The current recession, economic downturn in Nigeria seem to be having a multiplier-effect in criminal activities – upsurge in kidnap for ransom and extortion, armed robbery, cybercrime and general insecurity. Many people have lost their jobs, and businesses have collapsed. The price of goods and food stuff in the market have doubled, if not tripled.
Kidnapping for ransom and extortion in Nigeria is now a daily phenomenon and is said to be under-reported. To give us an idea of the trend in kidnappings in Nigeria, just a few days ago, the wife of the Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Mrs. Emefiele was reportedly kidnapped and later rescued.
Granted, the Nigeria Police and other security agencies are mandated to protect Nigerians and residents, we all know that the high rate of insecurity across the country means the security agencies cannot be everywhere at the same time. Hence private citizens are encouraged to play their own role by been security, safety conscious and alert! Establishments and schools must conduct routine risk assessment of their domain, and also teach students on basic security awareness.
The following are comprehensive personal security and safety measures to ward off being kidnapped, or to survive a kidnapping incident:
Security consciousness and self-awareness is key
Be conscious of who you are, where you’re going, and how you conduct yourself. This is not the best time to rub in acquisitions especially on social media or in your local community. Do not give out personal information such as your phone numbers, home address, on social networking websites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. or to strangers. Information about finances and must be confidential; always delete bank account balances or financial transactions from your phone, as this may indicate to kidnappers how ‘loaded’ you are. Children and domestic staff must be enlightened to be security conscious, they should not collect gifts from or converse with strangers. Don’t leave children at alone at home or in a car unattended to. Make children memorize their parent’s phone numbers, identify suspicious behavior and recall a description of persons, possibly the make or plate number of a vehicle. Same applies to adults.
Environmental intelligence and awareness
Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood. Before you rent a house or move into a neighborhood, find out the crime rate in that vicinity. Know where the nearest police station is, and other places of interest. Use automatic teller machines (ATMs) situated in busy environments and seldom withdraw money from ATMs at night. Don’t invite strangers to your house; rather schedule to meet them in a public place – an eatery amongst others, where people will be around.
Movement, destination intelligence and journey management
Don’t reveal specifics of your itinerary, holiday to strangers or on social media. Let family members know where you’re going or who you are scheduled to meet. There’s a lot of open-source intelligence out there. Before travelling, especially to an unfamiliar territory or route, Google for crime, kidnapping incidents in that vicinity. While travelling, don’t wear high heels or clothing that will hinder swift movement. Avoid unnecessary late night outings, and be very vigilant while driving or walking through unaccustomed or suspicious environs.
Imbibe some defensive driving skills, use your side or front mirror to watch out for vehicles that are probably tailing or trailing you. Don’t hitch-hike or offer lifts to strangers. Ensure suitable security arrangement is factored while dropping off or picking up children to or from their schools. Given reported incidents of kidnappings in places of worship or schools, such organisations must embrace stringent security measures.
Habitually alter your routine, timing or your itinerary. In other words, be unpredictable. Don’t have a penchant for working out or visiting specific places at specific times of the day/week. Once in a while, take different routes when going out or coming back home.
Rigorous background checks on domestic staff
We are aware that some kidnapping incidents are masterminded directly or indirectly by insiders (insider threat), by security guards, babysitters, cooks and drivers amongst others, it is advisable that rigorous background checks or screening be done and also ascertain the physical addresses of supposed guarantors prior to employing or bringing a total stranger to your house.
Security gadgets don’t cost an arm and a leg these days. From surveillance cameras disguised as wall clocks or pen to pepper spray can go a long way to preserve evidence aftermath of a crime or kidnapping. Just recently, a CCTV camera reportedly captured a customer trying to kidnap a one year old girl in Lagos.
Tips For Journalists To Prevent Being Kidnapped
The following tips are excerpts from the book: “The Kidnapping of Journalists: Reporting from High Risk Conflict Zones’’ written by Professor Robert G. Picard. Comprehensive suggestions and tactics can be distilled from detailed security and safety training briefings.
1. Ensure your social media profile does not compromise your personal security and safety.
2. Go along with clean laptops, mobile phones, etc.; think about using aliases for contacts.
3. Enroll for hostile environment/safety training.
4. Be cognizant of potential dangers in your place of assignment.
5. Plan your journey, activities discreetly or carefully.
6. Carry out a risk assessment and factor in contingency plans (both of your own and your media establishment).
7. Bear in mind details that could be of help in the event that proof of life needs to be determined.
8. Ensure your employer, family or loved ones are aware of where you are at every point in time and who you are meeting.
9. Make arrangements for emergency communications; avail your employers and colleagues with contact details or phone numbers of numbers and Next of Kin (NOK).
10. Be very wary of your supposed contacts or sources – do as much due diligence as possible and bear in mind that persons and groups may switch allegiances without warning.
11. Avoid making yourself a target. Blend in so that you are not easily identifiable as a journalist when travelling.
12. Victims or survivors of kidnapping need recovery time and must seek counseling against post-traumatic stress.
Survival Tips For Kidnapped Victims
If you find yourself kidnapped, it is not the end of the world, there’s a good chance you will regain your freedom. Sometimes what leads to harm or death is not necessarily the incident itself but how people respond to it.
1. It is risky to play James Bond or re-enact Hollywood movie scenes – if you know the kidnappers are well-armed, outnumber you and you certainly cannot extricate yourself. The best approach is passive cooperation.
2. Sure you can throw furtive glances, but seldom stare too strongly to give an impression you are trying to recognise them.
3. Refrain from panicking, slow down your heart beat.
4. If you are not blindfolded or sedated, try to figure out your location or routes they took and estimate approximately how long it took to arrive where you were taken to.
5. Try to establish rapport, engage your abductors in small talk, hopefully they will not be too hard on you but see you as a human being rather than a hostage cash cow. Kidnappers tend to show some compassion if you share a common interest with them, it could be politics, religion, football etc.
6. It is very important to find a way to let your kidnappers know about any special medical conditions you may have.
7. Maintain your mental, physical health, dignity, self-respect and keep hope alive. Convince yourself deep in your mind that you will survive the incident.
8. Stay alert! It is possible you can escape if there’s a slip-up or they are very careless. The chance of surviving a kidnapping incident is high, especially if one survives the initial situation. Again, kidnappers tend to let their guards down or become careless if the victim exhibits no signs of trying to escape. Not advocating foolhardiness, but it’s a bad idea to do a Usain Bolt if ample opportunity beckons.
Let’s be security conscious; promptly report strange, suspicious activity or security breach in your area to the Police or other law enforcement agencies. For Lagos State, the emergency police numbers are: 08063299264, 08127155071, 08079279349, 08065154338, 08127155150, 07035068242 and 08060357795. You can also call the following toll-free emergency numbers 767 and 112.
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