The abduction and eventual release of former Secretary to the Federal Government, ex-Minister of Finance and elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae, is yet another stark reminder of Nigeria’s signal failure to properly tackle the kidnapping scourge that has afflicted the country.
Like similar episodes, the abduction of Chief Falae followed an all-too-familiar trajectory: the victim was going about his legitimate duties when he was accosted by an armed gang which seized him, forced him into a vehicle and disappeared from the vicinity. A few hours later, a ransom demand for N100 million was sent to his family. Some days after, he was released in a blaze of publicity, with the Nigeria Police patting itself on the back for a rescue job well done.
Kidnap scenarios such as these obviously raise more questions than answers. Why is it that those who engage in the business of kidnapping find it so easy to abduct citizens on such a consistent basis? Why do they always seem able to virtually disappear into thin air, despite the best efforts of security agencies and local vigilante groups to find them? Why has the registration of mobile phone numbers failed to facilitate the location and apprehension of kidnappers? Why are relatively few of these criminals brought to trial?
While Chief Falae may be arguably the most high-profile victim of kidnapping in the country to date, the list of those who have been abducted reads like a roll-call of the Nigerian elite. It includes the parents of prominent citizens like ex-Minster of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mikel Obi, politicians, businessmen and entrepreneurs. Foreigners resident in the country are not left out; indeed, the current spate of abductions first began with the kidnapping of foreign oil workers in the-then restive Niger Delta in 2006.
Abductions have expanded in variety and scope: terrorism-related kidnappings in the north-east; abductions of politicians during elections; seizures of children by housemaids and drivers; ritualistic abductions of individuals in order to harvest their body parts. Several states have become synonymous with the crime, especially Abia, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Enugu, Lagos, Rivers and more recently, Ekiti.
By some estimates, a minimum of 1,500 individuals are kidnapped in Nigeria on an annual basis. In 2009, the country was ranked sixth in the top ten kidnap nations. In the first half of 2013, the country accounted for an estimated 26 per cent of global kidnap and ransom cases.
The problem has been worsened by the inadequacy of the country’s overall response. Families are so intent on getting their loved ones back that they are prepared to negotiate with kidnappers, regardless of contrary directives from the security agencies. While this may be a natural response, it simply facilitates the aims of the kidnappers and makes their arrest all the more harder.
‘Kidnap scenarios such as these obviously raise more questions than answers. Why is it that those who engage in the business of kidnapping find it so easy to abduct citizens on such a consistent basis? Why do they always seem able to virtually disappear into thin air, despite the best efforts of security agencies and local vigilante groups to find them?