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A Local’s Guide to Staying Safe
The Vigilant Eye: Spotting Kidnappers in Nigeria
A Local’s Guide to Staying Safe
Kidnapping has become an ongoing menace across many parts of Nigeria, posing a real threat to our personal safety and security. As concerned citizens, we all need to keep our eyes peeled for potential kidnappers lurking in our communities. This crucial vigilance could save lives.
In this blog post, I’ll share tips and tricks I’ve learned from living here to help spot the signs of nefarious kidnapping activity. Keep reading to find out what to watch for and how to stay safe.
Kidnapping Statistics in Nigeria
- 2020: 2,371 reported kidnappings
- 2021-2022: 3,420 reported kidnappings
- Over 1,500 Nigerian students kidnapped from schools between 2020-2022
- Kidnapping rings generate around $18 million yearly in ransom payouts
Suspicious Behaviour and Movements
- An unfamiliar man loitering repeatedly outside a school in Kaduna
- A group of men in vans parking near oil offices in Port Harcourt weekly observing employees
One of the best ways to identify shady characters is noticing unusual behavior. If you see someone repeatedly lurking around your local school, market, church or residential area with no clear purpose, be wary. Loiterers scoping out targets will often visit known criminal hotspots gathering intel. Keep an eye out for odd movements, especially around vulnerable people like kids or wealthy folks.
Inappropriate Interest in Children
- A stranger attempting to give gifts to children at a playground in Abuja
- A man frequently asking girls personal questions after school in Enugu
Grown men with no family or occupational ties focused intently on random children raises red flags. Observe how adults interact with minors around your community. Any inappropriate conversations, attention or contact should be concerning. We all need to help protect youths from predation at schools, places of worship, playgrounds, and other venues.
Disguises and Changed Appearances
- Individuals wearing burqas and veils lurking near wealthy neighborhoods in Lagos
- Men dressing in kaftans and caps pulled low when monitoring homes in Kano
Kidnappers often don masks, hats, hoods, or sunglasses to hide their faces while tracking marks. Be alert to anyone concealing their identity with costumes, props or clothing unsuited to the weather. Also note people who seem to be disguising themselves with changed hairstyles, beards, headscarves or traditional garb.
Signs of Covert Surveillance
- Young men in an internet cafe taking photos of school kids in Owerri
- A person hiding in vacant buildings filming bank security patrols in Asaba
When someone spends an unusually long time watching a specific location like a business, home, or religious site without an evident reason, it spells trouble. Take note if they are monitoring coming and going patterns, taking photographs, shooting video or jotting down notes. This kind of observation indicates potential reconnaissance for a kidnapping attempt. According to official statistics, there were over 2,371 reported kidnapping cases across Nigeria in 2020 alone.
- Armed men with rifles setting up roadblocks along Okene-Lokoja highway
- Bandits carrying machetes and knives while loitering at bus stations in Katsina
Spotting firearms, machetes, knives or concealed weapons on shady individuals should prompt immediate safety action. First alert any nearby security guards or police officers if possible. Then report the armed entity to vigilante groups or community leaders. Weapons sightings could foreshadow impending kidnappings or other crimes.
Flashing Sudden Wealth
- Youths previously begging now wearing designer clothes in Abeokuta
- A young man hosting lavish parties and buying cars despite unemployment in rural Borno
When someone appears to abruptly gain expensive cars, clothes, jewelry and other lavish goods without any clear income source, it often means criminal activity is funding their lifestyle. Kidnappers and their gangs will sometimes conspicuously spend their illicit earnings. Take note of any inexplicable displays of prosperity.
- Calls and texts demanding millions in Naira after businessman’s disappearance in Onitsha
- Texts with bank details sent to family after school abduction in Lagos
One obvious clue someone has been kidnapped is subsequent contact demanding ransom payments for their release. If you become aware of abduction cases involving extortion, quickly relay all relevant information to the police and vigilante groups. The faster they can locate criminal enterprises, the better chances of rescues. According to estimates, kidnapping rings generate around $18 million per year in ransom payouts in Nigeria.
Other Troubling Connections
- Man in Kano previously arrested for armed robbery now seen surveillance commercial area
- Youths in Port Harcourt openly pledging allegiance to the Debam cult gang
Known associations with gangs committing bank robberies, drug trafficking, oil bunkering or cult activities should also raise kidnapping concerns. Groups like the notorious Eiye and Black Axe confraternities have been implicated in numerous kidnapping rings. Ties to other organized crime make individuals more suspect.
- Customer in Abuja bank frequently depositing stacks of cash wrapped in rubber bands
- A woman in Maiduguri using multiple ATM cards to make daily withdrawals up to limit
At banks and ATMs, be attentive to abnormal financial activities like repeated large cash deposits or withdrawals using multiple cards. Staff should watch for odd transfers, payments or account activity that may indicate laundering kidnapping payouts. Promptly report all shady transactions to financial investigation agencies.
Monitoring Police Activity
- Strangers taking photos of security cameras around National Assembly in Abuja
- Civilians attempting to track EFCC raid team movements in Lagos
Pay attention to anyone closely tracking police patrol patterns, vehicles, stations or officers. This surveillance of law enforcement could point to organized criminal activity. Make note of any unauthorized filming, photographing or documentation of police. Report these incidents and any individuals involved to authorities immediately.
Lurking in Risky Areas
- Groups hiding out near isolated highway stretch between Abuja and Kaduna
- People loitering at abandoned warehouses on Borno outskirts despite curfews
Desolate roads, isolated shanties, abandoned buildings and known criminal hotspots are common kidnapping havens. Be cautious navigating locations where abductions have previously occurred. Keep an eye out for suspicious persons loitering in risky areas without purpose. Avoid walking alone in vulnerable spots when possible.
- Family in Port Harcourt reporting being followed by unknown tinted window vehicles
- Merchants in Kano receiving demands for “protection money” from gang affiliates
Gangs often harass and threaten regular folk to dissuade resistance or cooperation with police. Take notes on any coercive demands, warnings or brazen intimidation attempts. If you notice unfamiliar cars tailing you or spot aggressive individuals near your home or job, report them to authorities promptly.