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Thoughts on Kidnapping in Nigeria and the Boko Haram

The surge of kidnapping in Nigeria, insurgency, and other incidents related to Boko Haram in Nigeria has been overwhelmingly alarming. This perpetual act of criminality is perpetrated by well established and emerging criminal groups as well as individual criminals for different degrees  of reasons. The kidnapping of Chibok and Dapchi girls among other prominent cases of kidnapping orchestrated by the Boko Haram sect is a greater dirge that has remained in the hearts of many Nigerians.

Boko Haram in Nigeria

The killings of our fathers, mothers, children; raping of our women and destruction of properties in Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, and Kaduna by armed-Bandits is painfully in the hearts of many Nigerians. Kidnapping cuts across all the regions in Nigeria and anyone could be kidnapped at any time depending on the immediate security situation.The reasons for kidnapping tends to differ; many of these criminals indulge in the act of kidnapping for pecuniary gains and achievements.

Kidnapping in Nigeria

Kidnapping is one crime that Nigerians are beginning to get used to as its state of occurrence  has sadly made it a conspicuous way of life in the country. Kidnapping in contemporary Nigeria is not peculiar to any state or region; no one is safe from kidnapping in Nigeria  whether from the wealthy or poor class. Everyone is a vulnerable and potential victim.

While the poor are sometimes kidnapped for ritual  purposes, the rich are kidnapped for extortion through the payment of ransom which runs  millions to billions of naira depending on who’s  involved. According to a Presidency source, Nigeria recorded 1,177 cases of kidnapping within the time frame of 14 months from 2016 to 2017. While 525 suspects were prosecuted,  652 are still being investigated (The Eagle Online, 2017).

Kidnapping however has no specific definition, and thus far has been defined differently by scholars. The online New World Encyclopedia defined kidnapping as “the taking away of a person by force, deceit, or threat and detaining that person against their will.” The word kidnapping was first recorded in 1673 as coined from two different words, kid which means “child” and nap from “nab.”

History of Kidnapping

There are no known records on when the first case of kidnapping was reported in the world, but “kidnapping” has been used to mean the stealing of children for use as servitudes in American colonies as early as 1673 (Chidi, p.134). According to Walsh and Adrian (1983), kidnapping is the unlawful seizure and detention of a person(s) by force against their will. It is also an act of seizing people and taking them to another country for involuntary servitude or the imprisonment of males into military or naval service by force or fraud.

However, defined kidnapping as “the abduction of a person by another for any or a combination of the following purposes:

  • hold him for ransom or reward
  • use him as a shield or hostage
  • accomplish or aid the commission of any felony or flight there from
  • inflict physical injury upon him, or to violate or abuse him sexually
  • terrorize him or a third person; or interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function.

The above cases underscore the fact that the reasons for kidnapping differs across the board.

Kidnapping in Nigeria

In Nigeria however, the first recorded case of kidnapping was perpetrated by the government in its 1984 attempt to repatriate from London an Ex-Minister Umaru Dikko who was alleged to have stolen one billion during his time as the Minister in-charge of Transport. Nevertheless, there is a consensus by several authors that kidnapping in Nigeria originated from the Niger-Delta region where agitations have been ongoing against environmental degradation caused by the exploration activities of multinational oil companies in the region.

It is estimated by (ACBC-FM 10 am News: 12th November 2018) as cited by (Akpan, 2010) that 200 expatriate oil workers have been kidnapped so far in the Niger-Delta region. Today, kidnapping has spread beyond the Niger-Delta region to other parts of Nigeria. Initially, the targets of kidnappers in the Niger-Delta region were foreign nationals leading to the outcry by Britain that an estimated 25 British and dual citizens of British origin have been kidnapped alongside two hundred other nationals since 2007 (Ibrahim & Mukhtar, 2017).

Kidnapping in Nigeria Today

However, kidnapping happens in all parts of the country today. In the North, South, East, West and even North Central. According to Otuya (2010) one of the foremost cases of kidnapping in the Niger-Delta region was the kidnap of nine foreign workers in an oil company. The captors were to negotiate the release of one of the arrowheads in the Niger-Delta struggles—Mujahid Asari Dokubo. The militants’ motive, in that case, was not to receive any ransom in exchange for the release of its victims.

Today everyone regardless of nationality or economic status risks being kidnapped with the statistics that has revealed that Nigeria records 1,000 cases of kidnapping on a yearly bases with an unknown unofficial statistics since not all kidnap cases are reported (Ibrahim & Mukhtar, 2017).

More on the History of Kidnapping in Nigeria

The first recorded case of kidnapping by a gang of Niger Delta youths was in 1998 when an armed man demanding job creation and provision of electricity by the oil companies operating in the region abducted eight Chevron and Texaco workers of British, American, and South African origins according to a BBC report. By 1999 a British Shell worker was kidnapped alongside his two-year-old son in Warri. It is important to note, however, that these acts of kidnappings were perpetrated by random groups and continued in that manner until the emergence of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND).

In 2003, the militants abducted about 270 persons, 97 of these persons were foreign nationals nonetheless the hostages who were captured after the seizure of four oil rigs in the region regained their freedom after negotiations. In January 2006, the militants kidnapped four expatriate workers after blowing up the pipeline feeding the export terminal. In February, they kidnapped three Americans, two Thais, two Egyptians, a Briton and a Filipino working for Shell (Chidi, 2014).

By May 2006, the separatists kidnapped three oil workers who were released after 24 hours; in June, six Britons, an American and a Canadian working for Norwegian-run drilling rig were abducted. By 20th June, it was reported that two Filipinos working for PGF Exploration had been kidnapped by unknown gunmen. In November, a British oil worker who was kidnapped alongside six workers of Saipem Oil rig was killed in crossfire (Chidi, 2014).

Kidnapping in Northern Nigeria

I now turn to the Northern part of Nigeria where kidnapping is a perpetual phenomenon perpetrated by Boko Haram and armed-Bandits. According to the CNN library, Militants suspected to be Boko Haram militants kidnapped about 20 women in Nigeria’s northeast village of Garkin Fulani from June 7th to 8th 2014. From June 18th to 22nd 2014, sixty females including children were kidnapped after the sect held the village of Kummabza in Borno northeast Nigeria hostage for five days.

Also, Leah Sharibu was kidnapped along with 109 other students on 19th February 2018 when Boko Haram attacked a boarding school in the city of Dapchi, in the state of Borno in north-eastern Nigeria where some of the Kidnapped  girls died in captivity. A month later all the others—101—were released, except Leah Sharibu. In 2013 also, the Boko-Haram sect claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of seven foreign nationals including one Lebanese and their European counterpart in the northern state of Kano in an email statement sent to journalists (Vanguard Newspaper, 2013).

Recent Kidnappings in Northern Nigeria

Recently in Zamfara state, armed-bandits kidnapped an Imam and 17 worshippers from a mosque in Zamfara state, Nigeria. Those armed-Bandits  were on motorcycles as they attacked a Jumaat (Friday) Mosque and whisked away the Imam and some worshippers in a community in Zamfara State.

The attack and abduction took place during a congregational prayer on Friday at Dutsen Gari, a farming community in Kanoma District of Maru local government area of Zamfara State.  At least eight persons were kidnapped during the attack. The attackers ensured that worshippers were seated and listening to the sermon from the Imam before they invaded the worship centre.

More so, in 2014, the news of the kidnapping of over 200 school girls from the government secondary school Chibok in Borno north-east Nigeria became fodder for the press with many people joining the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement in campaigning for their release and safe return.

Few months after the release of some of the girls, the terrorist group struck again by abducting over 100 girls in a boarding school in Yobe state northeast Nigeria. Sadly, same Boko Haram fighters killed at least 43 farm workers and wounded six in rice fields near the north-east Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday, 29/11/2020.The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats in the village of Koshobe, Zabarmari.

Kidnapping by Armed Bandits

Furthermore, kidnapping by armed-Bandits along Kaduna–Abuja road is becoming worse everyday. Travellers, dwellers and students travelling from home to schools like Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria; Kaduna State University;  Bayero University, Kano, tend to pass through that road to school. Gone are the days when everyone, both the old and the young, rich and the poor, always wanted to visit Northern Nigeria for holidays or tourism.

But today, everyone is scared to visit Northern Nigeria because of the rise of banditry and kidnapping.The rich, poor, adult, children, lecturers, professors, government officials and even students are not left behind by these blood sucking demons who yearn for blood and money.  The gravity of kidnapping is so intense that it has virtually affected most persons in our society.

The current dimension of kidnapping in Nigeria and Northern Nigeria is alarming because it seems that nobody is safe anymore even at home and schools. Kidnapping for ransom is one of the biggest organised or gang crimes in Nigeria and is seen as a national security challenge.

Violence in Kidnappings

Kidnappings are often violent and resistance always results in the death of victims. Some weeks back the Nasarawa State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Philip Schekwo, was kidnapped and killed by gunmen on the weekend. The killers arrived at Schekwo’s home on Kurikyo Road, Bukan Sidi, in Lafia around 11 p.m and started shooting sporadically.

Schekwo was said to have perceived danger and made several calls to security agencies without success. The gunmen used diggers to break a door in the house before whisking Schekwo away. His wife, children and the chairman himself made several calls to security agencies in the state but nobody responded. The operation lasted about 49 minutes before the gunmen entered the bedroom of the chairman after disarming his security guard. They took him away and killed him just a metre away from his house. They hung his car key close to his lifeless body (The Nation, November 23, 2020).

Nigerian Victims of Kidnapping

Thousands of Nigerians have fallen victim to the crime and have had to pay millions of dollars in ransom for their freedom. Also some weeks back along Kaduna-Abuja road, nine students of the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria were kidnapped while travelling to Lagos for an academic programme. Their abductors demanded N270 million as ransom. Dickson Oko, one of the students who managed to escape when the incident happened along Abuja-Kaduna expressway, said the kidnappers demanded N30 million on each of them.

He had managed to escape together with the driver of the bus into the bush but unfortunately sustained gunshot injuries. Hither, the students were later released after a million naira was paid as ransom for each of them (Channels, November 22, 2020). Nobody is safe anymore as these Arm-bandits and kidnappers have sheath their swords ready to cause havoc, kill and kidnap anybody irrespective of their social class.

Kidnapping of Students and Staff at Ahmadu Bello University

Perplexing, the same week after the release of the nine Ahmadu Bello University students Kidnapped, gunmen abducted a staff member of Ahmadu Bello University and released his wife and daughter in a gunfight with police. The kidnappers invaded the home of the staff member on the university’s main campus in Zaria and took him, his wife and daughter. The campus security passed on a distress call to the police intelligence response team and police engaged the kidnappers in a gunfight.

And when it was clear that they would be overpowered, the kidnappers ran into the bush along with the victims and as the police went after them up to Kasuwar Da’a village bordering the university, the kidnappers then released the wife and daughter and went away with the husband. Some empty shells were recovered from the scene and universities campuses and environment are not safe anymore (Dailytrust, November 23, 2020).

Additional Examples of Kidnapping in Nigeria

Correspondingly, gunmen invaded the staff quarters of Nuhu Bamalli polytechnic, Zaria and abducted the head of the school’s computer engineering department, alongside two of his neighbour’s children.They were  later released. Kidnapping is now seen as a lucrative business and the shortest means to wealth by those involved in this crime.  The current wave of abductions across the country makes every person a potential target regardless of social class or economic status.

Something ignited the conscience of northern youths. Few days after the #EndSARS protest started, they woke up to trend the hashtag “#SecureNorth” across social media platforms. Many people recounted how their families, relatives and friends were either gunned down by the bandits or how they went through ordeals to pay ransoms.

Some have taken time to call on the government to take up its responsibility of securing the North while some have opted for curses and vulgar abuses to the person of the president. Some have lost hope and have concluded that the government could no longer address the insecurity happening in the country (Najib Adamu Usman, 2020).

Final Thoughts on Kidnapping in Nigeria

In as much as there’s no crime free society in the world, curbing and reducing crime is a must to every human society. The protection of the lives and property of citizens is the primary function of every government. Going by social contract theory, the people gave out their inalienable right to the government for their protection and if the government failed, they have the constitutional right to remove the government and install another.

Sociologically, human society is a juggernaut with the ever present possibilities of running amok. Nigeria is running amok from kidnapping, insurgency and banditry. The country has received a virulent slap and we should not lose sight of these social problems.

In addendum, greed, vengeance, corruption, intolerance, acute unemployment, poverty, poor governance, and inadequate crime-fighting equipment/technology coupled with poor synergy among security agencies are some of the factors responsible for the increasing incidences of  insurgency, banditry and kidnapping in the country. And finally, If we must fight and win the war against  kidnapping insurgency and banditry, all these issues will have to be addressed as a matter of national security urgency.

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Hassan Idris

Hassan Idris is from Kogi state Nigeria, a writer, poet, essayist, a graduate of Sociology and Anthropology from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria. He's a member of the Creative writer's Club, A. B. U Zaria, Creative Club Gombe State University, Northern writer's Summit, Risingyouth, and Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation. His works have appeared in a variety of press outlets. He's a guest writer/Contributor for Applied Worldwide (USA), Chairman, Benue Hill-Top Creative Arts Foundation branch and an editor with Wadata TV, Nigeria. He received an Award from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria-Nigeria as the best researcher in 2017, and he's the third place winner of Applied Worldwide's student essay competition in the US in 2020 and 2021. He was hosted by the Legislator representing Makurdi North, Hon. Thomas Kwagh-Kudi Terfa in his office, Benue State House Of Assembly in 2020 for making his constituency proud. He's a reviewer and his review of the book, Behind The Moon  was featured in He happens to be the first reviewer of the book, Pruning The Youngstar written by a Kenyan Author. He's the author of Armageddon of Love (poetry collection) featured in The Abusites,, Opera news, etc.