Kidnapping: Crime and Niger Delta Militants

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Kidnapping, the taking away of a person against the person's will, usually for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, is becoming everyone’s nightmare in our dear country. Daily, we read nightmarish stories of people being abducted as they go about their daily business. A criminal act, which first attracted national attention on 26 February 2006 when Niger Delta militants kidnapped foreign oil workers to press home their demand, kidnapping has since become ubiquitous and commercialised. It has spreadfrom the Niger Delta to virtually all nooks and crannies of the country, with some states of course being hotspots. Similarly victims have changed from being predominantly foreign oil workers to Nigerians, including parents, grand parents, and toddlers and about anyone who has a relative that could be blackmailed into coughing out a ransom. Those behind the recent wave of the despicable act have also changed from being exclusively Niger Delta militants to dodgy elements from different walks of life - armed robbers, unemployed, professional 419ers, and at least one Catholic priest

There is no doubt that Nigeria is today one of the major kidnapping capitals of the world. This has obvious implications for investments, the country’s development trajectory and even the quality of governance.

The common tendency is to blame the pervasive wave of kidnapping outside the Niger Delta exclusively on the unacceptable rate of unemployment in the country, an inefficient and corrupt police force that is ill-equipped to fight crime, and collusion between kidnappers and politicians. These factors however appear to be mere symptoms of a larger malaise, namely that pervasive kidnapping, is one of the major symptoms of both ‘failed’ and ‘failing’ states. Most of the countries where kidnapping have been pervasive have been either failed or failing states – Baghdad after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Columbia from the 1970s until about 2001, and Mexico between 2003 and 2007.  

The phenomenon of kidnapping has taken an alarming dimension in Nigeria, such that it has become a big business. Kidnapping, hitherto known only in the Niger Delta, is now a daily occurrence in Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and many other States in the country. Kidnapping of expatriates in the Niger Delta is one of the major weapons employed by the various ethnic militias operating in the area. Its extension to children of prominent citizens in the area has however cost the militants the sympathy of Nigerians as it is now obvious that the Niger Delta struggle has been bastardized by opportunists. The spread of kidnapping to other parts of the country is believed to be a fallout of the military confrontation between the militants and the Federal Government. The militants, who were dislodged from their Niger Delta bases like Gbaramatu kingdom, etc, were forced to relocate to other areas where they have continued their trade of kidnapping as a means of survival. The other probable groups of kidnappers are those who, though not militants, believe that kidnapping pays with minimum risk of being caught. This second group follows the general trend of Nigerians who like to go into any business that they consider lucrative at the moment, not minding if such would endure or not. When the ‘pure water’ business debuted in Nigeria, many Nigerians became pure water manufacturers with some going to the ridiculous extent of bagging dirty stream water as ‘pure’ water. When finance house business was the ‘in-thing’ in the early 1990s, many Nigerians had also owned finance houses; the rest is history today. The same goes for kidnapping which many of our idle youths believe is lucrative and have embraced. In the last six months, people who are close to me have been victims of kidnapping. When it first happened in Ekiti with the kidnapping of a top official of Spring Bank, I was jolted because the man is the boss to our friend and, in fact, it was the driver of our friend, who...
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