In Nigeria, it is safe to say that kidnapping has grown into a thriving multi-billion dollar naira industry. Kidnappers, often labeled as ‘bandits’, are increasing day by day, claiming larger areas. Nigeria is now among the countries with the highest rate of kidnapping for ransom. Other countries that rank high on the list include Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. These are largely failed states and it is a great shame that Nigeria is in this very wrong business. According to a report by SBM Intelligence entitled: ‘The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry’, which spans a one-year period – from July 2021 to June 2022 – more than 500 kidnapping incidents were recorded involving as many as 3,420 Nigerians and some foreigners throughout the country. country kidnapped citizens. This is even without the addition of unreported cases that are still unknown due to the poor quality of data and documentation in the country. The report added that Nigerians paid about N653.7 million to free kidnapping and kidnapping victims from July 2021 to June 2022. In July 2022 alone, eight kidnapped persons exchanged N800 million for their lives, while one kidnapped Pakistani national handed over the amount of N200 million to kidnappers as ransom.
It is essential to realize that paying ransom to these diabolical terror groups makes their crime a fruitful venture. The possibility of kidnapping has now become a threat to all of us in Nigeria as kidnappers are paid and almost never arrested and faced with the wrath of the law. Continuous payment of ransom is an incentive; it encourages more kidnapping incidents and encourages other criminal groups to take over the lucrative trade. Nowhere in Nigeria is it safe now. No one can move freely or travel from one place to another without the fear of being attacked or kidnapped, and this is alarming and disturbing. These ‘businessmen’ are having the best time of their lives in Nigeria as the government has failed to fulfill its promise and constitutional responsibility to protect lives and property. Are the kidnappers and bandits terrorizing Nigeria more powerful than the Nigerian government? Why, then, does the current administration seem to lack the political will to resolutely deal with the perpetrators of kidnapping and banditry and end the threat? The government and security agencies everyone looks up to to tackle the problem have also failed to come up with a plan to completely exterminate the kidnappers, other than occasional attacks on the kidnapper’s lair, which aren’t far-reaching or persistent.
There are even allegations of complicity with kidnappers by high-ranking authorities and security forces. Therefore, the first place a serious government should have started was to eradicate the bad eggs in the security services. Nigerians can attest to the fact that the majority of our security men and women are patriots who toil day and night to protect us while risking their own lives. But how can the fight against insecurity succeed if the insider traitors inform and help criminals? As part of efforts to address the issue of complicity by senior Nigerians, Tukur Mamu, the Abuja-Kaduna train hostage negotiator, who is also the spokesman for Kaduna-based cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, was arrested by security agents. in Cairo, Egypt recently. The arrest was made at the behest of the Department of State Services (DSS), as he is accused of sleeping with the train kidnappers for financial gain. While I will let the ongoing investigation go without interference, I hope the top intelligence agency in the country isn’t window dressing or chasing shadows or simply distracting Nigerians from the real mess. This is because the issue of official complicity in kidnapping and banditry runs deeper than Mamu. The problem is as big as the threat of terrorism itself, it has developed a life of its own.
If unbeknownst to you, how come our security forces are unable to pinpoint the exact location of these criminals and use technology to launch precision attacks and rescue our people from their lair? It is unimaginable that bandits kidnap victims and take them hostage for months and even have the nerve to show video clips of how the kidnapped people are tortured. If the Nigerian government doesn’t find this shameful enough, then nothing can ever be shameful! This kidnapping case has netted these culprits billions of naira, which leaves us wondering what these miserable looking monsters are doing with the money? Do they use the money to buy weapons? Do they give the money to their elite backers who stay in the background and sponsor them? Where does the money go? Normally Nigeria should never have reached this level. Kidnapping activities continue because the benefit the kidnappers get from their crimes outweighs the costs and the risks. So the obvious solution is to make these criminals bear the cost of their actions.
The federal government urgently needs to identify, reject and punish the bad eggs, i.e. the high-ranking officers who conspire with kidnappers and other criminal gangs to unleash terror on hapless Nigerians. Bandits and their supporters must be adequately punished by the government to remove incentives for future attacks and show that crime does not pay. Section 14 (2b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, says that security and welfare of the people is the primary task of the government. The government should therefore stop paying lip service to this issue and do the necessary.
- Farida is a mass communication student at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State.
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