Kidnapping in Nigeria: A Study of Public Perception in Enugu East Senatorial District
The crime of kidnapping in Nigeria is becoming so alarming to an extent that no body knows who next to be affected by it. This study looked at the perceived effects, causes, reasons and solution to the problem of kidnapping in Nigeria particularly in Enugu East Senatorial District. It used questionnaire and in-depth interview in its data collection and found that the causative factors of kidnapping are payment of ransom, non cooperation with the police, lack of instruction on moral and too much emphasis on material gains. Therefore it recommends the introduction of youth empowerment programs by the NGOS’ and government as the key instrument to its solution. It also recommends that more sophisticated and computerized equipments and ammunitions should be distributed to all state headquarters and area commands in order to detect the hoodlums and combat the advancement of the crime.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
There is no doubt that kidnapping in Nigeria is in part, a syndrome from many parts of the world- Iraq, the Philippines, Afghanistan, India, Russia, Palestinian Territory, Mexico, Nepal and American (Abati, 2009). Episodes of ransom kidnapping in the annals of American history include the case of four year old Charlie Ross in 1874 (Cyntrax, Wilson and Wilson as cited in Ugwuoke, 2010 :197) and Lindbergh case in 1932 ( Allison, 2000: 110). In the Lindbergh’s case, Lindbergh’s child was the centre of a plot, the suffering of the child’s parents, and the difficulties of the police enquiry, were exacerbated by widespread speculation, misinformation and serial random notes (Alexander and Klein 2009: 16).
Alexander and Klein further noted that in the 17th century, children were stolen from their families and exported to North American colonies as servants and labourers, hence, ‘kid’ meaning ‘child’ and ‘nap’ or ‘nab’ meaning ‘to snatch’. Kidnapping was therefore connected to the staling of children but the word has come to be used interchangeably with both children and adults. Nevertheless, past account of kidnapping revealed that death penalty was ordered as a punishment for kidnapping in ancient Rome when the Emperor Constantine (AD 315) became so alarmed by the incidence of the crime (Akpan, 2010: 33).
However, the early African societies were marked with the incidence of slave trade. In this vein, Ugwu (2010 : 2)., asserted that the weak and the poor were captured and sold into slavery. Ugwulebo (2011: 26) noted that during the colonial era, the colonialists came to some parts of the world, such as Africa, took their able bodied men and women and sold them to far away nations who needed human labour for their plantation and other services. (Onimode as cited in Ugwulebo, 2011: 26-27) had noted that gun powder, gin, rum and other materials were offered by the Europeans to the Africans in exchange for slaves shipped annually from ports in Nigeria. Therefore, slavery and kidnapping were like two sides of a coin.
In the early traditional Nigeria society, human sacrifice perpetuated kidnapping. Ugwuoke (2010: 197) rightly asserts that individuals were kidnapped for ritual or social reasons. The African traditional worshipers solely believed in sacrificing to appease the gods. The sacrifice may transcend animal sacrifice, and the priest could be inspired by the gods to order for human beings; to accomplish this kind of sacrifice, the required person could be kidnapped and killed in a sacrificial procedure. Ugwuoke explained that kidnapping was mainly for the purpose of sacrifice either to appease the gods or for the burial of a prominent chief or warrior. Precisely, to carry out a successful burial of important citizen like chiefs and prominent warriors required human head. Hence, warriors engaged themselves in search of victims to be kidnapped. Besides Nwadiorah and Nkwocha (2011: 3) observed that the act of kidnapping increased in Nigeria after the Nigerian civil was in 1970 which exposed many youths with military experience to some criminality. The above account reveals that kidnapping is very old in the history of man as it is also recorded in section 364 of the Nigeria Criminal Code.
Though kidnapping is not new, and has been in Nigeria criminal statues, ransom kidnapping is a new trend and was not known in Nigeria until recently. Moreover it was obvious in 2006 when it was announced that foreign oil workers were kidnapped (Inyang, 2009). However, those expatriates were released after paying huge ransom in millions of naira. Since then, kidnapping for ransom has spread to most parts of Nigerian states and Enugu East Senatorial District is also affected by it. Many people have been kidnapped and only released after the payment of ransom while in some cases dead bodies were recovered. Igwe Uche Nwaechime, the proprietor of Mac Royale Hotels ltd, from Nkanu West Local Government , Enugu State was kidnapped and slaughtered by the kidnappers. His body was found by a search party at a refuse dump site on the Enugu Port Harcourt express way (Ugwulebo, 2011). Dr. Paul Edemobi, the proprietor Paul and Grace Foundation and brother to Prof. Dora Akuyili, was kidnapped in Enugu on Monday 1st December 2008 from his 10B Savage Cresent GRA Enugu (Ojukwu, 2011). The wife of Sam Ngene, the then Chairman of Enugu South Local Government Area was kidnapped on March 2009. Also, Nkem Owoh, the popular Nollywood actor was kidnapped along Enugu-Port Harcourt express way (Ugwulebo, 2011). Payment of ransom, tragic recovery of dead bodies and other facts and events as a result of kidnapping shapes peoples perception of the crime. Furthermore, Anosike (2009) stated that the incidence of kidnapping is a common occurrence in the eastern states. Anosike also noted that states ranging from Abia to Anambra and Enugu were greatly alarmed by the wave of kidnapping.
However, in 2009, rebranding project was frantically directed towards redeeming the image of Nigeria due to the fact that most countries of the world and Nigerians themselves perceive Nigerians negatively (Dieye and Iwele, 2011: 78). Incidentally, in that same 2009 there was rise in kidnapping as available statistics shows that there was 512 incidence of kidnapping in 2009 against 353 in 2008 (Ojukwu, 2011: 380). Ojukwu also noted that the ambassador of the rebranding Nigeria project, Pete Edochie was kidnapped in Onitsha on his way to his home town- Nteje. Since then, kidnapping has drastically affected the country’s image and major businesses in the country.
Furthermore, kidnapping for ransom posses serious threat to the well ordering and functioning of the society and many factors were perceived as its causes. In Nigeria, such factors include corruption among the Nigeria Police Force (Adibe, 2009), unemployment, poverty and leadership failure (Diara, 2010), failure of the government to provide basic amenities and the use of cult gangs and militants by politicians in electoral processes (Okengwu, 2011: 1), access to large quantities of small arms and light weapons (International Crisis Group, 2006 as cited in Iduh, 2011: 126). This study will lay emphasis on the perception of people in Enugu East Senatorial District concerning kidnapping in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Kidnapping in Nigeria is a very serious contemporary social problem which was noted by Iduh (2011: 125) as the outcome of decades of peaceful protests in the Niger – Delta region. Kidnapping first attracted national attention on 20th February 2006 when Niger – Delta militants kidnapped foreign oil workers to press their demand (Nwadiorah and Nkwocha, 2011). Since then, many Nigerians have been kidnapped and only released on huge ransom whose re-payment they may not be able to make for the rest of their lives (Oshio, 2009: 13). The statistics of kidnapping by the Distress Call Base (DBC, Anti-Kidnapping Squad Enugu, 2012) show that from January to December 2009, there were nine reported cases of kidnapping, eight victims of kidnapping, five victims of kidnapping rescued, one victim killed and twenty two arrested kidnappers. Furthermore in 2010, there were twenty six reported cases against nine cases in 2009, twelve kidnapped victims against eight in 2009, eleven rescued victims against five in 2009 and thirty eight arrested kidnappers against twenty-two in 2009. Also in 2011 the data reveal rise in kidnapping as there were forty six reported cases of kidnapping, fifty eight kidnap victims, fifty five rescued victims, one victim killed and one hundred and thirty six kidnappers arrested. In three months from January to March 2012, there were five reported cases of kidnapping, six kidnap victims, five rescued victims and six kidnappers arrested.