Kidnappings in Nigeria: Who’s to blame?, By Zainab S. Baba

#TrackNigeria: It is not out of place to say that, kidnapping has become a growing menace in Nigeria. The development has forced a major threat to Nigerians, especially travelers plying Kaduna-Abuja road among other roads identified as epic centre of kidnapping.

The targets, who are only known to the Abductors, are either politicians, philanthropists, business men, religious and community leaders, men, women, young, old, including children. Each victim has so-called ransom value, dependent on his social standing and which makes them attractive targets. This value is determined by a number of factors, which include the victims socio-economic or political status, family or corporate premium on the victim, the type of kidnappers involved, as well as the dynamics of ransom negotiation.

Kidnapping business in Nigeria has been mostly perpetrated by criminal gangs, individuals and violent groups for reasons known to them. The escapades of the famous alleged kidnap kingpins, Evans, Hamisu Bala Wadume and many more, speak volumes of this pattern of kidnapping. It is observed that, Nigeria is now one of the countries with highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Other countries high up on the list included Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom and other purposes over the years. One of the questions that remain on the lips of many Nigerians is who is to blame for this heinous act? Though the media is trying its best in reporting the issue of kidnapping, hardly will you see the reports of kidnapping of a common man on the cover page of some national dailies or making headlines in prominent broadcast media with the exception of the news of Chibok and Dapchi school girls abduction by Boko Haram in Borno State.

Governments at all levels that have the responsibility of ensuring the protection of lives and properties of the citizenry, have failed to do the needful. Security agencies, who everybody look up for to address the issue, have also failed to come up with the strategies that will help to bring an end to this terrible act. Some Nigerians even accuse some security agents of having hands in the kidnapping activities in view of how the kidnappers come out and do their things and sometimes go scot free. Recently, a suspected kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Bala Wadume in a 40 minute video alleged that, it was soldiers that aided his escape when he was arrested by the police in Ibi, Taraba state early August this year.

However, while there is need to condemn these acts of criminality, there is also the need to condemn acts of some security agents for incompetence and complicity. The current state of anomie on our political history could be blamed on poor leadership and elite who are rather not responsive enough to this state of insecurity as they concentrate more on how to acquire political power. They place and give little or no value to matters concerning greater national aspiration and the dignity of lives of the people.

The increasing rate of kidnapping and other criminal activities is a direct consequence of failure of leadership. Our political leadership is too engrossed with issues of power acquisition because of what they personally get out of it and negates the responsibilities expected of them. The character of our political leaders at all levels, contradicts the logic and philosophy of governance, which essentially is the promotion of human dignity and the protection of core values of society.  Looking at Nigeria today, we have mortgaged our culture of respect, love for human lives, hard work, friendliness and receptiveness to strangers in exchange for the Western culture and ostentatious orientation.

These have given birth to modern crime and social evils that are destroying the core value of our society. This also reminds me of the the social media obsession over posting many of our activities, including movements on our walls. Many write on their Facebook wall or WhatsApp statuses that they are going to a particular place, without taking into consideration the possibility of  being  kidnapped or harmed by some elements. 

Now that the kidnapping issue has become the order of the day, necessary actions must be taken to stop the menace in the interest of all Nigerians. To this end, the media must wake up to their responsibility by engaging in investigative journalism with a view to exposing the hideouts of the kidnappers and their sponsors (if any). The media should also come out clearly and tell government and security agencies what to do to curb the menace and, as well, inform people of the need to be security conscious and stay away from anything that will negatively affect their wellbeing.    

If citizens of Nigeria receive information about the dangerous areas beforehand, there will be less casualties or victims of kidnapping. There is also the need to restate that Federal government, which has the exclusive power over security matters, to immediately put in place mechanisms for ending the booming kidnapping or hostagetaking racket, particularly in virtually all parts of the country. 

Security agencies should step up effort towards addressing the menace, especially by creating a special unit that will take the nation out of the not-so-commendable Special Anti Kidnapping Squad.
Ordinarily, Nigeria should never have got here. Kidnapping activities persist because the benefit that the kidnappers derive from their crimes exceed the costs. So the obvious solution is to raise the costs by imposing harsher, surer penalties.

The present penalty for kidnapping ranges from one to 20 years in prison, with the possibility of life imprisonment for extreme cases involving, for instance, murder. Stricter measures, such as life imprisonment or death penalty, may not be completely out of place in dealing with the kidnappers. After all, the crime of kidnapping is a maximum threat that requires an equally maximum deterrence.

Baba is a 400 level student of Mass Communication Department, University of Maiduguri