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Data: More Nigerians Kidnapped In First 6 Months Of 2021 Than All Of 2020

The statistics also show that mass abductions have increased dramatically and the burden of kidnapping, which used to be borne by the Northeast and South-south, has shifted to the Northwest and North-central regions.

The rate of kidnapping in Nigeria has more than doubled so far in 2021 compared to previous years, available data has shown. 

By analysing data collected through the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) between 2015 and June 2021, HumAngle observed a growing trend in the number of mass abductions as well as the total number of people who are victims of kidnapping in the country.

While in 2017, there were 484 kidnapping victims, the figure grew to 987 the following year, then 1,386 in 2019, and 2,860 in 2020.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, this year, at least 2,944 people have already been reported kidnapped — making 2021 the worst year yet based on this security index. These numbers are higher if communities along the border areas in Cameroon, Chad, and the Niger Republic are taken into account.

The number of kidnapping incidents has increased too, from 110 in 2015 to 135 in 2016, 140 in 2017, 156 in 2018, 330 in 2019, 437 in 2020, and then 315 in the first half of 2021.

Another worrisome trend is the increase in the number of mass abductions. The average number of victims per incident has increased over the years from 2.6 in 2016 to 9.4 this year. While there were five abductions in 2015 with over 20 victims, Nigeria recorded 11 of such cases in 2018, eight in 2019, 25 in 2020, and 31 within the first six months of 2021.

Young people, especially those enrolled in school, are some of the commonest targets of these large-scale atrocities. This year alone, students have been kidnapped in their tens and hundreds in Kagara, Niger State; Jangebe in Zamfara State; Afaka in Kaduna State; and Yauri in Kebbi State.

A tally done by This Day Newspaper estimates that, as of March, over 618 schools had been closed in Northern Nigeria due to the frequent attacks and abduction of students. The affected states included Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Niger, and Yobe.

The numbers from NST also show how the wave of kidnapping has shifted from one region to the other.

Back in 2015, the Northeast and South-south had the highest numbers of victims as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in the former and acts of militancy in the latter. But, a few years down the line, especially in 2020 and 2021, the North-central and Northwest have now become the hardest-hit regions due to spreading terrorism and banditry.

This year, states in the Northwest had 1405 victims of kidnapping, followed by the North-central region (942), then Northeast (211), Southwest (169), South-south (140), and Southeast (77).

Growing insecurity in Nigeria has been attributed to alarming unemployment rates, the smuggling and circulation of small arms, as well as the understaffing and underequipping of security forces. 

In a report published last year, research group SBM Intelligence described the problem as the “democratisation of the kidnap industry,” estimating that, between 2011 and 2020, at least $18.34 million was paid as ransom to kidnappers in the country.

In a statement released on Sunday, June 11, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari urged the military to “respond to the worrying situation in a language that the bandits understand.” He added that the security agencies were working on new methods and policies that had started to yield positive results in the troubled regions. Available data, however, appears to disagree with this assessment.

Illustration by Abba Toko

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'Kunle Adebajo

Head of Investigations at HumAngle. ‘Kunle covers conflict alongside its many intricacies and fallouts. He also writes about disinformation, the environment, and human rights. He's won a couple of journalism awards, including the 2021 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Journalism, the 2022 African Fact-checking Award, and the 2023 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling.

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