Kidnap-for-ransom appears to be a thriving business particularly in the Northern parts of the country with no end in sight. A day barely goes by without a reported case(s) of mass abductions of school children, travelers or ordinary Nigerians. We were still reeling from the over 100 children abducted from their Islamic school in Niger state when the abductions of some students and lecturers from Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic in Kaduna State began making the rounds and the kidnappings show no signs of stopping.
Apparently, times have changed since 2014, when Boko Haram terrorists abducted nearly 300 female students from Chibok.
Today, the mass kidnappings currently being witnessed are not for terrorism. Instead, the attackers have targeted schools and kidnapped dozens or hundreds of students at a time to hold them for a bulk ransom—which communities and parents of the victims are more likely to pay.
It also appears that the modus operandi of the kidnappers have deviated from the traditional kidnap and ransom schemes, where the attackers target someone who is well-off and whose relatives are likely able to pay a high amount for their safe return. Instead, they are focusing on easier targets; poor villagers, commuters/travelers and school children with the aim of collecting bulk ransoms.
Last year, Nigeria had one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases along with countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
Sadly, kidnapping has become the most pervasive and intractable crime in the country. While government continues to insist that they do not pay ransoms for the release of abductees, it is becoming evident that there is something fueling the increasing spate of abductions which is certainly not unconnected to monetary gains.
While many of us are still trying to come to terms with the kidnap-for-ransom plague, some at the helm of affairs or people associated with them however, have been known to make unhelpful statements concerning the kidnappings.
That ‘ransom shouldn’t be paid to kidnappers if they are Abducted,’ are people being unrealistic, given that they are not targets or victims of kidnapping? It’s people drawing in undue attention and trying to turn the spotlight on themselves, rather than the kidnapped victims and their families?
Instead of making insensitive statements that seems unfair to the kidnapped victims, effective solutions should instead be proffered towards curbing the kidnapping malaise.
What we should be beaming the spotlight on now is what steps should be taken towards preventing abductions so we avoid the payment of ransom. Why are victims mostly school children and what is being done to secure schools? What roles should state and local government play towards ensuring that adequate security is provided in their domain? Why hasn’t technology been deployed in the search of these kidnappers and if they have, why hasn’t any of the major kidnapping ring been caught? What about intelligence gathering? How come the kidnappers cannot be traced despite, in many cases, announcing their arrivals on noisy motorbikes?
Such statement like, “ransom shouldn’t be paid to abductors if kidnapped” comes across as insensitive to the families of abducted victims.
Try telling that to the parents of the kidnapped Greenfield University students that said they had to pay over 180 million naira plus an additional 10 motorcycles before their children were released after about six weeks in captivity! Try telling that to the kidnapped Kankara school boys who narrated how they endured severe beatings, threats and deprivations at the hands of their kidnappers! If not for the sizeable sum that was, allegedly, paid to the kidnappers, one can only imagine what would have become of them in the hands of such people.
One can understand that in an attempt to discourage payment for ransom for kidnapped victims, which is undoubtedly fuelling the kidnapping spree, such narratives are being pushed. I personally don’t agree that paying ransom is ultimately helpful and have written in the past to that effect. However, it is only the wearer that knows where the shoe pinches. The situation on ground is that the families of those that have been abducted will do anything to see their children and loved ones returned home.
Many kidnapped victims have shared gory tales of their experience in captivity. Many were maltreated, brutalised, raped and even sodomized. When you hear of such tales, you wouldn’t even think twice to acquiesce to the demands of the kidnappers.
It seems easy for people to make such statements while sitting comfortably in their ivory towers and gated communities with large retinues of security men. When such people need to commute from one place to another, they move in tinted bulletproof convoys, sirens blaring to the ire of the common man.
Even if such people were to be abducted, it will surely take less than 24-hours to secure their release. An average Nigerian does not have access to such luxury and security. They depend on the government whose duty it is to ensure their safety and security.
Many of those who have paid ransom for their loved ones do so grudgingly. The parents of the abducted Greenfield University students lamented the huge ransom they had to pay, insisting that if they had confidence in the rescue of their wards, they wouldn’t have made such payments. I know of many families who have paid ransom for a kidnapped family member because they had no choice. They chose to pay rather than wait for security personnel’s to launch a rescue operation which they say will never happen. My family is currently in the middle of such a ghastly situation.
Some of those making such statements from their vantage and privileged positions wouldn’t think twice if any of their children were among the Kankara kidnapped school boys. They would surely contribute to the payment of ransom if their child was among the abducted Greenfield University students.
But of course many of their kids are safely tucked away in ivory school in other climes and if they are in the country, they most definitely are also well protected with a retinue of guards and security men.
The ordinary Nigerian just wants to go about his daily routine without fear of being abducted. The ordinary Nigerian just wants to commute between Abuja and Kaduna without being waylaid and kidnapped on the road. Rural farmers just want to be able to go to the farm without looking above their shoulders every second. Parents just want to sleep soundly knowing that their children are secured in their schools. School students just want to learn in a serene and secure environment so that they can contribute positively to national development in the future.
There is no doubt that the increasing spate of kidnapping in many parts of the country has become a strong threat to national peace and security. It is adversely affecting the country’s image and has eaten deep into every region and segment of the country. Foreign direct investment is slowly drying up as no one wants to invest in an insecure environment.
The prices of foodstuff have also astronomically risen due to the inability of farmers to go to the farm.
While One agrees that ransom payments are contributing to the kidnap-for-ransom plague, in the absence of an effective solution, what can parents and family members do when their children or wards are abducted?
Approaching the authorities has proven to be unsuccessful thus far. The government has insisted that the fear of hostages used as human shields is the primary factor that has held them back from deploying massive force. But something needs to be done and soon to check this abduction spree.