Wednesday 11 September 2013

Security Challenges of Kidnapping in Nigeria


There is still no precise definition of kidnapping. Its definition varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, for our purpose we will define kidnapping as an unlawful seizure and carrying away a person by force or fraud. It involves seizing and detaining a person against his or her will with intent to carry that person away at a later time. In this sense, kidnapping occurs when a person, without lawful authority, physically asports (i.e., moves) another person without that other person's consent, with the intent to use the abduction in connection with some other nefarious objective. That is, kidnapping occurs when any person is unlawfully and non-consensually asported and held for certain purposes. These purposes may include but not limited to gaining a ransom or reward; facilitating the commission of a felony or a flight after the commission of a felony; terrorizing or inflicting bodily injury on the victim or a third person; and interfering with a governmental or political function. Kidnapping is a crime under the Nigerian law.
Kidnapping is as old as man. The practice has been known since the beginning of history. It was common as a method for procuring slaves, and it has been employed by brigands and revolutionaries to obtain money through ransom or to hold hostages whose safe release was dependent on the freeing of political prisoners and it has also proved to be an effective tool for generating attention and publicity to  dissenting courses. 

Dimensions to Nigerian Kidnapping Landscape – It is conservatively put that 1,000 people are currently victims of kidnapping in Nigeria. However, the actual number is probably much higher, since many cases go unreported. These numbers become even more terrifying if one takes into account figures indicating that 120 of those abducted are children. Another dimension to the Nigerian kidnapping landscape is that the kidnappers target the rich and their children and closed relations including foreigners who their intelligence revealed have kidnap value. Kidnappers’ targeting and attack also rely heavily on the victim’s insider to provide them with the needed intelligence information. These victim’s insiders could be domestic staff, driver, child, relation, friend, neighbour, etc who knows about the victim’s itinerary, funds availability, state of protection and so on and is maliciously ready to part with the information.

For many years now, the US and Britain, prompted by uncanny security situations, have routinely issued travel warnings to their citizens should they think of travelling to Nigeria. High crime index has continued to ensure that the country remains at the bottom of favourite tourist or investment destination thus compounding the twin problems of underdevelopment and unemployment, which invariably promote more insecurity and instability in the country. In the past, those scared to their wits of coming to Nigeria or scampering off the country to live elsewhere have often cited a catalogue of crimes like armed banditry, bank robbery, car hijack, political assassination, religious/sectarian violence, ethnic conflicts,  ethnic militia activities and Boko Haram insurgency. While all these got their usual mention in the nation’s crime diary, it was kidnapping that recently took the center stage, making screeching headlines week after week.      

It is evident that armed robbers and other criminals are fast abandoning their trades for the more lucrative business of kidnapping. Behind the abduction gangs that have sprung up across the country are young, smart, intelligent and educated Nigerians who are being lured into crime by growing unemployment, frustration and the perceived high returns in the booming business. According to Dennis Amachree, the Regional Vice-President for Africa, American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), “of the 10 countries with high kidnapping records in 2007, Nigeria occupied the 6th position; but, between 2007 and 2012 Nigeria has moved up to the 3th position behind Mexico and Columbia”.

In all the villages and towns, the story is the same.  Kidnappings and abductions with the whopping amounts of money raked in as ransom by the hoodlums are pointers to the new crime wave. For instance, the hoodlums who kidnapped the former Minister of Petroleum and elder Statesman, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital confessed that they were driven by the need for money. They were said to have been paid a whopping N50 million within just 72 hours before they released their victim.

Another kidnap victim, Chairman of Ejigbo Local Government Development Authority (LGDA) of Lagos State, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan, whose family allegedly paid N15 million to secure his return, said his return was miraculous. He said God made his captors to change their minds despite their initial plan to kill him. He revealed that the kidnappers claimed that they were graduates and that they did not like what they are doing but had to do it due to lack of jobs. In his words, “They said they were graduates and this country has not provided jobs for them and the same country that has rendered them unemployable spends billions of naira everyday on wasteful projects…. They have to do this, take the risk.  They have to take part of the national cake”.  

One of the major features of the Niger Delta crisis that outlasted youth restiveness in the area is kidnapping. Kidnapping which started at the peak of the crisis forced most multinational oil companies to consider pulling out of the Niger Delta. For example, in August 2006 Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) considered pulling out its expatriate staff following the spate of kidnapping experienced   the Niger Delta. As part of the company’s effort to protect expatriate staff from victimization they were advised to stay indoors and work from home; reduce visibility within the city; and reduce the aspect of staying in hotels. Other options considered by the company include to withdraw all expatriate staff to Lagos; send all or most expatriate staff home and replace them with their Nigerian counterparts overseas; and to move operations offshore where security personnel can see and prevent attacks as well as make very difficult the ability of militants to attack on the high sea.

Fortunately, the Federal Government of Nigeria intervened and instituted Amnesty Programme which seeks to rehabilitate and reintegrate repentant militants through training at home and abroad, bogus contracts and outright bribing, among others. But the youths, having perfected the act of kidnapping and tested the sweetness of making huge amount of money effortlessly, without much risk, now engage in kidnapping as a ready income earning venture on a larger scale.   Indeed, all manner of people including the young, old, men, women and even children now engage in the lucrative business of kidnapping. Boko Haram has also changed tactics to carrying out kidnapping business to generate funds; especially because kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous and requires short time to plan and execute.                                    

Recently, the spokesman of the Joint Task Force in Borno State, Colonel Sagir Musa, told journalists in Maiduguri that based on intelligence report, the Boko Haram terrorist group had resolved to concentrate more on kidnapping than robbery. “They alleged that kidnapping is more lucrative, less dangerous, and requires short time to plan and execute”.

To achieve their goals, the report disclosed that, “A special kidnapping squad has been earmarked and tasked by Boko Haram to kidnap persons who could be a relation, politicians, businessmen and women, civil servants, traditional rulers, and foreigners alike”.     

Bearing his mind on the danger of kidnapping in Lagos State, the Executive Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) said, “…people are afraid of the rapid increase in kidnapping. It is a new problem and I assure Lagosians that the Government is on top of the situation and would deal squarely with it”. We are seriously waiting to see the Government right on top of the situation.

In Rivers State where kidnapping has taken a new dimension following the kidnap of Most Rev. Ignatius Crosby Ogboru Kattey, the Dean, Archbishop and Bishop of the Niger Delta North, Anglican Communion of Nigeria yesterday, the Government still believes that it is on top of the situation. According to the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon Chibuike Amaechi, “security agencies in the State foiled no fewer than 50 kidnap cases monthly”. The figure of monthly thwarted kidnappings in the State is not only alarming but also bothersome and apprehensive. If fifty were unsuccessful how many were successful? What about the unreported cases which often times are greater in number than the reported cases based on the rural nature of our communities and the fragile police-community relations?

Recently, on November 1, 2012 to be précised, a combined team of security operatives killed at least 14 suspected members of a notorious criminal gang that specialize in kidnapping, assassinations, and armed robbery in parts of the State. The operation which took place when the security agents invaded the hideout of the hoodlums at Kaani Community in Khana Local Government Area was to rescue a Turkish national identified as Biram Karakus, believed to have been kidnapped by the gang some weeks earlier.

The renewed increase in the cases of kidnapping in parts of the State in recent times is worrisome. The annoying aspect of it is that most of these kidnappings take place in the Ogoni axis of the State. In Eleme, the industrial nerves center of Nigeria, no fewer than two cases of kidnapping or attempted kidnapping are reported weekly.  From Alesa to Onne and from Ebubu to Aleto, the story is the same.  The militants who hitherto carryout kidnapping across the Niger Delta is said to have since disbanded. Who then are these youths that not only constituted themselves into criminal gangs but are also conniving to carrying out kidnappings in the area. 

The rising number of army of kidnappers calls for concern. The reason is not farfetched. Unlike armed robbery which is often perpetuated by physically strong men, kidnapping can be undertaken by anyone between the age of 10 and 100 years, male or female, physically strong or weak. Their methods varied including posing as travelers, uniform men, clergymen, or technicians; acting as hawkers, dressing like mad people, or pretending to be beggars or offering one type of assistance or the other, which invariably lures the victim into their net.  

Lamenting the situation of kidnappings in Anambra State, the Chairman, Inter and Intra Party Relations Committee in the House of Representatives, Hon. Fort Dike, noted that, “It is so unfortunate and so bad that State Governments, even Anambra State, where I hail from, and the Federal Government has allowed kidnappers to be on rampage as if there is no form of countercheck”.

He further said, “It is so unfortunate and it is not that the consequences are not so obvious and devastating to the extent that people who have kidnap value of N50 million to N500, 000 are scared of travelling to their States and if you have to go, you have to get security that will accompany you and even with the escort, because of the types of ammunition you will not be able to sleep”.

He advised, “So, I urge the Federal Government and the State Governments to tackle this insecurity called kidnapping. State Governors collect huge security votes every month and yet they cannot tackle the menace”, he queried.

The inadequacy of policing Nigeria is revealed when you consider the number of police officers vis-à-vis the population being protected or controlled. In Rivers State, for instance, 11,000 police are expected to police 5.6 million people whereas the United Nations recommends a minimum police strength of 222 per 100,000 people.  Inadequate policing is reflected in increasing crime waves and police helplessness.  

In Nigeria today, the kidnapping industry is flourishing and operates hand in hand with political combatants. At least an average of three to four wealthy individuals is being kidnapped every month. Yet the authorities seem powerless to deal with the problem. Their advice to people reporting the kidnapping of a family member or a business associate is to pay the ransom. Some corporate organizations have units that deal with ransom negotiation. A bad precedent you would agree.    

What then can we do about kidnapping?

Chips to the Rescue – In 1990, during the Gideon Orka bloody coup d’état, one of the stories that made the rounds was the alleged kidnapping of two of the children of the then Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in Switzerland where they were students. The motive, it was said, was to put pressure and raise the odds against IBB in that critical moment in Nigeria’s history. Real or fantasy, the kidnap story further claimed that the IBB children were tracked and rescue by the Swiss police who had followed a signals emitted by tiny electronic devices carried about by the VIP kids.

Global Positioning Satellite – There exists the technology to trace the whereabouts of kidnap victims using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS). As part of enhanced personal and family security, one can consider these electronic implants that have the capability to keep tabs on kidnap victims via satellite. The tracking machines and cameras also enable security agencies to track the kidnappers and their agents.

Grassroots Security Engineering – The grassroots security engineering system which operates through the age-long African traditional structure have the potency to check kidnapping in Nigeria. The grassroots security engineering as a system allows for information dissemination from the hamlet through kindred, ward, local government, and state government with a strong functional and effective structure to collate, evaluate, analyze, interpret and act upon them by relevant state security agencies. Grassroots security engineering provides the window for the public to supply law enforcement with real time information while their protection is guaranteed. It operates beyond the current vigilante groups to involve all law abiding elements of the grassroots.

Know Your Tenants– Every landlords and landladies should be encouraged to know his/her tenants. Basic  information concerning where he hails from, what he does for a living, the types of friends he/she keeps, when he/she goes out and comes in and to call in the police when suspicious.

Know Your Neighbourhood – If you know your neighbourhood you will observe when the unusual is being perpetuated. Knowing your neighbourhood also involves knowing those around your immediate environment; the types of life they live; the friends that visit them, how often and usually when? Take cognizance of persons that loiter around or vehicles that park around your vicinity, for how long, and who is in the vehicle? On the way be conscious of vehicles that follow you for 5 to 10 minutes without making any attempt to overtake even when you slowdown. Seek police assistance as soon as possible.   

Anti-kidnapping Squad – Anti-kidnapping squad should be incorporated into the nation’s fast growing community policing system. The anti-kidnapping unit of the police should be specially trained, equipped with modern anti-kidnapping gargets and motivated to provide proactive anti-kidnapping services. Red spots should be mapped and tabbed and surveillance cameras installed to aid law enforcement.  

VIP Protection – Most Nigerians VIPs do not take their own protection serious. It is disheartening to note that many Nigerian VIP whose kidnap value is say N50 million and above still pay their security N20, 000 or less monthly. Unknown to them, this measure instead of saving funds for them merely increases their vulnerability and endangers the safety of their entire family members.  If one is to provide security services for an executive worth billions of naira, the worth of the VIP should justify the operative’s remuneration. Staginess conserves money in the short run but frustrates and kills in the long run. The prevalence use of quacks by those who can afford professionally qualified security is both irritating suicidal. The protection a VIP pays for is what he gets. VIP or Executive protection is a specialized security function and only specialists in the field can render the required services. A research conducted by this writer on VIPs protection in the Niger Delta raised red flag. How fortified is your security? How qualified is your executive protection provider? Do not wait to be victimized to upgrade to Generally Acceptable Executive Protection Standard (GAEPS). You might not be so lucky to buy your release or procure your return for a fee.

Government Responsibilities – According to the 1990 Nigerian Constitution, the primary function of Government is “security and welfare of the people”. Unfortunately this responsibility has been relegated by successive administrations. Security votes are bluntly made family votes. Corruption is legalized, insecurity has become the rule not the exemption, and the people’s welfare are abused recklessly. Survival of the fittest is the now order of the day. Instead of properties, human beings are now stolen at random for ransom. It is the responsibility of the Government to create jobs for its citizens. It is also the duty of the Government to curb corruption, ensure good governance and eliminate those things that frustrate citizens and to institute platform that motivates citizens to bring out the best in them for the overall growth and development of the country.

Training the police, providing law enforcement with all the modern technologies to solve kidnapping problems and giving security the best available motivation can only cater for 30 percent of the problems; good governance which eradicates corruption, provides employment, ensures equitable distribution of resources and challenges the citizens productively is all we need to take care of the other 70 percent of kidnapping problem.

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