Nigeria’s Burgeoning Kidnapping Industry: Whither State Governors?

It is no news that the already emaciated industrial and other productive capacity, for production and availing limited number of people legitimate jobs, are declining in Nigeria; that is businesses, companies, factories and other economic ventures that have had positive impacts on economy are crashing almost irretrievably; but this is not the whole story. With the increasing intensity of the economic doom (or is it downturn?) being experienced, the country has been ‘blessed’ (or burdened?) with another thriving industry – the crime industry. This seemingly ‘new’ industry is neither really new nor original to Nigeria but it is booming here and now. Although, it assumes different forms and shapes, it is not limited to any region of the country. One of such criminalities is kidnapping for ransom. Sincerely, it is increasingly becoming difficult to describe this ‘lucrative’ venture as a criminal enterprise. This is because names of “big men” directly and indirectly involved in kidnappings are mentioned in the print and electronic media but nothing seems to be happening to them. A lot has been said about this societal challenge, however, the more the people cry, the more they are left unprotected, by the state, from the whims and caprices of kidnappers. As at today, no one is sure who the next victim(s) will be. The responses of national and sub-national governments to criminalities are still the same old predictable ineffectual pronouncements.

 

 Selective Protection

Nigerian governments always claim to be on top of the situation.

Marching orders are always given to the country’s security personnel to get to the root of the matter. Have they ever been able to get to the root of the matter? We do not know. We also do not know if politicians are behind the massive criminalities enveloping Nigeria. What we know is that those holding political power including others in the corridors and bedrooms of power have been using the captured failing state to extract public resources and protect only themselves and theirs while others are expected to go to hell. Once you are not in government or not close to those in it, be rest assured that you are on your own; you are ‘technically’ excluded from the selective protection by the state. This is not a new story. It is not a new reality. It has not been unique to a particular group in power. Only that those who criticised people-in-power yesterday are today, in power, contributing to the entrenchment of what they criticised yesterday! So, it has been deception all the way. We have always argued that a chunk of the possible solutions to a societal problem lies on the ability and willingness to recruit the ‘right’ political leadership that is ready to confront such problem. When we talk of political leadership, it is not limited to those at the federal level. In fact, more is expected from those at the state and sub-state levels.

 

Illegally Appropriated Security Votes

Yes, state governors do not have the powers of the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian armed forces but for what do they use the “security vote” they strictly keep secret? What is this “security vote”? It is an unknown large amount not legally appropriated.This is another means by which public funds are stolen. Since 1999, no state governor has denied the existence of the “vote” or given account of how it was expended. It should not be only about the federal government, Nigerians should also ask state governors questions.  The federal government may be a major beneficiary of the warped federal system of government practiced in Nigeria but the state governments cannot exempt themselves from the rot being experienced everywhere. Concerning the kidnapping we were talking about earlier, we had asked in an intervention in the past that “…..who would have imagined that kidnappers will, one day, take more than a hundred students (as hostages), from a boarding school, and ask relatives (of the hostages) to provide rice, beans, palm oil, salt and stock cubes to feed them (in captivity)?…..” Recent events make that question we asked in 2021 sound outdated. For instance, on the 28th of February, 2024, bandits killed two residents of Anguwan Auta in Gonin Gora, Chikun Local Government Area (LGA), Kaduna state, kidnapping and escaping with others into the bushes bothering the community.

 

Like Chibok like Kuriga?

In Chikun LGA, 287 schoolchildren were reportedly abducted in Kuriga whereas on the 24th of March, 2024, it was reported that the number of these Kuriga’s schoolchildren that were actually abducted but eventually rescued by the military in Zamfara state is ‘only’ 137. Kidnappings in many states, Kaduna inclusive, appear to be progressively more ‘normalised’ and less newsworthy. The ease with which these kidnappings are carried out is a thing to be seriously worried about. A very simple explanation to give is that Nigeria’s intelligence network has broken down while the job of securing the country has become overwhelming.

Pretence and deceit are mostly unhelpful where things are fast falling apart.

Kidnapping does not differentiate one political party member from another. It has a life of its own. Although, it is difficult to pointedly state, with certainty, the first school that was attacked by criminal elements in the northern part of the country.

Nevertheless, since the 14th of April, 2014 when 276 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state were successfully kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents, it has been harvests of successful kidnappings by different criminal groups. Kidnappers have continued to do well; they have been operating unhindered in ways that suggest an absence of law and order in those states. We sometimes ask this question: are there executive governors in those states? This question emanates from the fact that state governors swore an oath of allegiance to the people, promising to protect them against harm from criminal elements. Thus, how does one explain the current reality in which criminalities are perpetrated freely in those states? The state governors and local government administrations are the closest to the people; therefore, more is expected from them concerning the quest for solution(s) to Nigeria’s insecurity challenges. They should not sit in their offices, embezzle “security vote” and give Nigerians the impression that federal government is the only problem.

 

– Erakhrumen  teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria