Nigeria: Kidnappings in Abuja spark new fears - DW
JANUARY 20, 2024
BY Isaac Kaledzi |
3 hours agohttps://www.dw.com/en/nigeria-...
A recent spate of kidnappings in Nigeria's capital has residents worried. This week, the government promised a drastic solution but said it wants to see an end to crowdfunding for ransom.
Abuja, Nigeria, has been the scene of a fresh wave of kidnappings and residents of the city at the heart of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are nervous.
On January 5, a man and six of his daughters were kidnapped in a home invasion in the Bwari area of FCT. The kidnappers released the man and ordered him to pay 50 million naira (€50,400) for his children. One of the sisters, a 21-year-old university student, was killed by the kidnappers despite the payment of ransom.
Also this month, 30 people were abducted along the Abuja-Kaduna highway at Dogon Fili in northwestern Kaduna state. Mass abductions and kidnappings for ransom have been a countrywide problem for several years.
"Every responsible resident of Abuja should be concerned because this [kidnapping] is a very big challenge," Danjuma Abdullahi, a resident of Abuja, told DW. "Security is key because security ensures welfare. If you and your family are not secure, there is definitely great cause for concern."
In the FCT, people are limiting their movements out of fear, he said.
Security forces 'working very hard'
President Bola Tinubu has been calling for calm and meeting with his ministers and security chiefs to discuss a strategy to deal with kidnappings.
"Mr. President called us and all the service chiefs to discuss this issue, so a concerted effort is being undertaken by security agencies to really look into the situation and stop it immediately," Defense Minister Mohammed Badaru Abubakar told DW.
Government statistics for Abuja show 40 kidnapping cases involving 236 victims between January 2021 and June 2023. Hardly any kidnappings had been reported in Abuja in the 10 months before the man and his six daughters were forced from their home.
"Kidnappings happen around the suburbs of FCT, mostly around towns or locations bordering Kaduna and Niger," Abubakar said. "The bandits flee to nearby hideouts and the security agencies are working very hard to push them out and block the movement and finish this thing once and for all."
The defense minister told DW that the Nigerian public would see the results of a government intervention soon.
Abuja resident Danjuma Abdullahi is skeptical: "The call for residents not to panic is good. But we would love to see them [the authorities] master the challenge and solve the problem."
Abdullahi believes there should be a concrete plan. "We don't expect them to come out and tell us what strategies they have to combat kidnapping but there should at least be more explanation than just saying we shouldn't panic," he told DW.
Amnesty International sees 'kidnapping epidemic'
In a statement this week, Amnesty International expressed concern over what it said was "an epidemic of kidnapping" and "the utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to effectively protect lives."
"People in Nigeria are now living on the razor's edge," Amnesty said. "Widespread insecurity, and the chaos it causes, have been exacerbated by routine kidnappings, as armed groups tighten their stranglehold on the country. Nigerian authorities must immediately stem the tide of kidnapping now."
Danjuma Abdullahi agrees with Amnesty's assessment and believes authorities have to do more to win the confidence of Abuja's residents. "Security has to do with intelligence, and I think intelligence has failed in this case. As an ordinary citizen, that is what I see. I don't know the strategies that the security apparatus has. I don't know what kind of synergy they have."
According Yahya Jarabu, a retired military officer and security expert, the fears of Abuja residents and the concerns being raised by some civil society groups are legitimate.
"The issue of insecurity is related to widespread corruption — which is everywhere. Sadly, people now do everything because of money. There is the failure of intelligence and people have their own role of providing information about the hideouts of these crimals," he told DW.
Crowdfunded ransom payments
The families and friends of people who are kidnapped in Nigeria often take matters into their own hands to ensure the release of their loved ones. The crowdfunding of ransom payments has become common practice. But authorities say paying ransom simply encourages kidnapping.
"On crowdfunding, we all know that there is an existing law that prevents the payment of ransom. So it is very sad to go on the internet or radio asking for donations to pay ransom," Defense Minister Mohammed Badaru Abubakar told DW.
"This will only worsen the situation, it will not help the situation... If we stop [paying ransom], over time, kidnapping won't be profitable and they will stop."