The Evolving Threat of Kidnapping for Ransom in Nigeria

  • Freedom Chukwudi Onuoha
  • James Okolie-Osemene


Ever since the 1980s, kidnapping perpetrated for different reasons remains a feature of the landscape of criminal victimisation in Nigeria. However, the menace of kidnapping for ransom (K4R) has become a serious threat to human security in Nigeria. Extant literature on K4R has largely explored the historical background, motives, impacts, and state responses to this growing security threat. What is missing, however, is a critical examination of the broad typologies of operation to deepen our understanding of how K4R is perpetrated by organised criminal gangs. This chapter, therefore, focuses on the evolving threat of K4R in Nigeria. It constructs four main typologies—routine, invasion, highway, and insider models—based on insights gleaned from the character and modus operandi of kidnapping gangs. Utilising a theoretical bridging framework that combines the lifestyle theory, routine activity theory, and economic theory of crime, the chapter argues that the escalation of K4R derives from, and reflects, the crisis of the Nigerian political economy. It further discusses the factors that underpinned the escalation of K4R. The chapter concludes that the upsurge in K4R seems to be overwhelming the Nigerian Police, necessitating the adoption of extra measures by the Nigerian government such as the registration of mobile phone users, adoption or amendment of anti-kidnapping legislation by some states to provide harsh punishment (death penalty), the deployment of military task force, and demolition of structures or buildings owned or used by kidnappers for their operations, among others. These and other measures have proven largely ineffective in addressing the menace. To this end, the chapter recommends, among others, government’s implementation of measures to drastically reduce poverty, create employment for the teeming youth, curb widespread corruption, and evolve a reliable national identification system, and the capacitation of security and law enforcement agencies through proper training and equipment.


Kidnapping Human security Politics and economy 


  1. Adegoke, N. (2014). Kidnapping, security challenges and socio-economic implications to the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Unilorin E-Journal, 16(2), 205–216.Google Scholar
  2. Adelakun, T. (2007). History of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria., July 27. Retrieved from
  3. Ajaero, C., & Azubuike, G. (2006). Rolling out the trucks: Niger Delta militants vow to confront Nigerian soldiers in an all-out war if Mujahdin Dokubo-Asari, their detained leader is not released quickly. Newswatch, November 6.Google Scholar
  4. Ajaja, T. (2016). We kidnapped Sierra Leonean envoy to raise money for Sallah – Suspects. Punch, July 30. Retrieved from
  5. Alumona, I. M. (2016). The state and internal security in Nigeria: A case study of Anambra state, 1999–2014. In J. S. Omotola (Ed.), The state in contemporary Nigeria: Issues, perspectives and challenges (pp. 357–384). Ibadan: John Archers Limited.Google Scholar
  6. Attoh, F. (2012). Rethinking crimes and violent behaviour in Nigeria: An appraisal of the challenges and solutions. British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 8(11), 213–221.Google Scholar
  7. BBC News. (1999). Helicopter pilots kidnapped in Niger Delta. BBC, June 29. Retrieved from
  8. Becker, G. (1968). Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy, 76, 169–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bickley, S. (2003). Safety first: A safety and security handbook for aid workers. London: Save the Children.Google Scholar
  10. Cocks, T. (2013). Nigerian Islamists got $3.15 million to free French hostages: Document. Reuters, April 26. Retrieved from
  11. Cohen, L., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44(4), 588–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Daily Trust. (2016). Kidnappers on Abuja-Kaduna highway. Daily Trust, March 4. Retrieved from
  13. Etebu, C. E., Buseni, J. A., & Coleman, A. (2010). Hostage taking in the Niger Delta: Its implications on educational development in Bayelsa and Rivers states of Nigeria. International Journal of Social and Policy Issues, 7(2), 178–190.Google Scholar
  14. Federal Government of Nigeria. (1990). Criminal code act; Chapter 31, section364. Retrieved from
  15. Greenawalt, K. (1989). Speech, crime, and the uses of language. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hindelang, M., Gottfredson, M., & Garofalo, J. (1978). Victims of personal crime: An empirical foundation for a theory of personal victimization. Cambridge, MA: Ballinger.Google Scholar
  17. Ikoh, M. U., & Okenyodo, K. (2014). Criminal victimisation in Nigeria: 2005–2012. In E. Alemika (Ed.), Crime and public safety in Nigeria. Lagos: Malthouse Limited.Google Scholar
  18. Ilechukwu, L. C., Uchem, R., & Asogwa, U. (2015). Stemming the incidence of kidnapping in the Nigerian society: What religious education can do. Journal of Culture, Society and Development, 12, 28–47.Google Scholar
  19. Inyang, J. D., & Abraham, U. E. (2013). The social problem of kidnapping and its implications on the socio-economic development of Nigeria: A study of Uyo metropolis. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 4(6), 531–544.Google Scholar
  20. Le Sage, A. (2010). Non-state security threats in Africa and challenges for US engagement. PRism, 2(1), 57–78.Google Scholar
  21. Mbaegbu, R. (2014). Criminal victimisation and the fear of crime: 2012. In E. Alemika (Ed.), Crime and public safety in Nigeria. Lagos: Malthouse Limited.Google Scholar
  22. Moses, L. (undated). ATM – Are they good or bad for Nigeria. Retrieved from
  23. Mutum, R. (2014). Driver confesses to masterminding murder of his boss. Daily Trust, June 24. Retrieved from
  24. NAN. (2017). Police arrest soldier for ‘kidnapping’ woman. Premium Times, April 8. Retrieved from
  25. NOIPolls. (2017). Kidnapping: Unemployment, poverty cited as top reasons for rise in kidnapping. NOIPolls, February 21. Retrieved from
  26. Odili-Idiagbor, V. (2014). Burdens of the national electronic identity card. Punch, September 5. Retrieved from
  27. Odunsi, W. (2016). Otedola: How police nabbed ex-soldier, NSCDC officer after kidnap attempt. Daily Post, November 16. Retrieved from
  28. Oduwole, F. (2007). N/D: US warns citizens. Daily Champions, January 25.Google Scholar
  29. Ogbozor, E. (2016). Understanding the informal security sector in Nigeria: Special report. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.Google Scholar
  30. Okenyodo, K. (2016). Governance, accountability, and security in Nigeria. ACSS African Security Brief, No. 31.Google Scholar
  31. Okocha, C., & Ikokwu, C. (2009). Kidnappers pocket N15b. Thisday, April 1.Google Scholar
  32. Okolie, I. (2017a). Confessions of kidnap kingpins: Why we stole N310m at senate president’s house. Vanguard, April 1. Retrieved from
  33. Okolie, I. (2017b). V-A-M-P-I-R-E: The untold story of his end. Vanguard, March 16. Retrieved from
  34. Okolie, I. & Undu, J. (2016). Kidnappers kill Dangote group’s strategist; 3 arrested. Vanguard, December 6. Retrieved from
  35. Okolie-Osemene, J., & Aghalino, S. O. (2013). Small arms and light weapons in Abia state. In I. O. Albert & W. A. Eselebor (Eds.), Managing security in a globalised world. Ibadan: John Archers.Google Scholar
  36. Oluwole, J. (2015). Ex-Minister, Olu Falae admits paying ransom to kidnappers. Premium Times, September 28. Retrieved from
  37. Omoniyi, T. (2010). The highs and lows of SIM card registration. Daily Trust, August 17.Google Scholar
  38. Omonobi, K. (2016). N500m MTN bribery allegation: Presidency orders probe of Abba Kyari. Vanguard, October 21.Google Scholar
  39. Omonobi, K. (2017). Ex-DSS staff, others nabbed over kidnap of Gateway Insurance boss. Vanguard, March 30. Retrieved from
  40. Onuba, I. (2016). Nigeria’s unemployment rate rises to 13.9% – NBS. Punch, December 15. Retrieved from
  41. Onuoha, F. C. (2008). The transformation of conflicts in the Niger Delta. In H. A. Saliu, I. O. Taiwo, R. A. Seniyi, B. Salawu, & A. Usman (Eds.), Nigeria beyond 2007: Issues, perspectives and challenges (pp. 263–283). Ilorin: Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, University of Ilorin.Google Scholar
  42. Onuoha, F. C. (2010). Youth unemployment and poverty: Connections and concerns for national development in Nigeria. International Journal of Modern Political Economy, 1(1), 115–136.Google Scholar
  43. Onuoha, F. C. (2013). Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladis Sudan: Nigeria’s evolving terrorist group. Doha: Al Jazeera Center for Studies.Google Scholar
  44. Oyedele, D. (2017). Army currently deployed in 32 states, says Buratai. Thisday, February 15. Retrieved from
  45. Oyemwinmina, C., & Osazuwa, A. J. (2016). The social-economic impediments to kidnapping eradication in southern Nigeria. International Journal of Arts and Humanities, 5(4), 202–213.Google Scholar
  46. Premium Times. (2016). Nigeria accounts for over 70% of 500 million illicit weapons in West Africa. Premium Times, August 2.Google Scholar
  47. Punch. (2016). Criminal involvement of soldiers in kidnapping. Punch, October 31. Retrieved from
  48. Punch. (2017). ‘Vampire’ killed more than 200 people – Police. Punch, March 2. Retrieved from
  49. Salau, S. (2017). Customs seizes truckload of pump action rifles in Lagos. The Guardian, January 31. Retrieved from
  50. Stewart, S. (2010). A look at kidnapping through the lens of protective intelligence. STRATFOR, May 20. Retrieved from
  51. The Street Journal. (2013). Kidnapping: Nigeria’s fastest growing industry! The Street Journal, April 9. Retrieved from’s-fatest-growing-industry/.
  52. Ujumadu, V. (2014). Anambra and defiant abductors: 200 kidnappings and the N1 billion ransom. Vanguard, July 27.Google Scholar
  53. Ujumadu, V. (2016). Nigeria deeply divided, says UN report. Vanguard, September 5. Retrieved from
  54. Wilson, G. (2016). The impact of militancy and cult groups’ activities on Rundele community development in Niger Delta region of Nigeria. International Journal of Arts and Humanities, 5(4), 49–62.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Freedom Chukwudi Onuoha
    • 1
  • James Okolie-Osemene
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of NigeriaNsukkaNigeria
  2. 2.Department of International RelationsWellspring UniversityBenin CityNigeria

Personalised recommendations