Kidnapping is one of the biggest organised criminal acts bedevilling Nigeria today. Non-state actors, including terrorists, bandits, pirates and secessionists, have often resorted to kidnapping for ransom to raise funds for their nefarious activities, using largely the ungoverned spaces scattered across the country for cover. It has been turned into an enterprise as many see it as an avenue for making quick and easy money.
For this reason, Nigeria has come to be tagged as one of the kidnapping hotspots of the world. A total of 2,850 people were kidnapped in Nigeria in the first half of 2021 alone, according to reports.
Many have lost their lives or means of livelihood to this menace. Others have become permanently incapacitated with injuries, with mostly the non-urban communities taking severe hit.
Our rural residents, who are mostly farmers, have been forced to abandon their farmlands for fear of being kidnapped, thereby threatening food security in the country. Inter-state travel has equally been affected as people remained in their communities for fear of being kidnapped and losing their lives or money in the process.
Though many state governments have made kidnapping a capital offence, cases involving abductions have not enjoyed any special treatment in our courts, with many dragging on for too long and without any justifiable reason. This has no doubt emboldened the criminals.
The people of Gada village in Sabon Birni LGA of Sokoto State, for instance, have a very sad and traumatic story that they never get tired of sharing. On December 26, 2022, over 50 people were kidnapped by bandits who invaded their community. Likewise, on December 15, 2022, in Janjala village in Kagarko LGA of Kaduna State, over 35 residents were kidnapped. Karare village in Batsari LGA was also not spared as 28 people, including women and children, were kidnapped by bandits. On the 2nd of December 2022, eight other people were also kidnapped at Anguwar Hausawa, in Kwakwu community, Kuje Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory. Many communities have had similar or even worse experiences.
It was, therefore, cheering news when Beacon Consulting, a security risk management and intelligence consulting company, recently released a report in which it said incidents of kidnapping decreased between December 2022 and January 2023. The report stated that 683 people were kidnapped in December 2022, which indicated a reduction in the crime by 70%.
In January 2023, 208 kidnappings were recorded, while 954 incidents of fatalities were recorded in December 2022, which slid down to 749, amounting to 21%. The report also suggests that there was a significant reduction in the number of fatalities in the six geo-political regions of Nigeria in January 2023. It stated that, in the North West it reduced by 35%, in the North East by 22%, North Central by 20%, South East by 10%, South West by 9%, while the South South has 4%.
But we must not forget states like Niger, Zamfara and Sokoto, where we still have pockets of attacks and kidnappings. We must also remember that many abducted people, including teenage girls and students, remain in kidnappers’ dens against their will and to the consternation of their parents and loved ones.
We commend the security personnel for their efforts in tackling this scourge. But as cheering as this report may sound, efforts must be redoubled to make sure that all those in captivity are rescued and reintegrated into society unharmed.
Authorities at the federal, state and local government levels should find a way of reclaiming ungoverned spaces, mostly in forests, which have continued to serve as havens for kidnappers and other criminals, who have unfettered access to small and light weapons from within and outside the country. Without the government’s presence in these ungoverned places, criminals will continue to have hideouts that will make their activities difficult, if not impossible, to tackle.
The government needs to also take the issue of unemployment seriously as a way of ensuring that millions of youths across the country are gainfully occupied. As they say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
Security agencies should be encouraged to put in more effort towards checkmating these non-state actors. Technology—unmanned aerial vehicles especially—should also be leveraged towards stopping these unwanted elements in their tracks.
Indeed, whatever was done to achieve this feat should be continued until the menace is reduced to the barest minimum, if not totally eradicated, so that we all go back to what we all used to enjoy during the good old days. Indeed, it is possible to eradicate kidnapping from Nigeria if the will is there.