Kidnapping, the act of abducting someone and holding them against their will, has become increasingly common in Nigeria, and is seen as lucrative business and the shortest means to wealth by those involved in this crime.
The current wave of abductions across the country makes every person a potential target regardless of social class or economic status.
The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), reported over 1,827 kidnapping cases in the first four months of 2022.
While this is down 14.10 percent from the 2,127 incidents reported in 2021, it is up 962.21 percent from the 172 kidnapping cases reported in the same period of 2017.
293 kidnapping instances were reported in 2018, 532 in 2019, and 780 in 2020, according to the NST.
This came as a result of the escalating insecurity in Nigeria, and it requires a comprehensive approach to be rectified.
Telecommunication held tremendous potential to help security operatives in their search for kidnapped victims.
They said almost everyone had telephones, and the situation could be leveraged to locate victims of kidnappings.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) stated that there were 306.31 million connected GSM lines in March 2022, The Punch reports.
Each of these lines are connected to owners, and experts have stated that those phones could serve as trackers, albeit with privacy risks.
The NST data show that 15 kidnapped cases were recorded daily in the first 120 days of 2022.
Almost every day, someone is tweeting about how they escaped a kidnapping attempt or the picture of a kidnapped victim.
According to numerous sources, abduction is endemic in Nigeria, and insecurity in the country has increased dramatically in recent years.
From June 2011 to March 2020, at least $18.34 million in ransom was paid to kidnappers, according to the report.
Between January 2016 and March 2020, only $11 million was paid, illustrating how lucrative kidnapping has become. Kidnapping for ransom is on the rise across the country.
Jackson Ojo, a security specialist, said technology could aid in the tracking of kidnapped victims, but there are security problems.
He said, “It is very possible technologically, but you cannot go ahead and begin to do it because you need the approval of the network providers. And the network providers will not listen to you until the security agencies apply to the court.
”Without the court, this is just a case of privacy infringement.”
According to Ojo, security operatives in the nation needed a court order to gain access to private data.
He added that they would not get this order if someone related to the victim did not give them.
He stated, “But the problem with the procedure is that someone must first approach the court, someone must also give security agencies in Nigeria the power to approach the court.
”That is if there is no one giving instruction to the security operative, who will approach the court.
“What we are facing in Nigeria is a complicated system where there is no synergy between the citizens of Nigeria, security operatives, and the judiciary.
”There is no synergy. After tracking these criminals and taking them to court, there is still a chance that the court will let them go.”
Ojo added that the NCC was not doing enough regarding helping security agencies to track kidnapped victims.
According to him, there had to be synergy between the commission, security agencies, and the court.
He added, “People that kidnap others send videos over the Internet. These things are not possible without a network. Why can’t the commission make moves to get this metadata?
”It wasn’t magic that America did when only a single person was kidnapped in Borno.
“They showed up within three days, tracked the victim, and took him back home. They leveraged on telecom technology, same as we have here.
”But how are we using our telecoms here? It is very possible to use people’s phone numbers to track them. We need to simplify this process.
”And one of the major ways to achieve this is to give security agencies express permission.”
Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, recently stated that security agencies have received permission from President Muhammadu Buhari to access the National Identity Management Commission’s database in the course of their duties.
He said, “Some of the security institutions, based on the cybercrime law, are allowed to gain access to the database without coming to us because the database allows for lawful intercept. That lawful intercept was allowed in order to support our security agencies.”
Although, he did not disclose if the security operatives had access to the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number of subscribers which was needed to track phones.
The Founder, e86 Limited, Olugbenga Odeyemi, stated that security agencies should not get express access to the phone data of individuals without checks.
He said, “The same tool used for security can be compromised and will lead to bigger issues.
”This is especially a bad idea considering our political space. It is an invasion of privacy.
“To effectively track a phone, you will need to go beyond tracking the last network broadcast.
”The level of access required will definitely compromise privacy. Also, at what point do you begin to track?
“Before the kidnapping or after? Most victims are not even allowed to use their phones, most phones are taken away and destroyed.”
Odeyemi added, “What we have heard repeatedly is that security operatives are aware of the locations of these criminals.
”We have heard that security operatives are able to listen to phone conversations and monitor other transactions originating from their mobile devices.
“I do not think this has to do with the lack of technology. These criminals receive shipments of food, weapons, and other supplies.
”They receive money and transport money to their sponsors; it cannot be so difficult to do a trace on these activities.
“Even if the most sophisticated tools are deployed, getting evidence is one thing, making use of the evidence to seek justice is another thing.
”I think the latter is the problem here. Justice and fairness are what is missing everywhere you look in Nigeria.”
Odeyemi stated that while he agreed that more technology would help security agencies, he would not concur that the reasons why criminals had not been apprehended or why victims had not gained freedom was because of security operatives’ inability to track phones.
He added, “When the Nigerian police or FRSC want to arrest an offending driver, they either block the vehicle with their own bodies or chase with their vehicle.
”There is practically no way to track such a driver once the driver has left the scene.
”A country that has no comprehensive and central database for registered vehicles within the country has its work cut out.
”The best way to solve a problem is to attack the root cause and not only treat the symptoms.
”Kidnapping is a symptom of the security system we have not been able to build,” Odeyemi added.
While providing adequate technology, training, and access was vital, Odeyemi emphasized that there were some fundamental security concerns that needed to be addressed in Nigeria.