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Presidency, Defence HQ under pressure to hire military contractors

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Leading global Kidnap and Ransom (K&R) firms may have begun showing significant interest in the country after foremost global insurance policy think tank put Nigeria in premium rating as a country prone to high incidence of abduction for money, Sunday Independent can exclusively report. 

While the development translates to higher cost of doing businesses for expatriates and politically exposed persons (PEPs) in the country, there are grievous implications for national security, because, as the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), puts it, terror and insurgency funding principally comes from ransom money made from abducting net worth individuals. 

As a result, Sunday Independent further learnt that the presidency has come under intense pressure to put an end to growing insurgency and terror activities that are principally funded by this manner of crime. 

A way out suggested by lobbyist at the presidency, is that the use of Private Military Contractors (PMC), popularly known as mercenaries be reconsidered by President Muhammadu Buhari, after he unilaterally terminated the contract of Specialised Task, Training, Equipment and Protection International (STTEPI) in 2015. 

The lobbyists say that bringing in mercenaries into the fight against insurgency will quickly end the spiralling insecurity in the country. 

“A major source of funding for the terrorists is kidnapping for ransom. It is used to financially empower themselves and fund their atrocious activities. There are other sources such as engaging in illicit international drug trade, bank robbery and money laundering,” said Col Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Information (DINFO, DHQ) when Sunday Independent asked him to comment on the nexus between K&R and the activities of insurgency and terrorism in the country. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks Nigeria as the largest hub and conduit for illicit funds in the West Africa sub region. 

According to other sources, Nigeria accounts for more than 40 per cent of illicit money sources in the sub region. 

This, in part, explains the rash of monetary policies instituted by the federal government, especially in the areas of border control and e-commerce. 

Intelligence sources stated that the bigger problem is with the kidnap and ransom phenomenon. 

“More and more, insurgents are depending on it as source of funding their activities,” a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) source disclosed. 

According to the source, the situation has become worrisome because two global K&R firm, HISCOX (UK based) and AIG (US based) are beginning to look with interest at Nigeria. 

These companies have insurance policy business established in other kidnap capitals of the world like Yemen, Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela, Mexico and others. Going by details from Triple-I (Insurance Information Institute), Insurance Business, Asia, and Bellwood Pestbury, intelligence portals largely subscribed to by these firms, they rank Nigeria among first 10 world kidnap hubs. 

Going a step further, Bellwood insists in its risk rating of Nigeria that kidnap and ransom ranks higher above two of the three main insurable risks of accident and evacuation, and political risk. 

According to experts, global K&R turnover paid to kidnapers was put at almost $1billion for last year alone. For an individual seeking policy insurance, it comes as low as $2, 000 (N720, 000) per annum. 

Insurance experts now identify a growing trend in the Nigerian environment called ‘express kidnapping’. 

“This happens when non-executive employees, solo travelers and individuals are accosted and kidnapped,” explained an insurance policy expert. 

“This has been happening on the highways for a while. These bandits will stop a moving vehicle and just size up passengers. The next thing is that they demand to see your phone. By the time they go through your contacts, text messages, they are able to identify who can afford a decent ransom,” a Divisional Police Officer in Ilorin, Kwara State stated. 

Both the security and insurance policy experts consulted by Sunday Independent agreed that the situation leaves highly paid individuals and others with little choice but to seek covers from K&R firms. 

The Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, (NCRIB) however, could not give further insight on this claim because Dr. Bola Onigbogi, its national president wasn’t forthcoming on the matter. 

However, just like the K&R situation has drawn interest from global players in risks business, so also has insecurity drawn attention of big time wheelers and dealers in mercenaries. 

DHQ, however, denied any knowledge of this interest. According to Col Nwachukwu, the Nigerian military is looking to evolve its own strategy. 

“I am not aware of such development. What I know is that, there is an ongoing assessment of our operations across the country. Based on thorough threat analyses, some operations are being reinvigorated and are already yielding results,” Nwachukwu said. 

Last week, Sen. Alli Ndume from Borno, a state ravaged by Boko Haram, called on the federal government to higher mercenaries as a means of bringing back safety to his beleaguered state. 

“Please, we are begging in the name of Allah, even if it will entail the use of foreign mercenaries, please our people are dying, please do something fast to end these killings,” he said.

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