on the part of government to implement capital punishment as enshrined in the constitution is also a strong factor in the upsurge of kidnapping in the country. Legally, kidnapping attracts life sentencing or jail terms between 10/30 years for convicted person, but even the famous reported case of Evans , the self-styled Lagos based kidnapping kingpin, is yet to be concluded months after the arrest.
The result is that kidnappers have become more audacious in their approach to the business and more parts of the country are becoming highly prone to the menace. The business of kidnapping has become an unchecked menace, hitting deep into our system and causing havoc and agony with everlasting devastation and bitter taste in the mouth of victims and their families. Recently, eight States which include, Zamfara, Rivers, Lagos, Jigawa, Delta, Kogi, Bayelsa and Kaduna State were listed as places with the highest rate of kidnapping cases.
In Lagos, kidnappers with swimming skill make use of the waterways to perpetrate their heinous crime. Riverine communities, thus, become a hidden place for these criminals who often mingle freely with unsuspecting natives.
It has been revealed that criminals are harbored within the community for a give a way token or with threat of coming back for reprisal if their identity or existence is revealed. Some of the natives allegedly volunteer to carter for the hostages or source for intelligence for the kidnappers as a result of economic hardship and ignorance of the evil being perpetrated. Their method of operation varies. Sometimes, their targets could be very important personalities while they could also go after petty traders, peasant farmers and the likes. All is business in as much as their demands could be met.
A top Public Official who was recently released from the den of kidnappers disclosed that the experience is better imagined than experienced as they were exposed to all sorts of torture, trauma and threats to life, if demands were unmet by family members. Eating became a privilege, marching through the forest unguided at night, transiting from base to base on unstable river, all these and many more looming dangers are what the victims are confronted with, all alone with deadly dangers away from the comfort of their homes.
Like a tree, the perpetrator are branched, connected and well equipped with state of the art modern devices that make tracking cumbersome and are always a step ahead of the security in terms of professionalism, information gathering and management. Whether we like it or not some of the bad eggs in the security agencies are snitches that are planted and on the enemies’ pay roll that reveal and divulge vital information to the perpetrators for an agreeable fee.
Collectively we can rid our country off this evil or reduce it to barest minimum. Since the evil agents have learnt how to work as a team, our security agencies and other vital stakeholders also need to operate as a team and give information that will ensure swift tracking and rescue of victims.
Similarly, the police needs to build the confidence of the people in doling out information and need to have their eyes to the ground. Our country is bigger than all the evil doers and as such all hands must be on deck to curb this menace to ensure our nation is investors’ freely. As expected, no rational investor would put his money in an unsafe environment. So, kidnapping grossly undermines the country’s economic prospect.
Not only this, it is an embarrassment to the image of the country. It doesn’t do our nation much good to have a demeaning global reputation of a haven of rogues and criminals. Many a times, these criminals have dealt in the most inhuman and callous ways with expatriates working, particularly in the oil industry as well as other sectors. This isn’t right as it does more havoc to the image our nation when it is seen as an unsafe place to transact business.
Therefore, we all need to frontally confront this evil. It is a task for all of us. So, if you know something, please say some. This might save a life and bring succor to a family. God bless Nigeria.
Ajao writes from Lagos