Debate from ROAPE Volume 39 Number 128
Who wants to be a millionaire? Nigerian youths and the commodification of kidnapping
Kidnapping has become so pervasive in Nigeria that there is now a palpable apprehension among the people who are unsure of whom the next victim will be. The crime has become a veritable commodity in the hands of its perpetrators who apparently have now made a multi-million naira business out of it.
In a number of cases, whilst agents of the state have helped to negotiate with and pay the kidnappers in order to release their victims, there are cases where employees of banks and state security agencies have allegedly colluded with kidnappers (Yun 2007, Adekoye 2009a). Kidnapping is neither historically new nor peculiar to Nigeria. Historically, the rivalry generated by nineteenth-century slave trading was characterised by raids, piracy, abduction and kidnapping of able-bodied men in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region (Ikime 2006, p. 211).
Modern kidnapping has emerged as an instrument of engagement for economic survival, securing political and business advantage over rivals and co-competitors. Kidnapping is quite widespread and indiscriminate regardless of nationality, age or profession, and is largely undertaken with impunity. Some victims have been released after huge ransom settlements, yet others have been brutalised by kidnappers. Among reasons given for kidnapping are: for ritual sacrifice (Oguseri 2007); economics; and political vendetta.
Our analysis aims to account for this pervasive phenomenon of kidnapping in Nigeria and uncover the reasons for and predispositions to commodified kidnapping in relation to the role of the state in both the emergence and the management of kidnapping. The analysis examines some of the theoretical discussion of youth and restiveness in Africa, the nature of the Nigerian state, the social forces that impel kidnapping and it gives a conclusion.