World News

State threatens parents of kidnapped children in Nigeria

Last month, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill criminalizing the families of kidnapped persons and threatening them with a minimum of fifteen years in prison for paying a ransom to rescue a kidnapping victim.

The bill also imposed the death penalty for kidnappers in cases where the victim dies, though observers noted that this is largely symbolic gesture given that kidnappers are rarely caught while parents of victims are invariably known to local authorities.

Though kidnapping has been an issue in Nigeria for many decades, mass kidnappings—especially of children—can largely be traced back to the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. These girls were mostly Christians and many are still missing to this day. Kidnapping has increased rapidly since the Chibok incident, with Christian schools often the target though Muslim and state-run schools are also regularly targeted.

Kidnappers have extorted tens of millions of dollars from families in recent years, and the problem only seems to be getting worse. Proponents of the bill argue that families buying their sons and daughters back are the issue and that criminalizing ransom payments strikes at the root of the problem—without ransom payments, the argument goes, kidnappers will lose interest in the activity.

Opponents of the bill argue that the root of the issue is not ransom payments but rather a government that seems incapable of providing effective security for its people.

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