Kidnapping in Nigeria is now so rampant that some criminals have made it a business venture. Some critics have called the criminal venture a multi-billion-naira industry. While kidnapping used to happen in the distant past, the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 by the Boko Haram terrorist group heralded the menace. Several years later, armed bandits began to kidnap farmers and demand hefty ransoms. Since the Chibok saga, many mass kidnappings have occurred, establishing the crime as common in the country.
According to a report by an Africa-focused geopolitical risk research organization, SBM Intelligence, which was released on August 24, 2023, armed groups kidnapped at least 3,620 persons between July 2022 and June 2023, with a sum of N5 billion demanded in ransom. The number is more than the 3,420 people kidnapped between the period of July 2021 and June 2022. SBM Intelligence is particularly strong in the area of primary data gathering, and analyses of data that provides clarity relating to political, economic and social issues in Nigeria and West Africa.
Numbers could be far higher than reported in the media.
SBM report, titled “The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry,” revealed that N5 billion ($6.4 million as of June 30) was reported as ransom demand, while verified ransom payouts amounted to N302 million ($387,179). This figure is potentially underestimated due to underreporting. According to the report, the agency believes that the 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 release of the abducted.
In the few cases, when ransom payments are acknowledged, the fees are hardly disclosed. The report stated that the figures reflect Nigerian security agencies’ struggle to contain kidnap for ransom. Yet, the number of kidnappers who have been killed has not served as a credible deterrent for would-be kidnappers. Instead, more criminals venture into it, with many having highly placed people as their godfathers. The rising kidnap incidents in the country also show that the industry’s profitability outweighs perceived threat of state intervention and police rescues.
State-level statistics high of kidnapping in the country.
The organization 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 low ransom payments may indicate efficient police intervention or victim silence. It is believed that the latter is more likely as kidnap victims fear re-abduction. The report noted 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, and across the country, civilians bore the brunt, with 430 fatalities, while security agents and kidnappers themselves accounted for 19 and 121 deaths, respectively. The country numerous internal security crises have intensified for more than ten years. They have affected economic growth, particularly in the agricultural sector. The kidnapping and murder of people by Boko Haram insurgency in the North and lingering conflict between herders and farmers in North-Central Nigeria are also notable.
Nigeria ranked among the top 20 least peaceful countries.
Authors of the SBM report have said that most actors involved in the kidnapping industry as well as in other security challenges in the country employ kidnapping as a means to an end, which is financial gratification. They said that kidnapping for ransom has eclipsed other motivations for abductions, especially political reasons. The key driver is the economy. As of 2020, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported unemployment to be as high as 33.3 percent. Meanwhile, the latest Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria among the top 20 least peaceful countries in the world.
SBM Intel: Website