Kidnappers and self entitlement for ransom payment, by Adefolarin A Olamilekan
Kidnappers and self entitlement for ransom payment, by Adefolarin A Olamilekan
Arguably, the height of insecurity in Nigeria, begs for high level solutions. Meanwhile, this insecurity, according to some analysts, can be traced to recent increase in proliferation of arms in the country, and huge poverty problems resulting from failure of the Nigerian state’s economic and development policies.
Successive governments since the birth of this present democracy in 1999 had only succeeded in sustaining the widening gap between the poor and the rich.
For instance, our reference essentially, speaks to the volume of manifestations and purveyors of insecurity as occasioned by proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in the country.
Unfortunately, our linking the current insecurity in our dear nation to poverty and failure of government is connected to the wealth of the nation. Is it not surprising that citizens of a mineral resource nation like ours would all been languishing in poverty and penury?
This is the reason why political economists say resource dependency makes so much money available for sharing, as we do say humorously, “money miss road’ .
Sadly, this makes access to the Nigerian state seat of power very lucrative, highly competitive, and a do or die affair.
In the bid to achieve this, stakeholders in the Nigerian project have devised several dubious means, including flagrant abuse of people’s rights, inciting statement for violence, aggressive pursuit of injustice and the accompanying galloping corruption.
Though Nigeria has been known to be notorious for ethno – religious, communal, political conflicts, of late, banditry and kidnapping have become a menace in Nigeria forming part of the predicaments confronting and distorting development progression.
Subsequently, kidnapping for ransom has become part and parcel of insecurity problems of Nigeria today. Coincidentally, it is part of the inhuman criminal activity that has escalated over the years alongside other insecurity challenges of communal clashes, ethno religious violence, and terrorism.
Other violent activities include that of the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), Odua People’s Congress (OPC), militancy and herdsmen/farmers crisis, cattle rustling, and cult and gang war.
Regrettably, kidnapping has snowballed into hostage taking of school children, travelling passengers, traditional rulers, clergymen, village heads, and ransacking of communities.
In retrospect, the Kankara Government School students in Katsina and the Kagara Government School students in Niger state is still very fresh in the mind of Nigerians, just to mention a few of such in recent past.
These kidnappers operate in different groups across the length and breath of the country. Meanwhile, media reports have it that some of these bandits and kidnappers are affiliated to Boko haram and other Islamic militia groups operating in the northeast while others are members of ethnic militia and criminal gangs.
The latest of kidnapping havoc was witnessed in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and environs,where kidnappers stormed residential estates in the suburb part of the territory, and victims were taken to isolated areas in the forest , with demand for millions of naira as ransom to free their victims.
Painfully, kidnappers and their allies now see this ransom as their own self entitlement, they must get by killing their captors as last resort when payment failed.
As ransom payment takes this form through threat systems, the Nigerian state has found it hard to unravel.
However, a critical point of observation emanating from ransome payment to kidnappers is worth reflecting upon. A phenomenal that is now becoming a norm of which if we are not careful enough, it could be legitimized.
Sadly, we found people who could also justify it in our societies with divergent moral, ethical, social, cultural, religious and political orientations’ sentiment. Arguably, corrupt individuals are let loose by our court system.
This set of persons and groups that society already considers their actions criminal and murderous, now get pampered after contravening the laws of the land.
This begs for answers.
What happens to law abiding citizens that are victimized by these criminals?
Although,some scholars would want to remind us that this as a result of frustration when legitimate desires of a person or group is denied them either directly or indirectly as a result of the way the society is structured.
They argue that the “feeling of disappointment” may lead such a man or group to express anger through violence that will be directed at those held responsible.
To them, this anger and violence can also be directed to people who are directly or indirectly related to those people that are said to be responsible. The foregoing, however, does not justify why the Nigerian state must be helpless in dealing with kidnappers and end ransom payment.
Similarly, the assertion by these theoreticians cannot also be acceptable for their support for amnesty for bandits and kidnappers by Sheik Gumi and others in the past.
Incidentally, banditry and kidnapping have been equated with pipeline vandalism, the activities of the movement for the emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) struggle against oil pollution and underdevelopment of host communities by both the Nigerian state and oil companies. And this, to the advocate of amnesty for bandits and kidnappers, is the way to go.
It is also imperative to consider that the Nigerian state is treating the issues of kidnappers with kid gloves.
Nigerians would recall the likes of Sheik Gumi leading this pack, as he believed this could be a leeway to ensure national security stability.
Paradoxically, many Nigerians have argued that the relative usage and success of violence in drawing attention to the injustice has made this a strategy for promoting “identity politics”.
This has given rise to the phase of provoking ethnic tension, sentiment and violence as a means of attracting attention to economic, political issues and interests, as well as proving political relevance. In a way, this suggests that Nigerians who are disgruntled against the government can take up arms against the state to attract whatever favour or largesse they feel is there to be given.
On the other hand, if we consider the thinking of Thomas Hobbes, in his 1651 work, Leviathan, he stated that citizens yield to a powerful rule by a sovereign, who, in turn, promises an end to civil and religious war, and to bring forth a lasting peace, and give him the right to conduct policy, including waging war or negotiate for peace for the good of the “commonwealth.”
Therefore, for us, the Nigerian state has no business negotiating with elements such as kidnappers, neither to allow ransom payment to succeed the way it is today. For instance, the Westphalia peace treaty is well known to have ignited the concept of a sovereign state. An attribute of it is what i.e., a mandate for national security that suggests that the Nigerian state has absolute power to go after the enemy of her citizens, which, in this respect are kidnappers and ransom collectors or negotiators.
Importantly, this would definitely discourage others as well as show that the Nigerian state is in charge of securing the life and properties of citizens young and old
What needs to be done in addressing this challenge?
From a critical standing point, for us, ransom payment to kidnappers can only be understood, from the dialectics of discovering the truths of ideas that gave impetus, boldness to kidnappers in a way they see the money they received as self entitlement. Another is that our fight against kidnapping and stopping ransom payment must commence from a logical point to unravel the linkage between poverty and crime on one hand, and failure of government to cater for citizens’ welfare through equitable distribution of state resources to all.
Consequently, to mitigate the challenge at hand, it is important to understand national security as “measurable state of the capability of a nation to overcome the multi-dimensional threats to the apparent well-being of its people and its survival as a nation-state at any given time, by balancing all instruments of state policy through governance, that can be indexed by computation, empirically or otherwise, and is extendable to global security by variables external to it”.
We believe that paying ransom to kidnappers is to further deepen problems around our national security. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to address this ugly scenario as that will be the panacea for development in the country, ensuring the assertion that “as development increases, conflict decreases is practical.
And when this happens, the peace space expands, while the violence space contracts.
Nevertheless, it has been observed that crime and criminality are likely to exist and thrive in society where leaders are not doing enough to alleviate the plight of the people. This is the time to act against the character of post-colonial state in Africa evident in Nigeria’s unnecessary resource looting and wastages that ordinarily should be used to provide critical infrastructure for the citizenry.
Adefolarin A. Olamilekan, Political Economist