A new report has revealed that Nigerians paid N653.7 million ($1.2 million) as ransom to bandits and kidnappers between July 2021 and June 2022, a period of one year, for the release of their loved ones held in captivity. The report also disclosed that N6.531 billion ($9.9 million) was demanded in ransom in the year under review.
It noted that the abductions, which are also almost evenly distributed across the country, have an impact on the Nigerian economy, as it has limited business and investment in the heaviest-hit areas.
SBM Intelligence, Africa-focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm, made the disclosure recently. It also stated that the amounts of ransom and the numbers of kidnap incidents and victims were arrived at using media reports detailing the sum paid to armed groups within one year. The firm claimed that at least 500 incidents of kidnapping were recorded and 3,420 people were abducted across Nigeria, with 564 others killed in violence associated with abductions in one year.
According to another report by SBM, more than $18.3 million in ransom money was paid to Nigerian kidnappers between 2011 and 2020. Indeed, not many Nigerians were surprised by the report due to the spike in kidnappings across the country in the last year. It is safe to surmise that non-state actors are holding the country by the jugular and this must be stopped.
In our considered opinion, the money paid for ransom could be more as there are many cases of kidnapping and ransom paid that were not reported to the authorities by the loved ones of the victims. In some cases, the security operatives deliberately suppressed information regarding the circumstances surrounding the release of captives. Often, they deny out rightly that ransom was paid. But this is not the major concern.
This newspaper is more disturbed by the trend in which, terrorists and bandits, sadly, use kidnapping and abductions to raise money to equip their armoury and carry out their nefarious activities. As insecurity gradually moves from the northeast to the northwest, kidnappings have also increased in the region.
Experts blame a combination of seemingly uncontrolled population growth, rampant unemployment, underfunded and ill-motivated security forces as well as easy access to small arms for the rise in banditry in the country.
In our considered opinion, the government owes the society a duty not to allow the ongoing mindless kidnapping and killings to continue unabated. Much as we admit that a lot is being done to manage the situation that is becoming intractable by the day, it is also pertinent to remind the authorities that despondency as an approach to the matter is the last thing the nation needs now.
As we have consistently advocated on this page, crime continues to fester in the country because there is no punishment for bad behaviour. Laws are not enforced and justice delivery system is not only weak but also ineffective as cases take ages to run their course.
To successfully tame the scourge of kidnapping in the country, the security officials need to improve and act swiftly on intelligence. There needs to be a synergy between communities and security agencies. If there is mutual trust between both parties, citizens will willingly provide information to the security agencies.
Regrettably, kidnappings have continued to fester because of the perceived collusion between security agents and non-state actors. Needless to say, eliminating the bad eggs within the ranks of the security agencies is key to ending this menace.
It is gratifying to note that on September 28, 2017, the Senate passed into law the kidnapping, abduction Act, which particularly specified a 30-year jail term for anyone caught colluding with an abductor to receive ransom for any person wrongfully confined.
The Act also stipulated a sentence of death for anyone whose kidnapping activities led to the death of any person. Some states like Lagos, Zamfara and Edo have prescribed the death penalty for kidnapping.
In the considered opinion of these Newspaper, we strongly advocate the death penalty or life imprisonment for kidnappers as we believe this will go a long way in serving as a deterrent. We also call on governors to be courageous enough to sign the death penalty for bandits and terrorists who kidnap and kill their victims even after taking ransom.
Moreover, due to the exigencies of the time, we call for a speedy trial bandits and terrorists. Court cases for bandits and terrorists should not exceed one year. We insist that with a harsh and stiff penalty, fewer abductions will occur.