The spate of kidnapping in Nigeria has become quite alarming. More than three thousand people were kidnapped and 3,868 killed in the first half of the year.
In July, these heart-wrenching figures were revealed in the Mass Atrocities Casualties Tracking report of Global Rights, an international NGO.
The number of people kidnapped in this half-year period is more than the total number of kidnapped people in 2020. This terrible situation reflects the failure of the APC regime and the capitalist system which it represents.
We should note that the recorded 2,944 victims do not include people kidnapped across Nigeria’s shared borders with Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, which have been havens of kidnapping. There are also several unreported cases as kidnapping becomes a primary “industry” of generalized insecurity.
There has been a steady increase in the number of people kidnapped over the years. There were 484 recorded victims of kidnapping in 2017. The number rose to 987 in 2018 and then 1,386 in 2019. By 2020, the number was 2,860.
The data for kidnapping incidents collected through the NST is equally worrisome. There were 110 recorded incidents in 2015, 135 in 2016, 140 in 2017, 156 in 2018, 330 in 2019, 437 in 2020, and 315 in the first half of 2021.
It is not just the number of people kidnapped or the number of incidents that has spiked. We now witness mass abductions regularly. In 2016, the average number of victims for each incident was 2.6 persons. Thus far this year, it has been 9.4 persons.
But even this does not tell how bad the situation is. While the number of abductions with more than 20 victims in 2015 was five, there have thus far been at least 31 kidnapping incidents with over 20 victims. Students have been the primary target. Secondary and post-secondary schools have been raided time and again for this purpose.
According to Premium Times, mass kidnapping of students has now become a norm in the country. Dozens and hundreds of students have been kidnapped this year alone, in Afaka, Kaduna state; Yauri, Kebbi state; Kagara, Niger state, and Jangebe, Zamfara state, amongst others.
This Day reported in March that at least 618 schools had been closed in the northern states out of fear of kidnappers. These schools are in Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states.
This is cause for grave concern. One out of every five out-of-school children in the world, including 13 million primary school-aged children, are in Nigeria already. And the bulk of these is in the north.
While abductions of pupils in schools have been more common in the north, kidnapping has become generalized across the country, under the watch of APC. In 2015, almost all kidnapping incidents were limited to the North-East and South-South regions when it came to power. But every single region is now embroiled.
The North-West has recorded the highest number this year, with at least 1,405 people kidnapped thus far. It is followed by the North-Central with 942 people and then the North-East with 211. In the South-West, 169 victims have been recorded, while the South-South and South-East have 140 and 77 victims, respectively.
This terrible situation has thrown thousands of families, and particularly parents, into anguish. Not less than 237 people have been killed. In some instances, this was after ransom was paid. It has also driven many of them into penury as they are made to pay ever-increasing amounts as ransom in their bids to secure the release of their loved ones.
The total known amount demanded by kidnappers between June 2011 and March 2020 was N9.1bn. But between January and June of this year alone, it is on record that the sum of amounts demanded by kidnappers was N10bn. This is almost N1b more than that over the last nine years!
Kidnapping for ransom has also become more indiscriminate. The rich and members of their families used to be the main targets of kidnappers. Many “big men” used to leave their big cars in Abuja or Lagos when visiting their hometowns or cities in the South-South or North-East.
Those kidnapped today cut across all classes. Barbers, vulcanizers, poor farmers, and workers have been abducted or had their children abducted, as much as bankers, politicians, and big business people.
On several occasions, poor working-class people have had to borrow or sell their lands and possessions to raise tens of millions of naira for ransom. The kidnappers also collect the monies or foodstuffs for feeding their victims from families who hurriedly deliver these to keep their wards or loved ones alive while negotiations are going on.
There have been instances of persons who went to drop ransom being held for further ransom. Some kidnappers have informed family members of their abductees who paid ransoms that they paid to the wrong set of kidnappers. These families have had to raise huge amounts of money all over again.
The demands of some kidnappers, or at least what they eventually settled for because the families of their victims could not raise more, have been for hundreds of thousands or even thousands of naira. In some cases, they have as well demanded foodstuffs, like bags of rice or beans.
This shows the many faces of this many-headed trend. Several social forces at work in this nefarious “business” all unleashed as manifestations of the general crisis of capitalism in Nigeria and nurtured by the anti-poor Maj Gen Muhammadu Buhari regime of the APC.
There is what we could describe as the Kidnap Incorporated. This includes the bandits who have overrun the North-West, which is a major reason why the region has the largest number and incidents. It also covers Boko Haram/ISWAP and associated groups in the North-East.
We should also not forget that, while what faces us now is far worse than what kidnapping was before, there are still elements around, like Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike (AKA Evans), the billionaire kidnapping kingpin arrested in 2017. These constitute the sections of the “Kidnap Inc.” in the southern regions.
There are also less centralized kidnap enterprises, many of which operate within localities, as their catchment areas. Most of this category of kidnappers are driven by hunger, anger, joblessness, and easy access to arms and ammunition.
The ease of access to guns and other light weapons is underlined by the involvement of some personnel of the police and other security agencies in the kidnapping industry. They sell or rent out these instruments of operation and get their cuts from the ransoms paid.
It is laughable in a grim way that federal lawmakers want to pass a law banning ransom payment to kidnappers. Several national and state government officials have also argued that ransom must not be paid. These include Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, who had asked President Goodluck Jonathan to pay a ransom, if need be, to secure the release of the Chibok girls.
He also withdrew his seven-year-old son, Abubakar-Sadiq El-Rufai, from Kaduna Capital School for security reasons. To justify this action, he came up with some cock and bull story of concern for other people’s children and wards in the school and not that of his child.
The hypocritical stance of the government on the matter belies the question. Especially since most of them, including El-Rufai, despite his short-lived public relations stunt with Abubakar-Sadiq, have their children studying in the safety of posh schools overseas.
The issue here, as Confidence Isaiah-McHarry, of The Cable, an online newspaper, puts it, is that “the Nigerian state has lost control” as well as legitimacy. The APC regime has contributed to the problem with its incompetence. But the problem is systemic.
We must go to the root of the problem. It is only system change, established with the mighty power of the working masses, that can stop incessant kidnapping and the generalized state of insecurity that accompanies it.
If hunger and poverty are wiped out and hope exists for the youth, a sizeable number of those used as kidnapping foot soldiers will not be pushed into this bloodcurdling business. And for those running Kidnap Incorporated, they will be broken by the mobilized strength of the masses. The police from which they find some support will also be disbanded for the armed people ready to defend themselves.
The struggle to end kidnapping is part of the broader class struggle of working people to emancipate ourselves from this exploitative system of capitalism which brings to birth different kinds of social ailments, including kidnapping and senseless killing. Trade unions need to play a more active role in demanding concrete steps taken to safeguard poor working people’s lives.
by Yusuf LAWAL