National Debate in Nigeria Over Ransom Payments
07/14/2021 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) – The recent kidnapping of over 120 students from a Baptist school in Kaduna State has reignited the international conversation on ransom payments to kidnappers and what should be done to stem the tide of violence sweeping through Nigeria and the surrounding region.
Some argue that ransom payments only encourage kidnappings to continue in the long run. Rewarding kidnappers with large cash payments makes such criminal activity a lucrative business and likely increases the number of incidents over time. Over 1,000 students have been abducted just this year—a sharp increase over previous years in what is a relatively new trend. The mass abduction of schoolchildren began in 2014 when the Islamist terror group Boko Haram abducted 276 mostly Christian girls from a school in Chibok.
The Nigerian national government is considering legislation that would criminalize paying ransoms for the return of abducted schoolchildren. The bill, if passed, would amend the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011 by making paying ransoms a felony punishable by a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Critics of the proposed legislation argue that it misses the point—the fundamental problem at play is lack of effective security measures and law enforcement, not desperate parents trying to get their children back, they argue.
The Nigerian government has kept an inconsistent narrative on kidnappings and ransoms over the years. Though it officially condemns the practice, it is widely known that the government regularly pays ransoms. Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State has even boasted publicly that he is in contact with certain Fulani militants and paid them to stop certain attacks. Whatever the truth of that claim, however, attacks have increased under El Rufai’s governorship.
As Nigeria wrestles with how to respond to the violence in its borders, the United States and others in the international community must increase the pressure on Nigeria to effectively address the problems it is facing. Ransom payments or not, the authorities should tirelessly pursue bandits, Islamist terrorists, and violent Fulani militants in the pursuit of justice.
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