In the last few years, Nigeria has been experiencing increasing wave of kidnapping which started in the Niger Delta where it took firm root as part of the crisis in that region.
Now it has gradually spread all over the country through the East from where it has now spread to the northern part of the country.
The latest victim is Mr. Waje Yayoke, secretary to Kaduna State Government, who was kidnapped and released after about two weeks in captivity.
Kidnapping, the taking away of a person against the person’s will, usually for a ransom, or in furtherance of another crime is becoming everyone’s nightmare in the country. Today, foreign visitors and tourists no longer feel safe. For this reason they are becoming more reluctant to visit the country. Neither do citizens who are probably wealthy and influential. Victims also include children, parents and even grand-parents or anybody whose relations could be blackmailed into paying handsome ransom. Lives are perpetually endangered and citizens sleep in their houses with an eye open. But kidnapping is not only a criminal offence but a direct threat to national security because of its wide implications for internal security and the pubic image of the country internationally.
Given the state of kidnapping in the country, there is no doubt that Nigeria is fast becoming one of the major kidnapping centres of the world.
This has obvious implications on the country’s development trajectory and even the quality of governance. Characteristic of this phenomenon is the kidnapping act itself followed by demand for ransom in nearly all cases. Protracted negotiations process; payment of such negotiated ransom and the final release.
The victims are inevitably traumatised if they come out alive. The entire phenomenon is criminal, running foul of the constitution and the criminal code. Unfortunately, this criminal act is mostly perpetrated by youths. This says a lot about the state of affairs in the country today.
The Nigerian Police and other law enforcement agencies have been powerless to arrest this phenomenon. The current strength of the Nigerian police force is 312, 223 for a population of 150 million, a ratio of 1 policeman to 480 citizen. In most cases if not all, the kidnappers get away scot-free after collecting their handsome ransome. The kidnappers are hardly arrested, detained and charged to court, prosecuted and convicted. This partly accounts for the increasing wave of the crime. Desperate politics has also come to compound the phenomenon thus making it more ubiquitous and commercialised.
The common tendency is to blame the country on the unacceptable rate of unemployment in the country, the inefficient and corrupt police force that is ill-equiped to fight crimes and collusion between kidnappers and politicians.
These factors however, appear to be mere symptoms of a larger malaise that we have yet to recognise and accept namely: the failing state system in Nigeria. A failed or failing state is often used to designate a state that is incapable or that is increasingly finding it difficult to fulfilling the basic functions of a sovereign government which include physical control of its territory, provision of security of life and property for its citizens the monopoly of use of legitimate physical force and inability to provide reasonable public service for its citizens and interact with members of international community on equal footing without suffering from feeling of inferiority complex.
A state becomes a failed state when and where citizens and groups conclude that they too should no longer be bound by the terms of social contract. In this scenario, the hobbesian state of nature reigns. Is this what we are witnessing today in Nigeria?
It is time for the Federal Government to take this matter with all seriousness that it deserves since it inevitably impact on the governing capacity and sovereign integrity of the state itself.