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 while prices of goods, food stuffs 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, in addition to other high profile and random 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, 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, places of interest. Use automatic teller machines (ATM’s) situated in busy environments and seldom withdraw money from ATM’s at night. Don’t invite strangers to your house rather schedule to meet them in a public place – 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 impinge on 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 hitchhike 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 organizations 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.
Gadgets: 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.
Written by: Don Okereke
CEO, Holistic Security Background Checks Limited
Follow him on Twitter: @donokereke