Kidnapping: Overview, Causes, Effects, and Solutions
A Global Problem
Kidnapping is a global problem that affects countries all over the world—from the United States and Mexico to many countries in Africa, Asia, and beyond. Governments are working hard to address this problem and ensure that the perpetrators are captured and brought to justice.
Kidnapping refers to the abduction and captivity of a person, typically to obtain a ransom. Sometimes kidnappers hold their captives longer in order to demand more money from the victim's relatives or associates.
There are many causes of kidnapping, including unemployment, poverty, religion, political issues, and so on. The practice can be reduced with governmental involvement.
Kidnapping in Nigeria
Kidnapping is not a new problem in Nigeria, and it is one of the country's biggest challenges. The country faces many problems, including unemployment, corruption, and low rates of education—but it is kidnapping, thanks to high-profile incidents perpetrated by the Islamic militant group known as Boko Haram, that has drawn the world's attention. The facts show that the rate of kidnapping in this country is indeed high.
International organizations are joining Nigerian groups to combat this problem. Chad, Cameroon, and the United States have recently joined in the fight.
Boko Haram's kidnappings are motivated by both politics and religion, according to their own leaders as well as the Nigerian government.
The kidnappings are political because corrupt politicians want to destroy the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. The kidnappings are also religious because of the group's fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. The meaning of their name is “Western education is prohibited,” which explains why they continue to target schoolchildren. On the night of April 14, 2014, about 276 Chibok schoolgirls, ages 16 to 18, were kidnapped by this group.
A popular Christian musician in Nigeria, Chika Okpala, lamented the kidnapping of a friend in a song entitled “Ndi Nto” (meaning "the kidnappers"). He stated that when the perpetrators were asked why they did it, they said they needed money. They went on to explain that they did not have jobs due to high unemployment.
Sometimes, ordinary citizens participate in kidnappings in order to line their pockets, usually youths who are hired by rich men to do their dirty business. The criminals will target rich families and sometimes demand up to twenty million naira (the equivalent of about $119,000).
The government of the Nigerian state of Anambra recently issued a new law that changed the punishment for anyone caught kidnapping. The governor of this state, Peter Obi, declared that offenders would be sentenced to death—and that anything purchased with ransom money, like a house or car, would be destroyed.
The rates of kidnapping in Europe, North America, and South America are attracting worldwide attention. The practice of kidnapping has become quite lucrative for some, and there are criminal groups that have made it their business model.
In Mexico, with its history of drug-related violence and police corruption, kidnapping is an old story. According to the U.S. Department of State, Mexico suffered an estimated 105,682 kidnappings in 2012, and in 2013 the number reached 131,946, the highest number on record.
The disappearance of children in the United States is not unheard of, either, and it is a problem that police and other agencies are working hard to address. According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year in this country.
In some cases, the kidnapping seems to make very little sense. One example is an incident that took place in the United Kingdom in which a woman kidnapped her own daughter. According to The Sun, "Karen Matthews was jailed for eight years for her part in faking the kidnap of her own daughter in 2008. The mum-of-seven, who has been dubbed Britain’s Most Hated Mum, was released from prison after serving half of her sentence."
The question we might ask is why would a mother kidnap her own daughter? What could possibly inspire her to do such a terrible thing?
The answer is that she did it for the money. She did it so that she could claim the £50,000 reward offered by the government for "finding" Shannon. She planned to share the reward money with her accomplice, Michael Donovan, who was a relative.
According to the Offender Management Caseload Statistics, the UK recorded about 57 convicted kidnappings cases between 2007-2008.
In some countries, kidnapping has also affected who occupies top government positions. The son of the former president of Slovakia was once kidnapped. In August of 1995, Michal Kovac Jr, whose father was president of newly independent Slovakia, was stopped in his car by armed men who handcuffed him, forced him to drink two bottles of whisky, and then drove him to an unknown destination (The Economist, 2017).
It is sometimes said that corruption can lead to kidnapping. Somalia, which is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, unfortunately has quite a bit of experience with this problem. On May 3, 2018, a German nurse named Sonja Nientiet was kidnapped there. According to a BBC News report, "A German nurse with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been kidnapped in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, the aid group says."
Causes & Effects
Causes of Kidnapping
There are many causes of kidnapping around the globe, including:
Below, we'll examine each cause individually.
The high unemployment rate in many countries has forced citizens to find other ways to make money—and some of those ways are illegal. Kidnapping a rich person can be a lucrative business. A cash-strapped unemployed person may believe that when he kidnaps someone who is rich, he may be able to become rich himself.
Any person who lives below $1.25 a day is living below the poverty line. Poverty can propel people toward crime as a way to make ends meet. Sometimes, a person who is poor might believe that kidnapping or other illegal acts could provide the necessary money to start a new life—a life that will no longer involve crime.
Illiteracy is the inability to read or write. When people know how to read and write, they can gain the skills they need in order to become educated, get a job, and live a productive life. Literacy and education can also be an important foundation upon which to build a deeper understanding of moral judgment and decision making.
The kidnappings and bombings perpetrated by Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group in Nigeria, are caused by illiteracy, at least in part. The leaders of this group feed their men false information, which the men cannot disprove by reading outside sources. Boko Haram fighters engage in suicide bombings, killings, and kidnappings. They are told that if they die while carrying out their mission, they will inherit the kingdom.
Many kidnappings in the world today have their root cause in religion. Some people love their religion so much that even when it teaches them something that is wrong, they believe it is right. One religious leader may want to take over another group—and order his men to kidnap his rivals.
Some people are not content with what they have and wish they could buy more and more things—whether it's fancy clothes, cars, houses, or jewelry. This person may turn to crime to make more money. A wicked businessman can kidnap his business rival for a large ransom to become richer.
Corrupt politicians may arrange for the kidnapping of their opponents. Sometimes, they do this so that their opponents will make concessions or change their votes on the issues.
A society where corruption is rife is likely to experience a high level of kidnapping. The truth is that if a government is corrupt and embezzling public funds, citizens may react by kidnapping those corrupt politicians in an attempt to recoup some of the stolen money.
Kidnapping Often Involves Torture or Rape
Kidnappers sometimes choose to torture their victims so that they can force money out of their relatives or associates. Sometimes, they may even torture for fun. One form of torture is rape.
Effects of Kidnapping
For the victims, there are many negative consequences of kidnapping, including:
- Psychological trauma
- Fear and lack of trust
The negative psychological effects of being abducted are huge, especially for a child. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) may last a lifetime.
Fear and Lack of Trust
In a society where the incidence of kidnapping is high, fear limits people's lives and actions. They will always move with caution as they do not know who might be the next target. The rich surround themselves with security guards because of their fear of getting kidnapped.
Solutions to Kidnapping
There are solutions that may help reduce the rate of kidnapping, including:
- Training strong anti-kidnapping agents
- Monitoring the activities of the police
- Serious punishment for offenders
- Job creation
Training Anti-Kidnapping Agents
Any country that wants to fight kidnapping successfully must hire and train capable agents to combat the issue. When law enforcement agencies are actively involved, the incidence of this crime can be lessened.
Monitoring the Police
Reports show that the police are involved in some kidnappings. Notable examples have occurred in Mexico. Eliminating the criminals within the ranks of law enforcement is key.
Seriously Punishments for Offenders
Mild punishment does nothing to deter criminals. When the government treats kidnappers harshly, fewer abductions will occur.
Generating jobs for citizens, especially for the youth, can have a huge impact in the fight against crime. When people are gainfully employed, they do not need to commit crimes.
Kidnapping is a global problem with many root causes, including unemployment, poverty, religion, and politics. Each of these root causes must be evaluated and addressed in order to eliminate this terrible scourge once and for all.
- BBC (2018), "Somali Gunmen Abduct German Red Cross Nurse in Mogadishu."
- Christie, Sam (2017), "'Truly despicable.' Who is Karen Matthews and why did she kidnap Shannon? UK’s ‘most hated mom’ who abducted her own daughter," The Sun.
- The Economist (2017), "Who Kidnapped the Son of Slovakia’s President?"
- Partlow, Joshua (2014). “Kidnappings in Mexico Surge to the Highest Number on Record.”
- U.S. Department of State, Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Mexico 2014 Crime and Safety Report" (reporting data from 2012).
- U.S. Department of State, Overseas Security Advisory Council. "Mexico 2015 Crime and Safety Report" (reporting data from 2013).
- U.S. Passports and International Travel (2014). “Mexico Travel Warning.”
- Uzochukwu, Mike (2013). "Challenges in Nigeria and Solutions on How to Resolve Them." Soapboxie.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 23
Can social media be a way to reduce kidnapping? If so, how?
Yes, social media can be a way of reducing kidnapping. It can be so by educating the masses or social media users on how to avoid things that can make kidnappers monitor them.
It can also be an avenue to educate those who are planning to go into kidnapping on the punishment that awaits them, and some of them may quit after getting such information.Helpful 24
Could illiteracy play a part in kidnapping?
Yes. Illiteracy can be one of the causes of kidnapping.Helpful 20
Is this article only about kidnapping in Nigeria?
Thanks for your question. It is not only related to Nigeria but a general view on kidnapping.Helpful 6
Are kidnappers educated?
There are kidnappers that are educated. In some cases, kidnapping has nothing to do with education of the person involved or not. It is about the mindset.Helpful 17
© 2014 Okwuagbala Uzochukwu Mike P