No fewer than 1,570 Nigerians were kidnapped between January and November 2020 in 366 reported cases, Daily Trust investigation reveals.
The kidnappers raked in over N311 million from payment of ransom by relatives of their victims within this period, though they demanded over N6.9 billion from their victims. The money paid did not include millions of naira paid by some families who chose to keep quiet because of threats or simply to have their peace.
Daily Trust reports that there has been an upsurge in kidnapping in Nigeria with 41 cases reported in November.
The trend has spread to some tertiary institutions in Kaduna State while the Federal Capital Territory was also not spared with 31 reported cases in 11 months.
Major arteries including the Abuja-Kaduna and Abuja-Lokoja roads have turned to kidnappers’ hotspots, raising fears in commuters. The young and old have been victims.
From the seven-year-old boy kidnapped in Katsina for which N3m ransom was demanded, to the 60-year-old Zainab Musa kidnapped in Niger State, many Nigerians are living in fear of the unknown.
Security operatives were also kidnapped within the time under review. Among the victims were 12 Assistant Superintendents of Police (ASPs) seized in November, 10 Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) officials and four officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) who were also kidnapped in September and February, respectively. An officer of the Department of State Security (DSS) was also kidnapped in September.
Daily Trust recalled that the Sultan of Sokoto and President of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), governors of the North East, the Afenifere from the South West, among other groups and individuals have all expressed disgust over the deteriorating security situation in the North and the country at large.
A new trend developing
While the bandits smile to the bank, relatives of the victims that paid ransom had barely recovered while some victims that spoke to Daily Trust said the trauma still affects their interaction with people.
Musa Yusuf, whose 12-year-old son was kidnapped around Kaduna International Airport, said he parted with N5 million in total in order to secure the release of his son.
Even though the whole N5 million was not paid to the bandits, he explained that after putting together N2.5m, he was duped by someone who claimed to have skills in delivering ransom to bandits.
The man was also given a motorcycle which is the only means of getting to the kidnappers ‘den to deliver the money but he disappeared with the money and the bike, leaving the parents of the child in anguish.
The father said he had no choice than to raise another N2.5m to secure the release of his son.
He said the money would have increased if his wife had not fled from the house while he was struggling with the bandits at the door.
“The bandits stormed my house and demanded that I open the door. We struggled with the door for almost five minutes until I surrendered. When they gained entrance, they ransacked my house looking for my wife who unknown to them had left through the back door while we were struggling with the door. My wife escaped through the fence,” he said.
He said he was forced out of his house and shot on the thigh before the bandits abducted his son, leaving him in a pool of blood from his fractured leg.
“After four minutes, I called my neighbour who went to my house to pick my car and took me to the hospital. Two days later, they called my younger brother and we negotiated from N20m to N2.5m.
“We were able to raise the money through friends and relatives, but unfortunately, my brother’s son said there was someone who delivers ransom to kidnappers, because nobody wanted to take the risk of taking the money to them. We gave him the money and he ran away with it. We had to raise another N2.5m before my son was rescued after 12 days,” he said.
After the incident, he left his four-bedroom flat with his family to squat in a boys’ quarter in another part of Kaduna because of fear.
“Three days after, they killed my neighbour and took away his wife and daughter. That place is dangerous. A week later, they killed a DSS official. That airport road is something else. If you are coming to airport road now, you are on your own,” he said.
“I am trying to settle the last N2.5m I borrowed from people. I am expecting some allowances (from my place of work) so I am looking for about N2m to settle the other debt because I went to our cooperatives where I got N500, 000,” he said.
He added that he wanted to sell his house in order to settle the debt but could not due to the tension in the area.
“I also intend to sell my car to pay my debts because it is when you are alive that you drive a car,” he said.
Another person who was kidnapped in Kuje, Abuja said he got the over N1m he paid as ransom for his freedom as loan from friends.
“We all know how harsh the economy is, now imagine paying back a loan from the money you actually gave to someone else,” he said.
He said though there were no pressures from his friends, knowing that he owes them money drains his energy.
“Because I do not have money, I still live in Kuje. Whenever I pass through that road, there is a kind of trauma I feel. But I don’t have money to leave the area and get accommodation somewhere,” he said.
Also, a source close to someone that was kidnapped in Kuje, who pleaded anonymity for security reasons, said the man, a retiree and over 60 years old, could not raise the over N1m demanded by the kidnappers.
“He is a retired civil servant and his wife only sells egg, so it was the community and the church that raised the money I took to the kidnappers,” he said.
Terrorists fund activities with ransom – Experts
An international terrorism and development consultant, Dr. Amaechi Nwokolo, said most terrorism activities are being funded with ransom collected from people.
He also said that security agencies were yet to get it right in tracking and arresting kidnappers and what they do with the money they collect from unsuspecting people.
“Are you aware that terrorist gangs are the people that are using all these names to camouflage, making money to fund their activities?” he asked.
“That is the colour and nature of terrorist groups, but because security agencies have not gotten it right, they keep saying banditry. They are the same terrorist gangs that are using different modus operandi to fund their activities,” he said.
He said the modus operandi of the terrorist gang is more than mere kidnapping, banditry or robbery.
Also, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, a former Director-General of the Department of Security Service (DSS), Mike Ejiofor, described the present development as ‘disturbing’, advising the government to change strategy in tackling the menace.
He said, “It is quite disturbing because kidnapping is on the rise. Nobody is safe anymore. The government needs to change its strategy in the fight against kidnapping and other crimes. Look at how a traditional ruler was killed in the South West.
“We have seen a lot of cases of such kidnapping and killings. We need to change our strategy. We can’t continue to do the same thing, the same way and expect different results. A lot of us have been clamouring that the Service Chiefs be changed. They have overstayed. And they seem to be undermining the authority out of loyalty.”
Speaking on rampant kidnapping and other crimes, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said the security challenges were particularly compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and the violence that resulted from the #EndSARS protest.
He was, however, silent on payment of ransom by relatives of the kidnapped ABU students and the police’s statement that they wished them luck while going to pay.
The IGP while speaking to commissioners of police from across the country added that, “As the frontline internal security agency, the Nigeria Police has through the years been grappling with major and complex internal security situations, particularly, the activities of terror elements, bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers, cultists, cybercriminals and other highly organized national and transnational criminals protest.”
On what the police officers are doing to curb incessant kidnappings in the country, the IGP said he summoned a physical meeting of all commands to review the general security situation as the year gradually comes to an end.
According to him, “This meeting is being convened to review the general security situation in the country as the year winds down; evaluate the progress we have made and the challenges we experienced in relation to our policing mandate; as well project into the future as we advance our internal security management responsibilities.”