Kidnapping in Nigeria’s southern Niger Delta always attracts international attention. Over the years, it has become synonymous with the area’s highly deficient security environment.
While the Niger Delta is home to Africa’s second largest oil reserves, the discovery and exploitation of this ‘black gold’ has led to the emergence of a myriad of local and regional militant networks who have assumed the status of activist and advocate for a region that feels ostracised by the Federal Government.
Despite over half a century of oil production, the Niger Delta has remained subject to extensive corruption and severe underinvestment, and the core objectives of these criminal/militant groups is to attract attention to the plight of the region, force the federal government to increase the revenues the region receives from its oil wealth, and ultimately cede control of the industry to regional governments. These groups also seek to highlight the exploitation and oppression of indigenes, as well as the extensive environmental destruction caused by decades of oil exploration, both of which are a direct result of questionable relationships that exist and persist within the energy sector.
These groups have resorted to violence to force the federal government to address their plight, launching economically crippling attacks on the region’s oil infrastructure and targeting both locals and foreign nationals in kidnappings.
- Historically, kidnapping for ransom in the Niger Delta was utilised by armed militant groups to fund their operations against the federal government and multi-national oil companies, and largely targeted expatriate oil workers.
- As it became clear that kidnapping for ransom was a highly profitable endeavour, the range of illicit actors involved in the industry has widened dramatically.
- Kidnapping for ransom is now a dominant form of criminality in the Niger Delta, perpetrated by organised criminal network who use kidnapping as a way of earning a living. Victims come from every societal group, but foreign nationals – particularly oil workers – continue to be attractive targets because of their presumed wealth.