• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

The unseen nexus: Poverty’s role in Nigeria’s kidnapping epidemic

As insecurity worsens in Lagos, these are practical ways to protect yourself

In recent times, Nigeria has witnessed a surge in kidnappings, killings, and organised attacks across various cities, villages, and communities, raising serious concerns about the competence and integrity of our leaders at all levels. The nation has unfortunately transformed into a laboratory for violence and bloodshed, with a distressing correlation emerging between poverty and the escalating wave of criminality.

Every day, innocent lives are lost not to illness or accidents, prevalent though they may be in our environment, but rather at the hands of ruthless kidnappers and bandits who roam with impunity. Kidnapping has become pervasive, casting a shadow over every nook and cranny of the nation, leaving countless families devastated by the loss of loved ones who vanish without a trace.

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Numerous studies have shed light on the socio-economic factors driving the prevalence of banditry and abductions in Nigeria. At the heart of this social malaise lies poverty, which serves as a fertile breeding ground for criminal activities. Millions of Nigerians trapped in poverty endure economic desperation as they struggle to fulfil their basic needs, pushing some to resort to illicit means such as kidnapping and banditry to obtain financial resources.

Read also: Nexus between poverty, kidnapping, and banditry

Moreover, the absence of economic opportunities exacerbates the problem, particularly among the youth who face a bleak outlook for personal and professional growth. High rates of unemployment, especially among the youth, leave many vulnerable to exploitation by criminal gangs promising empowerment and belonging in exchange for their allegiance.

Land and resource disputes, especially prevalent in the North-West regions, have further fueled the flames of banditry and kidnapping. The discovery of gold in Zamfara enticed many herdsmen to abandon traditional livelihoods for the lucrative but illicit trade of kidnapping and banditry. These criminal elements exploit vulnerable communities, extorting protection fees and resorting to violence against those who resist their demands.

The proliferation of firearms has compounded the issue, providing criminal groups with access to lethal weapons that escalate violence and make law enforcement efforts increasingly challenging. The availability of sophisticated weaponry empowers criminal elements, giving them a tactical advantage over security forces and emboldening them to carry out audacious attacks with impunity.

Unfortunately, deficiencies within government institutions, including law enforcement agencies, have hampered efforts to combat criminal activities effectively. Rampant corruption undermines law enforcement efforts, with many high-ranking individuals colluding with criminal syndicates to perpetrate illegal activities and evade justice. The Nigerian Police Force, once a symbol of security and order, now languishes in a state of ineffectiveness, crippled by corruption and inefficiency.

Addressing the root causes of kidnapping and banditry demands a multifaceted approach, including policies to stimulate economic growth, create job opportunities, and alleviate poverty. Transparent land management policies and improved border controls are also essential to mitigate land disputes and arms trafficking, which fuel criminal activities.

Moreover, enhancing security through intelligence gathering and community engagement is crucial to combatting criminality effectively. Leveraging the potential of ordinary citizens, including public cab drivers and cyclists, as intelligence agents could significantly bolster efforts to track and apprehend criminals across the country.

In conclusion, the scourge of kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria is deeply intertwined with poverty and socio-economic disparities. Tackling this epidemic requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including government agencies, law enforcement, and civil society. Only by addressing the underlying causes and strengthening security measures can Nigeria hope to overcome this grave challenge and pave the way for a safer and more prosperous future for all its citizens.