In the face of escalating security challenges, including killings, banditry, and kidnappings across Nigeria, there’s a distressing new trend – the use of crowdfunding to secure the release of abducted family members. This phenomenon has garnered global attention, with even a former minister supporting a crowdfunding effort to pay a ransom, as reported by the Economist.
The alarming surge in kidnappings reached an unprecedented peak in 2023, with over 3,600 reported cases – a figure that sharply increased following President Bola Tinubu’s tenure, resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths in conflicts last year.
This unsettling development is seen as a potential threat to national security, with concerns that it may evolve into a major source of funding for terrorism in the country. Particularly, the trend is intensifying in the nation’s capital, Abuja, and other volatile states.
Kidnap-for-ransom has become a lucrative criminal enterprise, affecting both rural and urban areas. A recent incident involved the abduction of six siblings in Bwari Council, Abuja, leading to a tragic outcome as ransom demands were not met within the specified deadline.
In response to the tragic incident, a social media-driven fundraising campaign was initiated, attracting the attention of former Minister of Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, who pledged N50 million towards the cause. However, this act of crowdfunding for ransom has raised legal concerns, as it contradicts the Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The amended bill imposes a minimum 15-year jail sentence for those involved in paying ransom, deeming it a felony. Despite the legal implications, the crowdfunding trend persists, prompting Minister of Defence, Mohammed Badaru, to caution against it. He emphasized that paying ransom only emboldens kidnappers, putting public safety at risk.
Crowdfunding for ransom has become widespread, especially in areas where terrorist activities persist. Nigeria Security Tracker reports that over the last decade, 19,366 Nigerians have been kidnapped in 2,694 instances. The economic toll is substantial, with confirmed ransom payments totaling N653.7 million between 2021 and 2022.
Security experts, including Dr. Kabir Adamu, attribute the rise in crowdfunding to the government’s failure to effectively combat kidnappings, forcing families to seek alternative means to secure the release of their loved ones. Adamu emphasizes the need for the government to increase efforts in protecting citizens.
Private security manager, Comrade Isaiah Adanu, expresses concerns that crowdfunding for ransom may inadvertently encourage more kidnappings. He calls for strict adherence to laws, discouragement of ransom payments, and punitive measures against perpetrators.
In conclusion, the alarming use of crowdfunding for ransom reflects the dire state of security in Nigeria. The government’s proactive measures, strict law enforcement, and public awareness campaigns are crucial to curb this growing threat and ensure the safety of citizens