KIDNAPPERS operating across Nigeria have now resorted to demanding food items such as rice and cartons of noodles from their victims as part of the conditions for freeing their captives due to the recent rise in the cost essential commodities.
Over the last year, the cost of basic food items like rice, noodles, spaghetti, sugar, cooking oil and bread have risen astronomically due to the lockdown precipitated by the global coronavirus pandemic. Particularly hard-hit have been goods like rice, sugar and milk as Nigeria is heavily dependent on imports because local production lags way behind consumption.
With kidnapping now reaching epidemic proportions, at least a dozen people are abducted every day in Nigeria and the kidnappers are feeling the pinch. To make up for their losses and cover their costs, the kidnappers now insist that relatives of the abducted must include food items in their ransom payments.
Recently, abductors of some residents of Kiyi and Anguwar Hausawa community in Kuje and Abaji area councils of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, told members of the families of their hostages to include food items in the ransom. Some of the items demanded by the kidnappers included bags of rice, noodles, spaghetti and cartons of seasoning cubes.
According to a relative of one of the victims, who gave his name as Joshua, the items were taken along with N1.5m ($4,000) as a condition for the release of each abductee. All the families of the eight people who were kidnapped alongside a Redeemed Christian Church of God clergyman in Kiyi, had to purchase foodstuffs and condiments for the kidnappers as demanded.
Joshua added: “If you fail to buy those things and take only the cash to them, they will collect it and still hold the victim until you get the foodstuffs for them. Other family members did the same thing before their kidnapped relatives were released.”
Similarly, late last year, families of those kidnapped from Ushafa in Abuja were instructed by the kidnappers to include 30 loaves of bread, 40 packets of cigarettes and other items. Many Nigerians believe that the inability of governments in all levels to attend to the plights of the citizens particularly in the area of job creation, has plunged the entire nation into unimaginable hardship which has now extended to criminals in their various hideouts.
One Kaduna resident said: “Those kidnapping and demanding food for ransom are hungry. They are people that think of how to feed their bellies and those of their families too.
“No working class person or a businessman will just decide to go into kidnapping because he/she has money to provide whatsoever they need. Just recently here in Kaduna, El-Rufai sacked so many local government workers, leaving them jobless and most of these workers have families to cater for, so you see, the government is not trying at all and they are the cause of all these kidnappings.”
Simon Bameyi, a radio presenter said that one solution to the problem may be poisoning the food items before handing them over to the kidnappers. Aguredam Moses, the Benue State coordinator of the Africa Youth Union Commission, added that bandits are not allowing farmers to go to farm, which increased hunger, high prices and the and poor supply of foodstuffs.