Since the first incident of kidnap for ransom in Nigeria was carried out by Niger Delta militants in 2006 during which some expatriate workers were abducted in the creek, Nigeria and Nigerians have never known peace.
It is historical that the first recorded incident of kidnap for ransom occurred when some foreign oil workers
were taken hostage by members of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) who were fighting against the environmental degradation and exploitation of the oil rich Niger Delta region by multinational oil companies whose royalties to the Federal Government of Nigeria were of little value of people of the region.
The abduction of the expatriate workers was done principally to draw global attention to the huge neglect of the Niger Delta region where Nigeria generates over 60% of her annual income. It is worthy of note that the ransom demanded by the abductors in that particular incident was not for their individual gratification but rather for the uplifting of the region which over the years had suffered environmental neglect in the hands of several Federal administrations.
The abductors did not harm their expatriate victims whom they kept in their custody for days as the news of the abduction and the demands received national and international attention. The government of the then President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was very mindful of the agitation of the militants and applied some diplomacy in handling the situation. The abductees eventually got their freedom after some days of negotiation on their behalf. However, it was not officially stated how much the oil companies or the Federal Government of Nigeria paid to secure the release of the abductees. But one good development that resulted from that index case of kidnap for ransom in Nigeria was the general amnesty granted the militants after several other incidents of hostage taking and attack on oil facilities in the region. The repented militants subsequently became beneficiaries of foreign and local scholarships in various institutions of learning, just as they were put on monthly stipends from the Amnesty office created by the Federal Government.
With this initial incident of kidnap for ransom in the Niger Delta, some criminal elements in other parts of the country were to key in, as they launched their own regime of kidnap for ransom with Nigerian citizens and other residents as their target.
In its earliest days, kidnap for ransom shifted from the Niger Delta region to the Southeast of the country where young men now saw it as an industry that offered them huge income with less risk compared to other crimes like armed robbery.
Countless number of well placed Nigerians in business, politics or any other visible means of livelihood and their families or relations constituted the bulk of victims. Ransoms in millions of naira or dollars were demanded in several cases and in spite of the stand of security agencies against ransom payment, not many victims got their release without some ransom paid even though, no victim would be ready to openly confirm how much ransom was paid in his or her case.
As the kidnap for ransom assumed a much wider dimension spreading from one part of the country to the other, class of victims also got enlarged such that school children became easy target in some places like Lagos State before large scale attention on students moved to the northern part of Nigeria with the first mass abduction of students taking place at Government Girls College, Chibok.
Since the Chibok incident, many more students have been abducted for ransom in many Northern schools just as every road or space in the 36 states of the federation is now laid trap by kidnappers who have become vicious and unrepentant and increasing in their number.
Kidnap for ransom has become a very huge industry that has raised billionaires like notorious Evans (Onwuamadike Chukwudumeje) who was arrested after several years in the field as a sadistic kidnapper who took pleasure in extorting the last Kobo from his victims on whose heads millions in hard currencies were demanded as ransom. His primary targets were wealthy businessmen of Igbo extraction whom he knew were worth billions.
The actual number of victims of kidnap for ransom in Nigeria since the ugly regime began some 15 years ago could not be easily ascertained as not all incidents were reported in the media. While some victims were released alive to tell their stories, many others died in the hands of their abductors. One of them was the traditional ruler of Ubulu-Uku in Delta State, His Royal Majesty, Akaeze Edward Ofulue III. He was abducted on his way to Asaba and got killed few days later as no ransom was forthcoming.
Many others were similarly unlucky as they lost their lives in the hands of kidnappers across the length and breadth of the country such that the insecurity in the country in present time is made more dreadful by the existence of kidnappers in every nook and cranny.
The question now is; what solution do we have to the kidnap regime? Government security forces have been up and doing but their efforts have obviously been dwarfed by the escalating incidence of kidnap for ransom which has even degenerated to the level where some people can now master mind their own kidnap ostensibly to get some money from their rich family members, friends and associates.
As a way out to minimize the incidence of kidnap for ransom, SECURITYREPORTERS.com would suggest that the leadership of the country from the Federal to the local government level should drastically reduce the cost of running government, divest themselves of ostentatious life style which readily attracts the jobless youths into the booming business of kidnap for ransom due to its high yield of income at low risk.
As a solution also, let there be massive and sincere generation of employment for the jobless youths who have been roaming the streets. Many of them have received one form of tertiary education or the other but because there are no job opportunities nor the capital to engage in self employment, they easily become willing tools in the hand of devil to eke out some means of living.
Another way of bringing solution to the regime of kidnapping for ransom is for the government to take the fight against corruption seriously. There is no justification in handling with kid gloves, those who steal billions of public funds and allow them freedom on flimsy and stage managed judicial process.
Our system has become a cash and carry society where punitive sanctions are meant only for the weak and poor while the rich are pampered to continue in ravaging the country by primitively accumulating for themselves wealth of the nation to the detriment of the rest members of the society.
Let our President, Governors, Ministers and other officials of state adopt a low profile and redistribute all illegitimately acquired wealth through empowerment of the jobless youths.
Securityreporters.com believes with these steps, kidnap for ransom shall be drastically minimized if not eliminated completely.