Nigerians paid $18.34m ransom to kidnappers in 9 years

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By Anayo Ezugwu

IN the last nine years, Nigerians lost $18.34 million to kidnappers as ransoms to secure the release of their loved ones. In its latest report, SBM Intelligence said the payment was made between June 2011 and March 2020.

According to the report, the last four years (between January 2016 and March 2020) accounted for the largest proportion with nearly $11 million exchanging hands between kidnappers and their victims. The report showed that in terms of the absolute number of reported kidnap incidents, four of the top 10 states with a high number of kidnap incidents over the last decade are in the south-south geopolitical zone, with three of them, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers being a part of the Niger Delta.

The report stated that these three are also the states with the strongest history of Niger Delta militancy. Kaduna – the state with the second-highest number of incidents – also has a significant history of violence, especially along its connecting road to Abuja. While it is not in the top 10, Abuja has the 11th highest number of kidnap incidents over the last decade, and there is anecdotal evidence that some of the perpetrators responsible for Kaduna’s high rate of kidnap attempts have extended their operations into the federal capital.

According to the report, made available to Realnews, River State has the highest number of kidnap incidents with 120, while Kaduna came second with 117. While three other states from the south-south region joined Rivers in the top 10 list: they are Delta with 96, Bayelsa with 85 and Edo with 55 kidnap incidents.

The report titled ‘Nigeria’s Kidnap Problem: The Economics of the Kidnap Industry in Nigeria,’ stated that insecurity is increasingly becoming a profitable venture for its merchants, which looks set to rival the illegal arms running businesses.

On fatalities, the report noted that the states with the highest number of fatalities are in the North with Borno and Adamawa states. It linked kidnap attempts in Borno and Adamawa states directly with the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group, which is responsible for most of the attempts and a few others linked to Fulani herdsmen militia. It would appear that such existing violence has made the kidnaps much deadlier in these places.

“Our conclusion is that where existing violence and/or historic violent norms have devalued human lives, crimes such as kidnapping tend to result in more fatalities. This becomes even clearer when we organise the list to show the average number of fatalities per kidnap attempt. Once this is done, all the Niger Delta states fall from the top eight. All but one of the top eight falls within the North, with Lagos being the only southern state featuring.

“It would appear that in the south, while kidnapping may be frequent, the selection of victims is more targeted and the kidnappers see it more as a business transaction, trying hard to extract money from their criminal activities. This targeted approach makes their victims less expendable as they are usually fewer in number at a time. In the North, the modus operandi is more likely that a larger number of people are simply rounded up and then ransoms demanded en masse. Because of this approach, victims that are unable to pay up as quickly as expected are more likely to be killed by the kidnappers. Seven other states had no fatalities even though kidnap incidents were recorded in these states.

“However, parsing the data of fatalities per attempt for the other Northern states reveals that until late 2018, the fatalities were relatively low as kidnap attempts were targeted at specific intended victims (mostly politically-exposed persons, business people and their close relatives, or expatriates). This data takes into account only victims, and discounts suspected kidnappers killed by security forces in various skirmishes or rescue attempts.

“The sudden uptick in fatalities per attempt coincides with the increase in attacks by bandits on Villages, especially in Zamfara and Katsina states, a situation, which has gradually extended to Kaduna and Niger states. These bandits have also been involved in kidnapping besides attacking villagers and travellers, or doing both at the same time. As these kidnaps are less targeted at specific persons, the bandits are less deliberate in avoiding the deaths of their victims compared to earlier kidnap attempts, which appeared to have specific targets in mind.

“This point to the democratisation of insecurity in the North, specifically with respect to kidnapping, which is a huge reversal from a decade and a half ago where kidnapping attempts were mostly in the Niger Delta, before slowly spreading to the South-East and across the country. Overall, Nigeria is becoming less safe each year. Kidnapping has increased in almost all states, but the sharpest rises have been in Kaduna, Rivers, Katsina, Zamfara and Taraba, while only Bayelsa in the entire country, saw a fall in the number of incidents compared to the period of 2011 to 2015,” it said.

According to the report, in the four-year comparison between 2011 and 2015 on one hand, and 2016 and 2020 on the other, Gombe and Jigawa were the only states that did not record any fatality. Anambra, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi and Kwara are states that recorded fewer deaths between 2016 and 2020.

“Kidnapping has become safer for the victims in Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba and Yobe as these states saw fewer deaths per kidnap attempt. For all the other states, the prospect of being attached has become a more dangerous proposition.”

– May 29, 2020 @ 16:39 GMT |

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