BETWEEN June 2011 and March 2020, at least $18.34 million was paid to kidnappers as ransom in Nigeria, SB Morgen revealed in a new report.
In the report, Nigeria’s Kidnap Problem: The Economics of the Kidnap Industry in Nigeria, SB Morgen revealed also that the larger proportion of that figure, about $11 million was paid out between January 2016 and March 2020, indicating that kidnapping is becoming more lucrative.
According to the report, Nigeria is becoming less safe each year as Kidnapping has increased in almost all states.
SB Morgen revealed that the sharpest rises have been in Kaduna, Rivers, Katsina, Zamfara and Taraba states while only Bayelsa in the entire country, saw a fall in the number of incidents between 2011 and 2015.
The report explained that one reason why kidnap for ransom has come to stay was the economics surrounding it.
“The data available to SBM indicates that in US dollar terms, between the $545,000 paid to secure the freedom of Ernest Ohunyon in Edo State in November 2011, and the $6868 paid to free Ojo Ekundayo and Benjamin Iluyomade in Ondo State at the end of March 2020, at least $18,343,067 changed hands between victims and kidnappers,” it said.
The report shows that four of the top 10 states with a high number of kidnap incidents over the last decade are in the South-South geopolitical zone, with three of them, Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers in the Niger Delta region.
“These three are also the states with the strongest history of Niger Delta militancy,” the report indicated.
Kaduna – the state with the second-highest number of incidents – also has a significant history of violence, especially along its connecting road to Abuja.
Rivers State topped the list of 10 states with the highest cases of kidnapping in the last 10 years with a total case of 120, followed by Kaduna that has 117 cases.
Others are Delta, with 96 cases, Bayelsa 85 cases, Borno 82 cases, and Kogi with 59 cases. Edo has 55 cases, Ondo 54 cases, Katsina 52 cases and Taraba with the least, among the top 10 with 47 cases.
While it is not in the top 10, the report noted that Abuja has the 11th highest number of kidnap incidents over the last decade.
It added that there is anecdotal evidence that some of the perpetrators responsible for Kaduna’s high rate of kidnap attempts have extended their operations into the federal capital.
However, Borno, Kaduna and Katsina account for more fatalities during kidnap attempts. In 82 kidnap attempts in Borno, 489 fatalities were recorded, while 209 fatalities recorded in 117 kidnap attempts in Kaduna and 147 fatalities in 52 kidnap attempts in Katsina. Others on the list with most fatalities were Rivers, Adamawa, Niger, Delta, Zamfara, Taraba and Edo states.
“The states with the highest number of fatalities are in the North, and they all have existing ongoing violence from other sources in common,” SBM said in the report.
“It would appear that such existing violence has made the kidnaps much deadlier in these places. Our conclusion is that where existing violence and/or historic violent norms have devalued human lives, crimes such as kidnapping tend to result in more fatalities.”
According to the report, kidnappers see kidnapping as a business transaction, and not crime.
“This targeted approach makes their victims less expendable as they are usually fewer in number at a time.”
In the North, however, the modus operandi was more likely that a larger number of people were simply rounded up and then ransoms demanded collectively.
Because of this approach, the report stated that victims that were unable to pay up as quickly as expected were more likely to be killed by the kidnappers.
“Seven other states had no fatalities even though kidnap incidents were recorded in these states.”
The report further indicated that the high fatality rate of kidnap attempts in Borno and Adamawa states could be directly linked with the activities of the Boko Haram terrorist group, which it said was responsible for most of the attempts and a few others linked to Fulani herdsmen militia.
It emphasised that the sudden uptick in fatalities per attempt coincided with the increase in attacks by bandits on villages especially in Zamfara and Katsina states, a situation which has gradually extended to Kaduna and Niger states.
These bandits, it noted have also been involved in kidnapping besides attacking villagers and travellers, or doing both at the same time.
“As these kidnaps are less targeted at specific persons, the bandits are less deliberate in avoiding the deaths of their victims compared to earlier kidnap attempts which appeared to have specific targets in mind.”
This, it explained points to the democratisation of insecurity in the North, specifically with respect to kidnapping, which is a huge reversal from a decade and a half ago where kidnapping attempts were mostly in the Niger Delta, before slowly spreading to the South-East and the rest of the country.
The report shows Nigeria as having a problem of large swathes of ungoverned spaces, areas of the country that are without government or security presence.
“This puts residents at the mercy of whichever criminal elements are in the ascendancy,” it said.
SBM Intel is an Africa focused geopolitical research and strategic communications consulting firm that specialises in data gathering and analysis.