In recent years, the spate of kidnapping in Nigeria has been on the rise. This has largely been attributed to the country’s porous security architecture which has led to the rise of vigilante groups and insurgents. The effect of kidnapping on the social lives of Nigerians has been widely documented but data is scanty on its economic impact, particularly ransom payment.
New research has given an insight into the payment of ransom to kidnappers for the release of loved ones. According to BBC’s Focus on Africa program, the amount of money Nigeria has paid to kidnappers as ransom in the past 10 years is estimated at $18 billion.
Focus on Africa cited SBM Intelligence, which is involved in risk analysis. According to the Lagos-based organization, the reported figure may be an understatement as several ransoms paid to kidnappers are not reported in the country.
Ikemesit Effiong, who is the Head of Research at the company, said it derived the $18 million figure from media sources where a verifiable amount of money was published. He told Focus on Africa that the organization also has multiple researchers across the country who monitor the statistics.
The researchers noted that over 1000 people have been kidnapped in Nigeria over the last decade, including relatives of prominent Nigerian nationals such as the World Trade Organization Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, whose parents were once kidnapped victims.
Effiong said in the past, kidnapped victims were people in the political or elite class who are capable of paying the ransom. According to him, this profile has changed to “everyday regular people.” He further described the development as a worrying trend. “Pretty much every Nigerian is a potential target,” he said, adding that the change in the profile of the kidnappers is about access.
In 2014, the Boko Haram militants abducted some 276 students in Chibok in Borno state. Since then, the kidnapping of children and ordinary Nigerians has been on the rise. Effiong explained that over the years, it has become a lot more “prohibitive” to target members of the elite who in response to the worsening security and economic opportunities for everyone have opted for personal security.
“Secondly, Nigeria is in a political paradigm where it has become politically expensive to ignore all these incidents, especially mass adoption incidents where the number of kidnapping victims are above 10,” he added.
According to a DW report, kidnappers or gangs are mostly driven by financial motives to abduct children and hold them for ransom.