Nigeria: The Lust for Illicit Money
By Hannatu Musawa, Leadership
Kidnapping can most accurately be described as the crime of unlawfully seizing and carrying away a person by force of fraud, or seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with an intent to carry that person away at a later time. The law of kidnapping can be complex to define with precision because it can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most state and federal statutes define the term ‘kidnapping’ vaguely all over the world, and usually it’s left for the courts to clearly define it in detail.
The number of kidnap cases in Nigeria has risen to a staggering level. Most of the cases are attributed to ransom demands while others are linked to terrorist activities. The high-risk potential victims of kidnapping were usually prominent members of the society — from our artists and their family members. But, recently, it was noticed that there has been a shift from that trend. In the past, kidnaps were fundamentally politically based and foreign workers within the oil companies were the prime targets. Oil rebels, in order to stress and highlight their political stances and campaign, would seize unsuspecting foreigners in a bid to extort money.
So far, the main motive for most of these kidnaps has been for financial gain, and a majority of security analysts attribute the rise in kidnapping cases to the severe poverty levels in some communities, especially the problem in the rise of unemployment. The most alarming fact is that if the economy in the country gets worse, we would witness the rise in killings in kidnap cases as the kidnappers become more dangerous, daring and desperate. The root cause of kidnapping would be unemployment. Youths should be engaged in numerous employment opportunities and be encouraged to enrol in vocational programmes. It saddens me that the security situation in Nigeria today is unpredictable; there is an alarming risk of terrorism, inter- communal clashes, armed robbery attacks, banditry and now a spate of kidnappings. Formerly, kidnappings were a particular threat within the Niger Delta region but now they are all over Nigeria.
The statistics are simply appalling. On May 31, 2012, an Italian citizen was kidnapped in Kwara State. On January 26, 2012, a German citizen was kidnapped in Kano and then tragically killed on May 31. A British citizen and an Italian citizen were kidnapped in Kebbi on May 12 , 2011, and brutally murdered by their captors on March 8, 2012.
Red24, the AIM-listed international security advice and management company, has named the world’s ten countries in which it says the threat of being kidnapped for ransom is the greatest. Their findings would alarm most Nigerians. They are: 1. Afghanistan 2. Somalia 3. Iraq 4. Nigeria 5. Pakistan 6. Yemen 7. Venezuela 8. Mexico 9. Haiti 10. Columbia.
Nigeria records a staggering 1,000 kidnappings for ransom cases annually. Many experts though believe that due to different incident classifications between countries and the reluctance of relatives to report incidents, for fear of retaliation by the kidnappers or because of concerns about police corruption and ineptitude, data on kidnappings could be complex to compile. However, Red24 stated that, using official data in respect of Nigeria, Venezuela, Mexico and Columbia as well as piracy incidents off the Somali coast. And non-governmental organizations in Afghanistan have discovered there was a 9% rise in kidnapping cases in 2011 compared with the previous year. One chief executive, Maldwyn Worseley-Tonks, remarked that kidnapping is a “growing, global threat”.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities had cause to accuse the federal government of its failure to properly curb the spate of insecurity and the high rate of crime in the country. On August 13, this year, during a meeting with reporters at the end of its National Executive Council meeting at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, ASUU’s national president, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, said, “The spate of insecurity in the country has continued unabated. On a daily basis, the newsstands are awash with reports of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, armed robberies, arson, and related acts of violence perpetuated against the Nigerian people and foreigners alike. There are also reports of spiral inflation and phenomenal increase in commodity prices leading to food insecurity and reduction in standard of living across the country. Joblessness, homelessness, and decreasing access to education and other indices of underdevelopment now characterize our national life.”
The most challenging hurdle to cross in this crime of kidnapping would be that of severe unemployment plaguing our nation. Various independent and authentic studies have revealed that unemployment is responsible for the largest portion of kidnappings in Nigeria today. It is a vicious chain of unfortunate events where poverty resulting from unemployment and a badly managed economy increases criminal activities in Nigeria. The economic growth in this country has been severely stunted by decades of corruption and mismanagement of public funds. The depressing economic climate has taken its toll on Nigerians and the social effects of unemployment in Nigeria has increased the rate of kidnappings. Our youths are being lured by criminal gangs, warlords, illegal activities and terrorists. Amidst the extreme economic deprivation, the enticement of making fast money by snatching someone’s loved one seems just too tempting to resist.
The crimes in general are becoming alarmingly more violent as well. The horrendous use of human beings or their body parts for money-making rituals has become common news. In the 1980s, sporadically reported acts of crime were of burglars silently and stealthily entering a house while all were soundly sleeping and going away with the family’s Betamax video. The robbers were too “polite” to even wake up, talk less of confront, any member of the family. Nowadays, poor wages, detrimental living conditions and lack of proper social morals have made money-making ventures such as kidnapping the popular stock-in-trade for misguided youths. So the million dollar question remains: how safe exactly is any of us?
Apparently, no one is safe. We are all potential victims. Nigeria can best be described as a prison of fear and uncertainty guarded by invisible walls. Even in traffic, robberies are common. People are snatched in broad daylight by kidnappers and witnesses are either too scared or cynical to try to help much less assist security agencies to apprehend the perpetrators. With kidnapping, these criminals involved resort to the most cruel, degrading and most inhumane treatment of another human being.
How can this abominable trend be reversed? Employment can be generated by means of restructuring our education system; a conducive economic environment devoid of staggering inflation, and rebranding our agricultural sector would almost certainly go a long way in discouraging youths from engaging in criminal activities. All good citizens of this country should take responsibility to an extent for the state of lawlessness in the country today; for it would be selfish and irresponsible to blame the federal government alone. These misguided youths were once our children before they grew up to be criminals, and until we all understand that we have a high stake in Nigeria’s future, we can only show chagrin and contempt for a worsening situation. The primary focus of the federal government and indeed all Nigerians is to empower our youths through sound educational and vocational programmes; let us as parents give them hope for a brighter and more solid and secure future. These fundamental advantages, I believe, have already been laid by the great founding fathers of Nigeria.
In the meantime, all Nigerians and foreigners within the country should exercise grave caution and vigilance at all times. The next breaking news about the latest kidnap victim could be any of us – and that’s the sad reality of Nigeria today.