Kidnapping in the Oil-Rich Delta Region of Nigeria

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In Nigeria on October 13th  four British missionaries were kidnapped by an unidentified gunman in the southern Delta region.

The police are attempting to rescue the four people who are described as a doctor and his wife, along with two others who were involved in preaching and providing medical services to residents in the Burutu area of the Delta state.

The four individuals have been living and providing services to the residences of the Burutu community for the past three years.

The whereabouts of these individuals currently are unknown, but local police suspect that they are being held in the local river valley which runs near the community and are actively searching for them throughout this area.

The motive for the kidnapping is unclear, and it’s unknown at this time where there has been any contact with the kidnappers since the incident.

Kidnapping for ransom have become a common problem throughout Nigeria. However, victims are usually freed and unharmed, after a ransom is paid.  Many foreigners in the last few years have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta region, which holds most of the country’s crude oil production.

Some of these kidnappings in the Niger Delta region are conducted by local militant groups. The most prominent militant group operating in the Delta area is called the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA). The group has primarily attacked oil producing facilities in the Delta, but it is not uncommon for them to conduct a kidnapping and could be one of the suspected groups to have carried out the abduction of the four individuals. NDA is demanding more equitable distribution of the income generated by oil and gas production and for remedial action to counter the effects of gas fracking in the environmentally damaged delta region.

The NDA usually opts against violence toward individuals unlike Boko Haram in the north. The terror group Boko Haram, operating in the northeastern region of Nigeria, regularly targets foreigners- carrying out mass abductions, suicide bombings and other terror attacks. The group’s nickname “Boko Haram”, means “Western education is forbidden”, a result of the group’s animus towards western missionaries and educators.

Instead of civilians the Niger Delta Avengers traditionally target drill sites, pipelines, tankers and other facilities in order to stifle oil production and cripple the Nigerian government economically. The group carried out 14 attacks in 2016 on the varying pipelines that run in Niger Delta, which cut Nigeria’s oil production by almost a third.  Nigeria has the world’s 10th largest oil reserves as well as the 7th largest population at 190 million people.

The distinction between the north and south of Nigeria explains why the militant groups gain positions in these territories. The Southern region of Nigeria holds 70% of the oil production in the country and has greater socioeconomic advances such as Lagos the country’s largest city.

Although the North’s population is larger, it is much poorer than the rest of the country, with some of the world’s worst health and economic statistics. Its economy is in decline because of deindustrialization and lack of investment in agriculture and infrastructure, and a much smaller percentage of its population has access to education than in the South.

Nigeria is generally viewed as a weak state because its lack of social services, inability to maintain sovereignty over its territory, and the never-ending violence that is consistent throughout the country. The government has not successfully contained either Boko Haram or the Niger Delta Avengers.

Although Boko Haram has been the prevalent concern due it’s substantial death count targeting civilians and ability to project power over large swathes of northern Nigeria, but the NDA poses a substantial threat to the stability of the Nigerian economy and government. Each group continues to inflict kidnappings and violence on individuals as well as attacks to the economic security in the country.

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