As kidnappings increase across the country, kidnappers have introduced new demands that reflect their lack of compunction. Parents of nine students at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, who were kidnapped on November 15, said the abductors demanded “crates of malt drinks and cartons of milk,” apart from cash.
The students from the Department of French were travelling to Lagos for a programme at the Nigerian French Language Village in Badagry when they were kidnapped on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway. They spent a week in captivity, and were released after their parents had paid ransom.
“Some parents paid N1 million, some paid over N1 million, some paid N2 million, some paid over N500,000, depending on how each parent bargains with the hoodlums because they spoke separately with us,” a parent was reported saying.
The abduction of university students shows the widening range of kidnap victims. It is disturbing that kidnapping is regarded as a “growth industry” in Nigeria based on the observation that it appears to have become a business, particularly for unemployed youths in many parts of the country.
A study indicated that more than $18 million was paid in ransom to kidnappers in the country from 2011 to 2020, and the greater part of the payment was from 2016 to 2020 when about $11 million was paid. This implies growing profitability.
Indeed, some analysts forecast that kidnapping will increase following increased unemployment prompted by recession driven by the coronavirus crisis and the fall in oil prices. This is a worrying scenario. It shows why the government should urgently pursue improved socio-economic conditions to discourage economic kidnapping.
Without doubt, kidnapping for ransom has compounded the country’s security crisis. Combined with terrorism and banditry, the trio forms a dangerous challenge to national security.
The account of the parent of one of the abducted ABU students further exposed the gravity of the security crisis. “When we got to Dutse,” he narrated, “we stopped at a junction leading to the bush. We met soldiers there. They noticed all of us were carrying bags and we told them we were taking money to pay ransom for students who were kidnapped. The soldiers wished us a safe journey to the bush…”It is puzzling that the said soldiers did nothing to help.
The security crisis continues to attract attention. However, more importantly, there are no solutions yet. The House of Representatives was jolted by the abduction of the ABU students, as well as the kidnapping of a lecturer at the university on November 23, and directed its committees on tertiary education and national security and intelligence to investigate the incidents.
Some days after the ABU students were set free, the fourth quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) focused on the challenges of insecurity and COVID-19. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, lamented that the North is “the worst place to be in this country” because of insecurity.
Also, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, briefed senators on the security situation and his proposal for community policing. He explained the concept to reporters, saying “We believe that everybody comes from a community and in a community you know who and who is there, so taking policing back to the community will help in reducing crime to the barest minimum.”
All talk and no action cannot produce the desired result. Worsening insecurity is inexcusable. It is the responsibility of the government to tackle insecurity, and it is necessary to move beyond merely talking about the challenge and find a solution to the problem.
Rising insecurity suggests that the government lacks the capacity to tackle the crisis. That is a tragic implication. Predictably, the longer it takes to arrest insecurity, the longer agents of insecurity will reign.
Editorial by The Nation Newspaper, 30th November, 2020.