In the midst of Nigeria’s deepening security crisis, a comprehensive report has shed light on the alarming rise of kidnappings in the country. The report, compiled by SBM Intelligence, highlights Nigeria’s multifaceted security threats across its six geopolitical zones. From Boko Haram’s relentless expansion to the resurgence of sea piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the nation is grappling with a complex and interconnected web of security challenges.
Kidnapping for Ransom: A Growing Menace
Kidnapping for ransom has emerged as the dominant motivation behind abductions in Nigeria. The report points to Nigeria’s struggling economy, rising inflation, and high unemployment rates as the chief drivers of this surge. Inflation rates soared to a staggering 22.04 per cent by the end of the second quarter of 2023, pushing more desperate individuals towards criminal activities.
Between July 2022 and June 2023, a total of 3,620 people fell victim to kidnappings in 582 separate incidents. Kidnappers demanded a jaw-dropping N5 billion (approximately $6.41 million as of June 2023) as ransom, yet verified payments amounted to only N302 million (around $387,179), a mere six per cent of the demands. It’s important to note that these figures may be significantly higher due to underreporting.
Diverse Demands for Ransom
The dynamics of kidnappings vary, with secrecy being less prevalent in larger-scale abductions. In some cases, kidnappers opted for non-monetary ransoms, such as food, particularly in the Northwest and Northcentral regions. These areas, marked by widespread poverty, saw a surge in motorcycle demands, possibly linked to both economic opportunities and their potential use in terrorist activities.
Targeting of Catholic Priests
Catholic priests, known for their perceived ransom value, encountered a shocking 21 abductions during the reporting period. Kaduna emerged as the most dangerous state for priests, often kidnapped during church services. While abductors previously demanded an average of around N50 million per priest, the church stopped disclosing ransom negotiations to deter further attacks.
Regional Disparities in Ransom Payments
The report reveals significant disparities in ransom payments at the state level. Edo, for instance, saw high ransom demands but received little in return. In contrast, Taraba recorded the highest payments, primarily due to a single incident. The North Central region, especially Nasarawa, reported higher ransom amounts, often targeting high-value individuals or politically exposed persons.
Impact on Casualties
Civilians bore the brunt of the kidnappings, accounting for 430 fatalities during this period. Security agents and kidnappers themselves accounted for 19 and 121 deaths, respectively. Despite several kidnappers being killed, this has not served as an effective deterrent, indicating that the allure of the industry outweighs the perceived threat of state intervention.
Future Implications and Recommendations
The report concludes by emphasising the urgent need for comprehensive efforts to combat kidnapping in Nigeria. Strengthening law enforcement, improving socio-economic conditions, and fostering education are deemed essential to eradicating the economic incentives for kidnappers. International cooperation, intelligence sharing, and stringent legal frameworks are also proposed as measures to curb cross-border kidnapping networks.
As Nigeria grapples with these security challenges, the report underscores the importance of understanding the economic costs and far-reaching consequences of kidnapping. It is a crime with not only a significant financial impact but also devastating psychological and emotional tolls on victims and their families. While there are no easy solutions, collaborative efforts among governments, organisations, and communities are key to developing holistic strategies to prevent and combat this disturbing trend. The future hinges on whether these recommendations can be implemented effectively to secure a safer Nigeria for all its citizens.