A 61-year-old civil engineer was supervising a digging project on a farm in southern Nigeria when five young men carrying AK-47s stormed the place and dragged him into the bush.
For five days, the kidnappers held the engineer, Olusola Olaniyi, and beat him severely. Only after his family and employer agreed to pay a ransom was he released, in the middle of the night, on a road a few miles away from where he had been kidnapped.
Nigeria has faced an outbreak of kidnappings in recent years, affecting people of all ages and classes: groups of schoolchildren, commuters traveling on trains and in cars through Nigeria’s largest cities, and villagers in the northern countryside. With youth gangs and armed bandits finding that kidnapping for ransom produces big payoffs, such crimes have multiplied.
Muhammadu Buhari, the departing president and a former military dictator, was elected in 2015 in part on promises that he could get the violence under control. After two terms, he claimed to have scored some successes in the northeast against Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province.
But Nigeria’s incoming president, Bola Tinubu, will be facing violence that has only grown more widespread. In the last year alone, armed groups killed more than 10,000 people, according to a tally by the International Crisis Group.
Insecurity is the top issue facing the country, according to a survey by SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian risk consultancy. Between July 2021 and June 2022, more than 3,400 people were abducted across the country, and 564 others were killed in kidnapping-related violence.
“Insecurity has become a function of Nigeria’s economy,” said Mr. Olaniyi, whose family paid about $3,500 in ransom after he was kidnapped in 2021. “Many young men see kidnappings as a job.”
This epidemic of kidnappings is just one of multiple security crises that are creating levels of violence unseen for decades in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, with nearly 220 million people.
In the northwest and northern center of the country, armed gangs known as bandits have stolen cattle, kidnapped thousands of people and forced schools to close for months to keep students safe.
In the southeast, separatist movements have attacked dozens of police stations, prisons and courthouses.
And in July, in the country’s capital, Abuja, militants from the Islamic State West Africa Province broke into one of the country’s most secure prisons and freed hundreds of detainees.
“In the past, Boko Haram was Nigeria’s main security problem,” said Nnamdi Obasi, a researcher with the International Crisis Group, based in Abuja. “Now we have three or four of those major crises.”
Source : Nytimes