BY LAWAL SAEED BABATUNDE
Kidnapping has remained a very highly malignant form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.
Kidnapping is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement. The purpose is an illicit gain, economic or material, in exchange for freedom. It may also be used to pressure someone into doing something or not doing something.
Kidnapping can be targeted at individuals or at groups. School children have been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria. Usually, the prime targets of kidnapping for ransom are those considered to be wealthy enough to pay a fee in exchange for being freed.
Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Kidnapping in Nigeria and across the Sahel can be an extraordinarily lucrative enterprise in what is one of the poorest regions in the world. “Bandits” particularly prize citizens of the European Union. As rich countries with governments susceptible to emotional public opinion, EU member states can pay enormous ransoms while always denying that they are doing so. Jihadi and criminal networks overlap in the Sahel, so kidnapping can also provide both funding and manpower for jihadi groups. At Kankara, Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau claimed his group was behind the kidnapping, though it appears to have been purely a criminal enterprise.
Thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom and other purposes over the years. Kidnapping has prevailed in spite of measures put in place by the government. The Nigerian police’s anti-kidnapping squad, introduced in the 2000s, has endeavored to stem the menace. But this been to no avail, mainly due to a lack of manpower and poor logistics.
In my view, these efforts have also failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime; where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence.
This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective.