The past three years have seen an upsurge in violence perpetrated by
armed groups in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta. And while attacks
targeting the oil industry have been halted for now, kidnapping is on
oil-rich Niger Delta are struggling to contain a surge in gang-related
kidnappings in a region where the vast majority of the population is
young and unemployed.
The involvement of some members of the
security forces in a recent abduction, involving the mother of a senior
state official in Bayelsa state, has provoked a lot of concern in the
region. Bayelsa state police commissioner Unuoha Udeka confirmed three
policemen orchestrated the abduction and collected a $20,000 ransom.
the issue of the kidnap of the mother of the commissioner for health,
three serving policemen were involved," he said. "One of them is on the
run. Two are here with us. We have decided to try them in orderly
room so that we will be able to dismiss them before they are charged to
The government says more than 600 people have been
kidnapped in Nigeria this year, up nearly 80 percent from last year.
Kidnappers and hostage-takers extorted ransoms of more than
$100 million between 2006 and 2008.
The Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the country's main militant group,
started kidnapping foreign oil workers as part of its campaign for a
greater share of the region's wealth.
Criminal gangs have taken
advantage of the breakdown in law and order in the Niger Delta,
carrying out kidnappings for ransom and armed robberies that have left
residents living in a state of insecurity.
wealthy expatriates were targeted. But more victims are now middle or
working class. Even the poorest are snatched off the streets, for
ransoms as low as a few-hundred dollars.
Nigeria is considering
strict new penalties, including a life sentence for kidnappers, but the
death penalty will be invoked should a hostage die. The law, if
passed, would also see a 15-year sentence for anyone hiding information
The government is implementing a amnesty
program in the Niger Delta aimed at ending attacks that have crippled
the country's oil industry.