Africa, Civil Society, Crime & Justice, Editors' Choice, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, TerraViva United Nations

Crime & Justice

State Fails to Stem Kidnapping For Ransom Crisis in Nigeria

Joshua Peter and his friend Salama Ogboshun were kidnapped last year while on their way to the farm in Kaduna. Credit: Promise Eze/IPS

Joshua Peter and his friend Salama Ogboshun were kidnapped last year while on their way to the farm in Kaduna. Credit: Promise Eze/IPS

ABUJA, Mar 12 2024 (IPS) - Lilian Eze still shivers when she recalls the frequent attacks by kidnappers in the Kaduna community she once lived in, in north-central Nigeria. In February 2022, she fled with her children to Abuja, the nation’s capital, to ensure their safety.

In an interview with IPS, she explained that the kidnappers would invade the community on foot and with a horde of motorbikes in the evenings with little or no resistance from security agencies.

They would indiscriminately fire gunshots into the air, instilling fear among residents, before forcibly taking their victims to remote areas in the forest, where they would be held captive until ransom was paid. But not all victims make it out alive.

“When it started, sometime around 2017, we thought it would subside but it became extremely frequent. The gunshots were terrifying; most nights, we could not sleep. After my neighbour was kidnapped, I stopped sleeping at my house. My children and I would go to a nearby community to spend the night,” Eze said.

Nigeria is currently bedeviled with a widespread kidnapping for ransom crisis. It is among the highest globally. Armed gunmen snatch their victims from highways, schools, and even their homes. According to a report from Lagos-based risk consultancy SBM Intelligence spanning from July 2022 to June 2023, 3,495 individuals were abducted in 582 incidents, with over USD 18 million paid as ransom between 2011 and 2020.

The Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit says kidnapping for ransom is one of the major sources of terrorism financing in the country. Despite several pledges by the government to bring an end to the crisis, it has continued to fester.

While the payment of ransom has been criminalised, Nigerians have no choice but to crowdfund for ransom to secure the release of their family members and relatives, as in most cases, the kidnappers would not release their victims until ransom was paid.

Trapped in Kidnappers’ Den

While Eze and her family were lucky to have escaped to a relatively safer location, others have not been so lucky.

Joshua Peter, 30, along with his friend Salama Ogboshun, were kidnapped last year while on their way to the farm in Kaduna. He said heavily armed men ambushed and bundled them into a bush, from where they were taken to a forest. He added that the trauma of his experience in the forest may never fade away.

“Many kidnapped victims were killed before my eyes. Women and young girls were frequently raped in the open. I was beaten and received death threats every day,” he said.

Peter said he was released after two weeks only after the ransom was paid but for days he could eat just a little food and did not talk to anyone as a result of the trauma he battled with. He wondered why the Nigerian security forces were unable to rescue them and track the location of the kidnappers despite negotiations for their release on the phone.

Nigerians have frequently raised concerns about the efficiency of the country’s intelligence gathering and have voiced criticism regarding the perceived shortcomings of different security agencies in employing technology to address insecurity. Critics argue that, despite security agencies effectively monitoring and suppressing opposition activities, they have consistently fallen short in tracking down criminals. The police attribute delays in addressing kidnapping cases to a “shortage of tracking machines.”

Nigeria’s Failing Technological Infrastructure

For Sadiq Abdulahi, a tech expert with Fozy Global Concept based in Abuja, there is sparse collaboration between security agencies, which hampers the fight against insecurity.

“There should be synergy among the various security agencies regarding data sharing,” he added, emphasizing the lack of awareness about the potential use of technology to combat crime in the country.

In 2022, the Nigerian government mandated residents of the country to synchronize their Subscriber Identification Modules (SIMs) with their National Identification Numbers (NINs) to bolster security. However, despite the policy, kidnappers continue to place untraceable calls to the families of their victims. Isa Pantami, the former Nigerian Minister of Communications and Digital Economy who spearheaded the initiative, faced criticism for seeking funds to pay ransom for certain kidnapped victims earlier this year. Pantami, however, shifted blame to security agencies, accusing them of not efficiently utilizing the policy to trace criminals.

Zainab Dabo, a Nigerian political analyst, argues that a lack of commitment and political will by the government is contributing to the crisis. According to her, the Nigerian security forces are under-equipped to confront rogue non-state actors.

“Security operatives have arms that are not as sophisticated as those of the kidnappers. While our security forces are well-trained, the lack of proper armament turns confronting terrorists into a perilous mission,” she told IPS.

Dabo also alleged that there are insiders within the Nigerian security infrastructure who are aiding terrorists. “For insecurity to persist for this long, it indicates elite connivance not only among security operatives but also among politicians and traditional rulers,” she added.

Joshua Madaki, a Kaduna resident kidnapped from his home by armed gangs on the evening of December 21, 2021, shares the same view as Dabo. Madaki, who said he spent 17 days in captivity, was abducted alongside 36 others from his community. He disclosed that while ransom negotiations were ongoing, the criminals killed six of the victims as a warning to their families.

“Insecurity in Nigeria is very complicated, but it seems the government is not ready to take action to tackle it,” said Badasi Bello, whose younger sister was kidnapped in Sokoto State, northwest Nigeria, in 2023.

Amnesty International has advised the Nigerian government to regard the kidnapping crisis in the country as an emergency and to take measures to solve the problem.

However, kidnapping continues, including the mass kidnapping of schoolchildren. Last week (Thursday, August 7, 2024), 287 children were abducted from two schools in Kaduna State. UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said in a statement that the act was “part of a worrying trend of attacks on educational institutions in Nigeria, particularly in the northwest, where armed groups have intensified their campaign of violence and kidnappings.”

Then, on March 10, 15 pupils were abducted from the Islamic seminary in Gidan Bakuso, Sokoto State, while they slept, according to the Associated Press.

Munduate said UNICEF was coordinating with local officials and assisting parents and families with psychological support services.

“Every child deserves to grow up in an environment of peace, away from the looming shadows of threats and insecurity. Unfortunately, we are currently facing a significant deterioration in community safety, with children disproportionately suffering the consequences of this decline in security,” Munduate said.

IPS UN Bureau Report


Republish | | Print |

best erotic graphic novels