• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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₦5bn ransom demanded for 3,620 kidnapped persons in 12 months – SBM

100 days in captivity: Story of the abducted corps members

Between the period of July 2022 and June 2023, at least 3,620 persons were abducted in 582 kidnap-related incidents across Nigeria, a new report has said.

BusinessDay shows that the number is more than the 3,420 people that were kidnapped between the period of July 2021 – June 2022.

According to the report titled ‘The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry by SBM Intelligence, an Africa-focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm, at least five billion naira ($6.4 million as of June 30) were reported as ransom demands, while verified ransom payouts amounted to N302 million ($387,179), a figure potentially underestimated due to underreporting.

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“We believe these numbers could be far higher than reported. This is because victims’ families and the police often choose not to state whether or not a ransom was paid to procure the release of the abducted, and in the few cases when ransom payments are acknowledged, the fees are hardly disclosed,” it said.

It said the kidnapped figures reflect Nigeria’s security agencies’ struggle to contain kidnap for ransom. “Yet, the number of kidnappers killed has not served as a credible deterrent for would-be kidnappers.”

It added that the rising kidnap incidents show the industry’s profitability outweighs the perceived threat of state intervention and police rescues.

SBM also revealed that the North Central region recorded higher ransom amounts, notably in Nasarawa state, where targeted abductions yielded maximum ransoms with minimal resistance.

It said the South-South’s low ransom payments may indicate efficient police intervention or victim silence. “We believe that the latter is more likely as kidnap victims fear re-abduction.”

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The report added that at the state level, Edo kidnappers sought high ransoms but received little while victims in Taraba paid the most, primarily due to a single incident. Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger had the highest per capita abduction rates, often involving mass community abductions.

Borno reported minimal deaths due to Boko Haram’s targeted and sophisticated tactics. And across the country, civilians bore the brunt, with 430 fatalities, while security agents and kidnappers themselves accounted for 19 and 121 deaths, respectively.

For more than a decade, Nigeria’s numerous internal security crises have intensified affecting economic growth, particularly the agriculture sector. Also notable is the kidnapping and murder of people by Boko Haram insurgency in the North and the lingering conflict between herders and farmers in north-central Nigeria.

The latest Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria among the top 20 least peaceful countries in the World.

Most actors involved in this industry, and other security challenges the country faces, employ kidnapping as a means to an end—financial gratification, authors of the SBM report said.

“Kidnapping for ransom has eclipsed other motivations for abductions, especially political reasons. The chief driver for this dominance is the economy,” they added.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s inflation, which measures the rate of increase of commodity prices quickened to a near 18-month high at 24.08 percent in July 2023 and unemployment, at a record high of 33.3 percent as at 2020 has heightened insecurity in the country.

The World Bank said in July that inflation pushed an estimated four million more Nigerians into poverty in the first five months of this year.

SBM projects that the current harsh economic climate is likely to lead to a hike in ransom demands, endangering the lives of victims whose families cannot meet exorbitant requests.

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It recommended strengthening law enforcement, improving socio-economic conditions, and fostering education are essential to eradicating the economic incentives for kidnappers.

“International cooperation, intelligence-sharing, and stringent legal frameworks can also help to curb cross-border kidnapping networks. Kidnapping is a serious crime that has a significant economic impact,” it said.

It said the cost of ransom payments, lost wages, and security measures to prevent kidnapping can be staggering and that the psychological and emotional toll on victims and their families can be devastating.

“The economics of kidnapping are complex, and there is no easy solution to this problem. However, governments, organisations, and communities can work collaboratively to develop holistic solutions and effective strategies to prevent and combat this crime by understanding its economic costs.”