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The Causes and Effects of Kidnapping in Nigeria

In this article, we will look at the The Causes and Effects of Kidnapping in Nigeria. Kidnapping can simply be described as the act of taking someone or keeping someone or restricting the movement of someone against his/her wishes. It could be for the purpose of forcing them to work involuntarily without pay or to make ransom demands from the relatives of the victim.

According to the Model Penal Code (a set of exemplary criminal rules fashioned by the American Law Institute), kidnapping is said to have occurred when someone is asported and held, for whatever reasons, illegally and non-consensually.

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The Causes and Effects of Kidnapping in Nigeria
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Types, Forms and Purpose of Kidnapping

This is usually for the purpose of getting a ransom; or to serve as a form of leverage to escape being caught after committing a crime. It could also be for the purpose of terrorizing or forcing the victim or a third party to succumb to their demands; and also to influence government or political decisions.

There are different forms of kidnappings, which could include:

  1. Kidnapping for the purpose of ritual killings;
  2. kidnapping of little children for purpose of putting them into forced labor;
  3. kidnapping of teenage girls for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution;
  4. kidnapping of people in areas of armed conflicts, for example, the kidnapping of the Chibok girls by the members the Boko Haram sect; and
  5. kidnapping of people for purpose of collecting ransom, which is the most common form of kidnapping seen in current times.

History of Kidnapping in Nigeria

The beginning of kidnapping in Nigeria can be traced to the activities of the Niger Delta militants who were kidnapping expatriate workers in a bid to draw attention to the plight of the indigenes of the Niger Delta region as a result of oil exploration in the region.

Kidnapping for the purpose of collecting ransom can be traced to have started between the year 1999 and 2000 in the oil creeks, when the Niger Delta militants kidnapped some expatriate oil workers to collect ransom.

This was initially a means of passing across a message to the international community of the many years of injustice, exploitation, marginalization and underdevelopment of the oil creeks in Niger Delta region.

Since then there has been a shift in focus from kidnapping of expatriate oil workers to relatives of politicians to relatives of those in the Diaspora and now anybody on sight.

The Face of Kidnapping in Nigeria Today

A shift from kidnapping as a means of demonstration to kidnapping for the sake of selfish gain. This evil business of kidnapping people for ransom has become a menace to Nigeria as a whole.

Currently victims of kidnapping in Nigeria cut across all the classes of the society, wherever there is a potential of “profit”. The victims of kidnappings are usually well targeted, then when abducted the kidnappers contact those close to the victims for ransom demands.

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Most times, the kidnappers threaten to kill the victim if the police and other security agencies are involved, or if the ransom is not paid.

Sometimes the victim is still killed despite the ransom having been paid, especially in cases of politically motivated kidnappings.

Causes of Kidnapping in Nigeria

1. Unemployment

An idle mind they say is the devil’s workshop. When the youths become idle they usually resort to all manner of nefarious activities. Youth joblessness and unemployment is one of the root cause of the high number of kidnapping cases in Nigeria. Nigeria has a very high rate of unemployment and the rate keeps growing everyday. This is one of the major reasons why many Nigerian youths have picked up kidnapping as an avenue to generate money which they will use to establish themselves in the society.

This higher rate of unemployment among the youths, especially in areas like the Niger Delta and the South East has also been exploited by politicians and the so called big men in our society who employ these people as thugs and muscle men during elections. When they are disbanded after the elections these youths who have been weaponised turn to kidnapping as a means of earning a living.

2. Get Rich Quick Mentality

A wise man once said that the love of money is the root of all evils. In Nigeria today the mentality of get rich quick or die trying prevails, especially among the youths. This is the kind of mentality that usually leads individuals to go into kidnapping and they can even kill a fellow human being for rituals to make money as quick as possible.

These kind of individuals prefer to make money today by any means possible and and don’t really care about any consequences that may arise tomorrow as a result of their activities. This high quest for money, which is akin to greed and avarice, has made many Nigerian youths impatient for quick bucks to take kidnapping as a form of business. This is usually accompanied by other criminal activities such as armed robberies, electoral violence etc.

3. Poverty

Poverty is one of the major driving forces that usually pushes people to go into the act of kidnapping.The effects of poverty in a particular population cannot be overemphasized. Poverty and lack over a long period of time usually leads to frustration, depression and a feeling of helplessness. This is enough motivation for some people to accept to go into kidnapping when the carrot of easy money is dangled before them.

As such a poor man needs money to keep life going and because of that can easily be convinced to venture into the field of kidnapping to make money to be able to provide for himself and his family.

There has been recent reports about certain very wealthy individuals who are kingpins in the ‘business’ of kidnapping in the South East region of Nigeria who recruit those who very poor in the society to work for them as kidnappers. Whenever they carry out operations successfully they are then rewarded handsomely. The large ‘profits’ that is usually made is the major incentive in this kind of situation.

4. Corruption

Corruption is another major reason why the illicit business of kidnapping thrives in Nigeria. According to Transparency International, in the year 2014, Nigeria was ranked 136 out of 174 on the list of the most corrupt nations in the world, alongside Cameroon, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Russia.

That is to say that Nigeria was the 38th most corrupt country in the world in 2014. The members of the political class in Nigeria are known for rampant embezzlement of the public funds for their individual or personal use. Because of the level of embezzlement of public funds perpetuated by politicians, some youths in a bid to get their own share of the national cake are compelled to kidnap members of the political class to get their own share of the national cake from them by demanding that they pay hefty ransoms.

Also because corruption is very high and has become a culture in the country, men now see kidnapping as more of a game and nothing bad. This concept adds to the increasing number of kidnapping in the country. Some also kidnap politicians with the mindset of taking their own share of the national cake. This is evidenced by the kidnapping activities of the members of MEND, who have resorted to kidnapping expatriate workers as a means of drawing attention to the condition of the Niger Delta region.

See: 6 Reasons Why Nigerian Politics is STILL a Dirty Game

5. Envious Contemporaries

Some men do not feel happy when they see others progressing in life, especially their contemporaries. This is a major problem that is prevalent in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. Everybody is in a form of competition with the other on who is succeeding the most. This leads people who are not doing well financially sometimes to ask themselves questions on why the other person should progress more than them, and to compare themselves with others.

This category of people will then start feeling very bad on the progress of the other, this leads them to start making plans on how to bring down the other person. This sometimes will lead them to plan to kidnap the innocent man to demand for ransom. Most times this usually leads to the death of the victim in the hands of the kidnappers.

Other factors that has led to the proliferation of the activities of kidnappers includes the absence of adequate laws that is suppose to facilitate in the prosecution of criminal cases involving kidnappings; when such criminal cases are not adequately dealt with in the law courts this tends to embolden other criminals to continue in their ways of criminal activities. Also the moral values embedded in the Nigerian culture seems to be disappearing gradually, this is a contributing factor to the rise of kidnappings in Nigeria.

Effects of Kidnapping in Nigeria

According to the law of Physics for every action there is a corresponding equal and opposite reaction. This implies that for every action one takes in life there is a consequent reaction. In the same vein the kidnapping activities carried out by kidnappers come with its corresponding consequences, which unfortunately largely affects the third party such as the victim and the society at large. Some of the effects of kidnapping in Nigeria includes:

1. Psychological Stress and Trauma

The traumatic experience that the victims of kidnappings undergo usually leaves an indelible mark on them that lasts a lifetime. This has a negative psychological effect, especially in children, and in most cases leads to depression, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which unfortunately has a long lasting effect.

This is very damaging to such victims, and is by far the most negative effect of kidnapping. This is because those who become depressed and traumatised as a result of being kidnapped, they sort of become incapacitated and their productivity level is greatly diminished.

2. Atmosphere of Fear and General Distrust

In a society where the incidence of kidnapping is high, there is usually an atmosphere of fear and a general lack of trust, this tends to limit people’s lives and actions which translates to reduced economic activities.

Everybody tends to be very cautious in this kind of environment, and there is usually a form of curfew that exists in such areas. The rich and very wealthy, who can afford to, surround themselves with security guards, armed to the teeth, because of the fear of getting kidnapped.

3. Reduced Foreign Investment

The high rate of kidnappings in certain areas of the country has made such areas high risk zones for foreigners. This scares away foreign investors from investing in that region, as can be seen in the Northern part of Nigeria, where Boko Haram sect where operating.

Many expatriate workers in a construction firm working on a project were kidnapped by the sect. This led to the company withdrawing from the country. This also scared away many other foreign investors from investing in the country, especially in the North during that period.


The menace of kidnappings in Nigeria, especially kidnapping for the purpose of collecting ransom has become a very serious problem and a cause for concern amongst the citizens of Nigeria. It has reached levels that calls for drastic measures by the government to curb the menace. One major way this can be done is by introducing laws that mete out stringent punishments for perpetrators of the evil business. There should also be a means of fast-tracking cases that involves kidnapping.

However, there has been considerable progress made in this regard, as could be seen by actions taken by the government of Anambra state, during the leadership of Governor Peter Obi. They pass a new law that introduced harsher punishments for perpetrators caught in the act of kidnapping. The law introduced the death penalty for any person caught in the act of aiding or abetting the crime of kidnapping. Also all the properties of such individuals will be seized and destroyed.

Most recently, The Nigerian Police had arrested one of the most notorious kidnapping kingpin in Lagos. More are yet to be done to curb this dreadful societal menace.

Government at all levels in Nigeria need to introduce programmes and policies to address the high rate of poverty and unemployment in the country. Creating gainful employment for the citizens of the country, especially the youth, will go a long way in reducing the current trends of kidnapping and ritual killings. Adequately training and arming law enforcement agencies will also help to combat the activities of kidnappers.

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Chibuzor Mbah

Chibuzor is a writer at InfoGuideNigeria.com. InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Ibanga. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Ibanga. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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