Both economists and other stakeholders have warned of the devastating impact of kidnapping for ransom is having on the nation’s economy and that the military authorities and the federal government should devise new strategies to tackle the menace before it destroys completely the nation’s economy.
By Goddy Ikeh
MILLIONS of Nigerians have expressed concern about the resurgence of insecurity in the country, especially kidnapping for ransom and are now wondering aloud if it is not time for the authorities to adopt new security strategies to restore peace and stability across the length and breadth of the country.
According to a recent report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), some stakeholders have hailed the efforts of security agencies in tackling the menace, but they said that the resurgence meant that a lot needed to be done to eliminate the threat.
While some of the respondents in the affected communities said that they had been forced to flee their villages by gunmen, others said the activities of the insurgents and other criminals had decimated the local economy and exacerbated the poverty level of the people. They explained that in some instances, apart from the criminals taking all they had, they were also forced to pay for every bullet used by the terrorists in shooting at them.
The report, however, covered mostly the deadliest zones such as the north-east and the north-west that is riddled with gangs that routinely kidnap for ransom.
Unfortunately, this experience which has dealt a devastating blow on the rural economies, the same can be said of the urban centres and their economies, including Abuja, Lagos and the state capitals.
The danger posed on the Nigerian economy by this kidnapping pandemic has attracted a report by the Economist which asked how much politicians in Nigeria care about national insecurity has long been correlated with how close it gets to their mansions in Abuja, the capital. It added that on its outskirts on January 2, 2024, a father and his six daughters were kidnapped, prompting a rare outcry on high. According to the report, a crowd funding effort to pay the ransom was even backed by a former minister. But the kidnappers instead killed one of the girls and demanded more cash. The wife of President Bola Tinubu publicly lamented a “devastating loss”. “Yet such horrors are still appallingly frequent—and largely ignored by politicians. In one incident recently in the south-east, 45 people were kidnapped and are still missing, yet few leaders spoke out,” the report said.
On the impact of terrorism and general insecurity on the Nigerian economy, some local media reports stated that the economy of Nigeria, has been most impacted negatively. Many highly skilled people have either died or suffered permanent disability, as a result of the widespread insecurity. Many have been displaced, and now depend on friends, family members and government for their daily survival. “These are people who previously had means of livelihood, and could cater for themselves. Many micro, small and medium enterprises have shut down. Indeed, many big companies are divesting from Nigeria and relocating elsewhere, where they could do business in relative peace and safety. According to the report, the major business booming in Nigeria now is for those who sell security gadgets of all sorts, including bullet proof vehicles, doors and other accessories. These are things beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerians, who struggle daily to cope with rising food prices.
Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians are resigning from their plum jobs and leaving the country, in what is called ‘Japa’. Many Nigerians, according local media reports, are now under self-imposed curfew. No more night life. Churches and even Mosques have had to cancel vigils, while many congregants are also afraid to attend worship services and programmes even during the day. Night life is almost gone, while those who organise social events or parties no longer do till-day-break, preferring to end their parties around 6pm so guests can be safely back to the comfort of their homes before nightfall.
In addition, a recent media report on insecurity in the country described it as “Insecurity everywhere, nowhere to run! This appears to be the plight of most Nigerians in the past few months, and there don’t seem to be any respite. The once serene Plateau State is now under siege, because of bandits and terrorists. Most worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Capital, Abuja, is not spared from the grip of kidnappers and bandits, and the situation appears to be getting worse.”
The reports reveal that, there are now daily kidnappings in Abuja and its environs.
The recent report by civil society groups, under the aegis of the Civil Society Joint Action Group, said that 17,469 Nigerians were abducted under the Muhammadu Buhari and Bola Tinubu administrations from 2019 to date. Speaking on behalf of the group, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that insecurity had persisted over the last three administrations, with 24,816 Nigerians killed and 15,597 persons abducted in the last administration of President Buhari, between 2019 and 2023. Out of the total number of 17, 469 kidnapped from 2019 and to date, 90% of the cases were recorded under Buhari, while 10% have been recorded under Tinubu.
The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a comprehensive study analysing the impact of terrorism for 163 countries covering 99.7% of the world’s population. The GTI report is produced by the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) using data from Terrorism Tracker and other sources. The GTI report of 2022 ranked Nigeria eight with a score of 8.065. GTI is a composite measure made up of four indicators: incidents, fatalities, injuries and hostages. Nigeria’s position is very depressing!
Research has shown that there are many triggers of insecurity ranging from ungoverned spaces; porous borders; poverty; unemployment; ostentatious lifestyle and corrupt practices on the part of our leaders. There are swaths of land and communities, without any semblance of governance and security. Bandits have taken over such spaces. There are over 1,400 illegal entry and exit routes from Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Immigration Services. Nothing has been done, with the much touted e-border surveillance project of the federal government. The porosity of our borders makes it possible for unhindered smuggling of small arms and light weapons, hard drugs and human trafficking. Unemployment in Nigeria is above 30%, while the poverty rate, even by official figures, is very high. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds, including that of resources meant to buy arms and ammunition have further compounded insecurity in Nigeria.
However, the federal government and indeed, many state governments, have increased their security and defence budgets in order to tackle the menace of insecurity in the country. For instance, many states are establishing vigilante groups, with the latest being Zamfara State. According to local media reports, on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, Governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State, inaugurated a 2,969-man State Community Protection Guard, to tackle the insecurity challenges affecting the State. In 2020, the six South West States, Lagos, Osun, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti States Houses of Assembly passed the South West Security Network (Amotekun) Bill into law. The Corps has been in operation since then, with modest success recorded in the fight against crimes and criminality.
In addition, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 inaugurated a Special Intervention Squad (SIS) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to address the increasing rate of crime in the territory.
The Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, on Saturday, January 13, 2024 revealed a plan by President Bola Tinubu towards the establishment of the Marine Police, Solid Mineral Police and better-trained forest guards.
The opposition is not left out as the PDP governors’ had on Thursday, February 1, 2024 lamented the security challenges facing the country and insisted that, for the nation to overcome the challenge, the present Police structure must be decentralised, to give way to the establishment of State Police across the country.
Apart from kidnapping and its effects on the nation’s economy, illegal oil bunkering is also gravely affecting the economy.
According to the Nigerian military, the crime scene points to the fact that it is an organised crime that has been running for a long period.
The army warned that if the illegality of oil refining activities continues, it will gravely affect the stability of the nation’s economy. The military also reiterated President Bola Tinubu’s directive on zero tolerance for illegal oil bunkering, charging the troops to sustain the operational tempo against the mindless criminality.
Perhaps, the federal government should devise new strategies to deal with insecurity and the activities of illegal refineries since the two have been impacting negatively on the nation’s economy. The rural and urban businesses are closing down daily and many big companies are divesting from Nigeria and relocating elsewhere, while thousands of Nigerian professionals are leaving for safer countries abroad. Nigerians are expecting prompt and decisive actions to check the menace and are tired of listening to promises, policies and programmes that have little or nothing to add to their safety and wellbeing.
13th February, 2024.