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ISS: Nigeria’s kidnapping crisis unites the north and south

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A holistic strategy is needed to decelerate the growth of the kidnapping economy in the country.

Schools in north-western Nigeria recently reopened after a months-long shutdown by state governments due to increasing kidnappings.

Between December 2020 and March 2021, there were at least five student-related kidnappings in the northern region.

However students aren’t the only victims. And the problem isn’t exclusive to the north. Nigeria Security Tracker data shows that kidnap-for-ransom cuts across regions and socio-economic classes, with increasingly diverse perpetrators – providing evidence of a resurgent kidnapping economy in the country. To find lasting solutions, a holistic assessment of the current crisis, the different ways it manifests, and its evolution is critical.

Between 2016 and 2020, there was a tenfold increase in victims, with a record of 3 500 countrywide last year. The number of recorded kidnappings also trebled in the same period. This year is heading towards another record-breaking year for this crime.

A report by Nigerian consulting firm SB Morgen says that from June 2011 to March 2020, Nigerians paid kidnappers about $18.34 million in ransom. About 60% of this was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020 alone, indicating a spike in recent years.

There’s been an increase in less-targeted mass kidnappings countrywide, particularly in the north.

The country’s deepening socio-economic crisis is arguably a significant reason behind the escalation. Factors include rising unemployment and insecurity, exacerbated by issues including poor governance, the proliferation of weapons, complicity of state actors and weak institutional capacity for regulation.

In Nigeria’s north, kidnappings in the past decade were originally concentrated in the north-east and perpetrated mainly by violent extremists for ideological, political and economic reasons. The most recent incidents, however, have been predominantly carried out by criminal gangs popularly referred to as ‘bandits’ in the north-west and north-central regions.

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Their motives appear to be purely economic, and their increased focus on schools can be viewed as an attempt to maximise gains. School kidnappings shine a spotlight on governments, putting them under pressure to secure students’ release by all means. And a government-backed ransom payoff – although always denied – will often outsize an individual one.

There are however other affected demographics. Travellers are often picked up on inter-state journeys, and community members are kidnapped from their villages.

Although analysts have recommended criminalising ransom payments, this may only re-victimise people.

Nigeria’s South South region, the source of the country’s oil wealth, the Niger Delta region, has historically been a hotspot for politically motivated kidnappings. The high rate in this region contributed to Nigeria’s position as one of the top 10 countries for kidnapping as far back as 1999.

It is generally accepted that this was the epicentre from which kidnappings spread to other southern regions. Like the north, the entire southern region has experienced an uptick in this crime, with perpetrators ranging from militants to sophisticated criminal gangs. Victims are often members of Nigeria’s middle class, including politicians and government officials.

The low-risk, high-reward model that usually drives kidnapping economies means that higher net-worth individuals should be primary targets. This requires a careful selection of victims to ensure a high payoff. Before 2018, this was largely the case in Nigeria. But there’s been an increase in less-targeted mass kidnappings countrywide, particularly in the north. This often entails rounding up a group who are sometimes of low economic means through community invasions or highway kidnappings.

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Relatives of victims in Zamfara and Kaduna states told ISS Today that some kidnappers accepted ransoms as low as N30 000 ($73) because the victim’s family couldn’t afford more. In some cases abductors instructed household members to sell their appliances to raise small ransoms.

SB Morgen’s data on fatalities per kidnap attempt shows this category of victims is also viewed as more expendable as they are more likely to be killed by kidnappers when a ransom isn’t forthcoming.

Addressing the root causes of kidnapping is the only way to finding a sustainable solution.

The increased victimisation of low-income and already vulnerable individuals isn’t the only emerging threat. Ransoms are the lifeblood of the kidnapping economy as they serve as rewards that reinforce criminal activity and help secure arms for future operations. The government allegedly paid at least N30 million (about $73 000) to secure the release of 344 boys abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara.

The growing links between criminal gangs and violent extremists in the north mean that ransoms directly and indirectly fund violent extremism. Kidnap-for-ransom has been used as a source of revenue for violent extremists in Nigeria’s north.

The economic incentive has provided a point of mutual interest between extremist groups and criminal gangs, leading to increased collaboration and heightening the risk of violent extremism expansion.

The federal and state governments seem to have different approaches to tackling kidnap-for-ransom. Some northern state governments are giving bandits handouts in an attempt at dialogue and demobilisation.

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However, if not properly managed, this line of action could worsen the problem by incentivising perpetrators. On the other hand, the federal government’s over-militarised approach can result in civilian casualties and the military’s abuse of power.

A coherent strategy is required at the federal and state levels to address the situation effectively. This strategy should go beyond creating a unit and must include a response framework that can be localised at the state level to accommodate contextual challenges. This framework could serve as a guide for security agencies on the effective handling of kidnappings.

It should be complemented by a public awareness campaign to inform citizens about available services like reporting hotlines and how they can help with intelligence gathering. The strategy should seek to identify and close capacity gaps in the security forces with specialised training to address the dominant forms of kidnapping in their areas.

Although analysts have recommended criminalising ransom payments, this may only re-victimise people. It may further undermine efforts to assure citizens of state support given the popular distrust in the capacity of law enforcement and security services. Security agents have been complicit in kidnapping, or victims themselves.

Alternative solutions should be explored, such as tracking ransom payments to locate, arrest and prosecute their recipients.

All interventions should be juxtaposed with efforts to address socio-economic drivers like unemployment, poverty and low social protection. Addressing the root causes is the only way to finding a sustainable solution to the problem.

Written by Teniola Tayo, Research Officer, Lake Chad Basin Programme, ISS Dakar and Pelumi Obisesan, Communications Specialist, Development

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Rwanda lawmakers approve swahili as the official Language of the country, dropping french completely.

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Rwanda lawmakers approve swahili as the official Language of the country, dropping french completely and sidelining english

People said: “This is good,really good but such a move leavez the Belgian (the former coloniser) and French authorities furious.

I will not be surprised if a few months from France imposes sanctions on Rwanda or increases its funding to opposition parties or releases a report on Kagame’s government poor service delivery and human rights violations.

Rwanda is setting an example for the rest of the African countries. Its about time we drop the colonial legacy and go back to our roots. After all there is no European with an African name or African language as their official language…..Good job Rwanda, wake the rest of the sleeping countries up.

This is great development, if Rwanda still hold on that colonial tight with France, they would not have gone this far, France is evil blood suckered, they keep developing and building their country, But most Country they colonize are living in objective poverty, they dominated their entire existence. The African Union should rise and liberate the African from France and western imperialism.

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Protect democracy, enact Electoral Act Amendment Bill, UK urges Nigeria

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The United Kingdom (UK) has urged Nigeria to ensure quick passage and enactment of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill currently pending before the National Assembly.

UK’s Minister for Africa James Duddridge gave the advice in an interview in Abuja.

Duddridge said that passing the amendment bill would build more confidence in the country’s electoral process.

According to him, confidence in election results plays a very important role in democratic governance.

“It is very important. I will meet the senate and I will be asking when the Electoral Act Amendment Bill is going to be passed.

“You Know, democracy is not a static thing. It has to evolve; you have to make elections increasingly secure.

“So, I think it is really important to make an Act that will give the Nigerian people and the international community greater confidence that the elections are free, fair, and a reflection of what the people voted.

If you have not got that in actuality or perception, democracy starts to crumble and we see where that leads.

“Democracy is the main pillar alongside a capitalist free market that drives social progress and allows us to function,” he said.

According to him, one of the components that build confidence in the electoral process is the electronic transmission of results such that the final results declared correspond with each of the local results.

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He said that though the UK was interested in seeing Nigeria’s democracy become stronger, it could only play an advisory role and not dictate to Nigeria what it should do.

“We can offer practical advice on election processes working with Non-Governmental Organisations and youth groups to make sure that young people are not only more likely to be registered for elections but also that their voices are heard.

“In the UK parliament, we have got members of parliament in their 20s and it is the richer for it.

“We wouldn’t want a parliament full of 20-year-olds.

“Equally, we do not want a parliament full of 70 and 80-year-olds.

“We need a balance to reflect society and everyone brings different experiences,” he said.

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Support Nigeria, Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Africa –President Buhari Appeals to US

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The United States has been urged to consider relocating the headquarters of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.

The United States has been urged to consider relocating the headquarters of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.

The OBSERVERS TIMES gathered that the appeal was made by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, April 27, during a virtual meeting with US secretary of state, Anthony Blinken.

President Buhari has urged the United States to consider relocating the headquarters of the US Africa Command to Africa. Photo credit: Femi Adesina Source: Facebook Bashir Ahmad, a personal assistant on new media to the president, in a tweet via his verified Twitter handle, @BashirAhmaad confirmed the development.

The Nigerian leader in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, explained that the move was necessary as part of efforts to address the issue of insecurity in Nigeria and other countries in Africa.
According to Adesina, the support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated. He noted that the growing security challenges in West, Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and Sahel, underscores the need for the United States to relocate the defence command. AFRICOM is responsible for military relations with nations and regional organisations in Africa. It also focuses on addressing security challenges affecting African countries.

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