Kidnapping Epidemic: Over 3,600 Abducted, N302 Million Ransom Paid in Nigeria

A recent SB Morgan intelligence report titled “The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry: Follow the Money,” released on August 23, 2023, has exposed alarming statistics regarding the surge in kidnapping incidents and their associated economic implications. Between July 2022 and June 2023, Nigeria experienced over 582 kidnapping incidents, resulting in the abduction of approximately 3,620 individuals. The report highlights a reported ransom demand of at least N5 billion, with an actual ransom payment exceeding N302 million. It is important to note that these figures may be conservative due to underreporting.

Security experts have drawn attention to the inaction of the Nigeria Police Force and the military high command in addressing this dire situation. The country’s security challenges span across various regions, involving notorious groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic State of West Africa, Ansar terrorists, bandits, sea pirates, armed separatist agitators like the Independent People of Biafra, and other violent entities. Kidnapping for ransom has persisted despite the nation’s struggling economy, rising inflation, and high unemployment rates.

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Tragically, civilians bear the brunt of this surge, accounting for 430 fatalities. Security agents and kidnappers themselves experienced 19 and 121 deaths, respectively. The inability of security agencies to effectively counteract this trend is evident, as even the elimination of kidnappers has not deterred new abductions.

The SB Morgan intelligence report explores the multifaceted aspects of this epidemic, unveiling a distressing correlation between Nigeria’s economic challenges and the growing kidnap-for-ransom industry. The report notes that dynamics vary between individual and community cases, with larger-scale abductions often exhibiting less secrecy. Notably, the Northwest and Northcentral regions, characterized by widespread poverty, have witnessed higher occurrences of in-kind ransom demands such as foodstuff. The report also highlights a surge in demands for motorcycles as part of ransom payments in these regions.

The report delves into specific cases, revealing that even Catholic priests have become targets, experiencing 21 abductions during this period. Geographic nuances further reveal that Edo State faces high ransom demands with minimal returns, while Taraba State stands out for its high ransom payments, primarily due to a single incident. Notable kidnapping hotspots include Zamfara, Kaduna, and Niger states, which often witness mass community abductions. Surprisingly, Borno records fewer deaths, potentially due to the sophistication of Boko Haram’s tactics.

When questioned, the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Olumiyiwa Adejobi, and the Director of Defence Information, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, neither responded to calls, SMS, nor WhatsApp messages on the matter. The dire statistics revealed in the report emphasize the urgency for a strategic and comprehensive approach to address this escalating kidnapping epidemic in Nigeria.

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