The first time I heard the issue of paying ransom in Northern Nigeria was in 2018 when twin sisters were abducted by an armed group in Dauran village of Zamfara state. Their abductors demanded N150 million ransom, their demand generated concern in most of the communities of the state and some neighbouring states especially in the mosques where imams were requesting the congregations to contribute money for their release. They were later freed after the payment of N15 million.
The above narration is one of the many stories of the agony and trauma people are facing in paying ransom, their frequent demand of ransoms pushed many people into bankruptcy, poverty and destruction of businesses in cities and rural communities. Apart from an excessive levy they enforce on many farmers in local communities of Katsina, Zamfara, Niger and Sokoto states, one must pay a huge amount of money for him to have access to his farmland. I recall my engagement with some local farmers in Zamfara, they revealed that armed groups warned them several times not to go near their farmlands even if they paid the levy, for them, no farming this year.
Recently, the senate considered a bill that seeks to prohibit the payment and receipt of ransom for the release of any person kidnapped, imprisoned or wrongfully confined. The bill is cited under Terrorism Prevention Act which scaled the second reading. If the bill is passed into law, the offenders will be jailed for 15 years.
Paying ransom to kidnappers is wrong but the humanity in us will not allow leaving our loved ones in the hands of these criminal armed groups. Even the sponsor of the bill will not watch a kidnapper kill or molest his wife, mother, daughter or relatives. The hardship of any captive in the hands of the kidnappers is beyond imagination.
Nigerians are paying ransom because they have seemingly lost interest in security operatives whom they sometimes see as collaborators and informants to the kidnappers and other armed groups engaged in the business. As I am writing this piece, a sitting judge of Sharia court in Katsina was abducted in broad daylight during court proceedings. The security agencies blamed the judge for going to that community.
However, the paying ransom is motivating many to join the business since it involves millions of naira but the failure of the government to arrest the issue of insecurity is the worst. Government opened eyes for the kidnappers and other armed groups when they first abducted Chibok and Dapchi girls in Borno and Yobe states, respectively, where an undisclosed amount of money and other gifts were handsomely released to the abductors for the freedom of the school girls. Last year, over 300 secondary school boys of government science Kanakara were abducted by it was said the state government paid the group over N30 million ransom.
Serious government will not pay any money to criminal armed groups in the name of ransom for kidnapping for ransom because it is a criminal offence against the fundamental human right of the citizen that requires proactive and prompt security operatives to curb. We have seen this seriousness in American government when one of its citizens was abducted along the border community with Nigeria and Niger republic, they silently sent some few soldiers and rescued him without paying a penny.
As for me, it’s too early for them to come up with this law without putting the necessary things in place, majority of governors couldn’t figure out the exact genesis and what motivated people to engage in the lucrative business of kidnapping either as field actors or informants. Without clearly digging out the root cause, there is nothing that will stop them.
Instead of 15 years imprisonment as being canvassed by our lawmakers, the government must come up with economic policies that will provide opportunities to the teeming population. Good governance remains the most important key to everything including engaging the vulnerable youths on productive concern against engaging in any criminal related activities.
He tweets @Edrees4P