One of the major highlights of Nigeria’s instability caused by the abysmal state of security is the strength and growth of the country’s kidnap industry. Kidnap for ransom accounts for a very high share of the security crises the country faces. Although the most dominant imperative for that industry is finance, motivations differ according to armed groups and/or geopolitical zones. The country’s geopolitical zones have their unique challenges, but kidnap for ransom is a feature that cuts across these zones.
In 2020, our report, “The Economics of Nigeria’s Kidnap Industry” stated that between 2011 and 2020, Nigerians paid just below $20 million to kidnappers. Based on what we could verify, between July 2021 and June 2022, no fewer than 3,420 people were abducted across Nigeria, with 564 others killed in violence associated with abductions. In the ensuing period, ₦6.531 billion was demanded in exchange for the release of captives while a fraction of that sum (₦653.7 million) was paid as ransom.
These figures are particularly important because of the rising poverty levels in the country. Over the past few years, Nigerians have become even poorer following how much they have had to part with for their loved ones, and kidnappers are adapting, and now sometimes ask for ransom payments in forms other than money. In one instance, in the kidnap of worshippers in a Celestial Church in Wasinmi, Ewekoro LGA of Ogun State, the abductors who initially requested ₦50 million in ransom payments released their victims after ₦1 million, foodstuff such as bags of rice and beans, cigarettes and gun were paid.
These abductions, which are also almost evenly distributed across the country, have an impact on the Nigerian economy, as it has limited business and investment in the heaviest-hit areas. The frequency of abduction is a spotlight on the state’s capacity to keep its people safe, and the rise of an armed group like Ansaru who promise protection from both the government and other armed groups is a threat not just to the government’s authority, but also on state territory, leading to the influx of ungoverned spaces and other contested territories.
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