There is outrage in Nigeria after a girl who was abducted alongside her sisters was killed by their kidnappers after their family failed to pay a $63,000 ransom. According to the BBC, the victim, identified as Nabeehah, was kidnapped together with her five sisters and their father from their home in the capital, Abuja more than a week ago.
The abductors also shot and killed three police officers when they abducted the victims. Witnesses also said Nabeehah’s uncle was killed when he tried to seek help in the wake of the incident.
The abductors ultimately released Nabeehah’s father some days later so he could raise the ransom. But Nabeehah’s abductors reportedly killed her after her family was unable to pay the money they were demanding for their release. A family member also told the Daily Trust news outlet that the abductors returned Nabeehah’s body to them.
The relative said the abductors have since increased the ransom to $104,000 and threatened to kill the other sisters if they do not receive the money by Wednesday.
Some politicians commented on the abduction, with Opposition leader Atiku Abubakar saying that Nabeehah’s murder “is yet another reminder that kidnappers and bandits are operating unhindered in our country.” He also demanded that the West African nation’s security architecture be “rejigged”.
Another opposition leader, Peter Obi, also said the recent kidnapping “is a clear pointer to how insecure the rest of the country now is.” Police have not commented on Nabeehah’s killing though they said “all hands are on deck” to rescue her sisters. The deceased victim was on Saturday buried according to Islamic procedure, BBC reported.
In recent years, the spate of kidnappings 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.
In 2021, BBC’s Focus on Africa program reported that the amount of money Nigeria has paid to kidnappers as ransom in the past 10 years is estimated at $18 billion – though such payments are illegal. They also 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.
These 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 were capable of paying the ransom. However, 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.