CONCERNS about kidnapping in Nigeria are re-echoing in Malaysia where thousands of Nigerians studying there have formed a new target for the criminals. The incidents are worrying enough and are making the headlines adding to the global notoriety that has been attached to Nigerians for years.

Nigerian High Commissioner to Malaysia, Peter Anegbeh, said the cases are a foreign version of a domestic challenge – Nigerians kidnap Nigerians and demand ransom from the family of their victims back in Nigeria. “They demand about $10,000 as ransom,” Mr. Anegbeh said.

The kidnappers have a boom in their hands. With a Nigerian population of about 20,000 out of which 7,500 are students, there is a sizeable number of people who could become victims. The crime, however, is mostly among the student population.

Using schooling as cover, the criminals are able to obtain information about other Nigerian students whose families are wealthy enough to pay ransoms. The ransom demanded reflects the perceived status of the victim’s relations.

It is understandable that the Malaysian authorities treat the cases as if they are disagreements among Nigerian students. It takes time, in some cases, before the security agencies realise that a kidnap has taken place.

A syndicate that oversees the crimes works with some Malaysians to compromise the local authorities. It makes discrete recruitment drives in Nigeria for students to study in Malaysia, throwing in sweeteners like scholarships, jobs and ease of obtaining visas.

Many who are not qualified take the chance of travelling abroad that schooling in Malaysia could provide. This could account for almost half of those registered as students not being in schools.

Mr. Anegbeh said they engage in other criminal activities like drug trafficking and cultism. Those arriving as students are the easiest prey for the syndicate.

“It is highly regrettable that out of the 7,500 students, only 3,500 are genuine, while some are victims of human trafficking being carried out by a syndicate in collaboration with some Malaysian nationals.

“Members of the syndicate deceive Nigerians into believing there are schools and job opportunities in Malaysia. However, when they arrive in the country, they get stranded and employ all means to survive,” he said.

Nigeria and Malaysia have a free trade agreement under the D-8 Commission, established in 1997. It promotes trade and economic relations among these developing countries Nigeria, Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran and Pakistan.

The activities of the criminals are more dents on the country’s image and make it difficult for Nigeria to reap the benefits of the D-8 Commission whose membership is mainly Asian. The crimes committed in Malaysia should be treated as a Nigerian problem by tackling it from the roots.

Without members of the syndicate in Nigeria, the Malaysian end cannot function. Nigerian authorities should work with the Malaysian government to dismantle the syndicate.

The problem is no longer Malaysia’s. The crimes may be executed in Malaysia, but the victims are Nigerians and the damage being done is to Nigeria’s image.

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