By Bimpe Ade
During church service on Sunday before my pastor began his sermon, he spent his first ten minutes on the podium talking to the congregation about the recent surge of kidnappings in Lagos state. Speaking like a father to his children, he yelled passionately “these are perilous times.” “Don’t stay out late alone, go out in groups.” “Practice sitting in the passenger’s seat next to your driver when you are in traffic at night”, he said.
As he wrapped up his sermon he called out a woman and her family who had a testimony and thanksgiving. The woman presumably in her 60’s danced to the altar with her children and grandchildren and she spoke in detail of her ordeal in the hands of kidnappers. She had been kidnapped for 11 days with no food, or medication to treat the fracture she suffered while trying to get away from her abductors.
She had been taken from her place of work in broad daylight as she was making her exit at closing time. While describing her experience she said: “I was the only one they kidnapped, and every morning when they woke up, one of them will lead in prayers asking God that my family pay the ransom they demanded.”
These are some sick and twisted group of individuals and one may think this is a rare and isolated incident. I wish this were the case. I have read of a Yaba College of Technology student, Ejiro who was abducted and taken to the nearest ATM machine and forced to fork over her life savings. During the stop at the bank another man who was standing in front of the bank minding his business and probably waiting for his driver to pull up was also kidnapped. This could have been anyone.
Kidnapping rarely seems to have been out of the headlines in recent years, but the rate at which people are being snatched up in Lagos recently is a cause of great concern.
What is the cause of the recent rise in kidnapping in Lagos, and what is law enforcement doing to curtail this madness seems to be the questions on everyone’s lips.
Kidnapping is a rational crime that can be mapped and understood if the Nigerian Police Force are willing to do their jobs to protect citizens. How are these kidnappers getting away with holding people hostage, contacting their families demanding ransom, and even more baffling is how they get away the ransom money— sometimes millions of Naira- with no trace.
Kidnapping is defined as “to hold or carry off usually for ransom”, and encompasses a wide variety of crimes. Economic kidnapping— or the kidnapping business is where a financial demand is made, which could be either hard cash, or some other financial resource. Sadly this business is booming, and has become big business not only in Nigeria but across the globe. Economic kidnapping is one the fastest growing industries in the world. It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home in the region of $500 million each year in ransom. A huge fraction of this estimate must be out of Nigeria, even though reliable statistics are basically nonexistent, we read and watch on the news of how these kidnappers get away with millions of Naira, and sometimes still end up killing their victims.
Many years ago the Republic of Colombia was the undisputed kidnap capital of the world. Nigeria was number 8 on the list in 1999, and we are sitting at number 4 on that list today.
Over the years kidnapping has risen in Nigeria, and this upsurge can be traced largely to the expansion of multi-national companies in the country following the rich natural resources on offer. But also, gone are the days where foreigners and expatriates were the main target of kidnappers. These days anybody is up for grabs.
In addition, due to the association of kidnapping with political extremism, it is often wrongly assumed that government officials are the principal targets. However, with the recent kidnappings in the country it shows that business owners are now the most important target of kidnappers. This is a statistic that has been driven home following the recent events in the country. On the whole kidnappers look for the most exposed and least protected people.
This means that even regular citizens need to be cautious, because these kidnappers will snatch anybody up to make a quick buck.