The resurgence of kidnapping


UNARGUABLY a critical sign of the times, the Nigerian nation is confronted with the menace of kidnapping. Almost on a daily basis, news of armed bandits forcefully picking Nigerians up on the streets, in their homes and virtually everywhere is the talk of the town. The situation is becoming so alarming and the nation is in dire need of a solution.

Like virtually every other crime that has gone through mutations, kidnapping went through several phases before becoming what is in vogue today. In the 60s and 70s, kidnapping was few and far between, and basically targeted at money-making rituals. Social scientists of the time put its resurgence to the petro-dollar craze and the frenetic pace at which people wanted to belong to the new social ladder that the transformation from an agricultural economy to an oil economy brought. Thus, a metaphysical ingenuity of making money and thus getting on the same ladder as the new oil-rich men and women of the then Nigerian society became the vogue. The mode of operation was to forcefully arrest the specified type of person, gouge out parts of their bodies and make these parts into potions that were believed to spill money.

In the 80s, the craze for money-making rituals seemed to have slowed down a bit with the advance of civilisation and modernity. Politics and its survival-of-the-fittest credentials replaced kidnapping for money-making rituals as access to government and the illicit money that came from it soon rivalled money made from human rituals. Unfortunately, this was also to be replaced by a greater evil as human sacrifice for positions became the vogue among politicians. Thus, it was not a rare sight to behold decapitated corpses on the road after vital parts had been used for sacrifices to secure political offices. This variant of kidnapping was in vogue until recently when the kidnapping of expatriates replaced it.

Predominantly then in the oil-rich South-South states, Nigerians were daily inundated with news of foreign workers of oil companies who were kidnapped and ransom demanded from the oil companies. It was so rampant that many of the expatriates went about with fully armed escorts, while those who could not bear the heat simply exited the country. It was this variant of kidnapping that eventually gave birth to the current variant. In gangster fashion, Nigerians are abducted almost every day and hauled into secret locations while their abductors put calls through to their families demanding ransoms in multiples of millions. The menace has become so common that it assaults the intelligence of the nation. What makes the situation even scarier is that it has no boundary; wealthy individuals are abducted and so are the not-so-rich and the underprivileged. The kidnappers bank on the fact that no one would wish their kin to be left in the hands of dare-devil criminals, with no assurance of their fate. As such, secret negotiations are entered into with them to secure the releases of the victims, even when the police advise otherwise. Indeed, some of the abductions go awry as the victims die in the process. Many have been killed even after their families paid the agreed ransom.

Perhaps what has upped the recourse to kidnapping is the economic crisis in the country which has significantly altered the nature of property crimes. There is such a huge lack in the land that Nigerians hardly have enough money to keep in their homes, against what used to operate. Even in their cars, they seldom have the kind of huge cash that could attract the attention of burglars, nor do they have enough money that is worth the sweat of those who desire to live affluent lives by robbing them of their valuables. Again, bank robbery is becoming increasingly fraught with high risks, especially with the technological advancement that makes sophisticated security devices available at the tip of a finger. With these barrages of safeguards in the system, high hopelessness is attending hitherto fashionable crimes and making kidnapping the most attractive recourse.

This is why law enforcement agents should be abreast of this social dimension of crime, especially the gravitation towards kidnapping. Being abreast of it would mean getting armed with the necessary equipment that would make tracking of kidnappers easy and being proactive enough to tame kidnapping attempts at their gestation. Many of these crimes get incubated in brothels and hotels and where illicit drugs and alcohol are dispensed. What that means is that security agencies must be one step ahead of these nefarious individuals by spreading their dragnets wide. This can be done through an availability of plainclothes policemen in areas where they are ganging up to commit these crimes.

More fundamentally, governments at all tiers should take the issue of job creation very seriously. The truth of the matter is that many of the apprehended kidnappers have been found out to be young graduates of higher institutions who come out of school without a job to call their own. Only a concerted effort can discourage these young boys and girls who see it as a fast way of circumventing the drudgery of joblessness and acute lack that face them.