Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coming to Nigeria? Mind the Gap!

London residents and visitors to the city, using the Underground, are familiar with the phrase ‘Mind the Gap’, a warning to train passengers of the sometimes significant gap between the train door and the station platform

We have informed you about the opportunities available in Nigeria for discerning investors and daring entrepreneurs to make money in the country. We have also given you several reasons why the time is now to consider giving franchise to Nigeria; one of the reasons being the pool of well educated and experienced repatriates (Nigerians in Diaspora) coming back home to roost.

So many reasons abound why Nigeria remains a country awaiting discovery…abundant natural resources, huge market, gateway to ECOWAS, highly literate population, good for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) etc.

It is however also important that we alert you of the increase in kidnapping activities in the country. Now Nigeria ranks number 6 in the World kidnapping list!

According to a news report by Toyosi Ogunseye in the Nigerian Punch newspapers (www.punchontheweb.com), what started in Nigeria as a way of drawing attention to the neglect of the Niger Delta area has become a money-spinning criminal act.

Kidnapping of foreigners by militants, crude as it was, drew attention to the plight of the inhabitants of the region, who have incessantly complained of being neglected by various governments.

In the beginning, kidnappers concentrated mainly on expatriate workers of multinational oil corporations. As at 2007, an estimated 200 expatriates were reportedly abducted and their ransoms paid. It is, however, no longer strange to hear that Nigerians are kidnapping their fellow citizens. Now, people kidnap their friends, uncles and aunties take their nieces and nephews hostage unlike in the past when only strangers were involved in this cruel act. There is also the novel trend of ‘victims’ conniving with their abductors to extort money.

Gradually, hostage taking crept into other parts of the country. It is competing with predominant crimes like robbery and murder. With reported cases in Lagos, Abuja, Owerri, Kano and Kaduna, hostage taking has become a nationwide phenomenon. The April 16, 2009 abduction of a Canadian guest of Rotary Club International, District 9120, Mrs. Julie Ann Mulligan, in Kaduna, Kaduna State is still fresh (since released).

Though the casualty rate is low in Nigeria, victims have told tales of torture, harassment and psychological trauma they would live with for the rest of their lives. In a bid to assure Nigerians of their safety, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro, recently said the police would soon establish special squads in cities with very high cases of kidnapping.

Section 364 of Nigeria‘s criminal code prescribes a punishment of 10 years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of the felony of kidnapping. Little is, however, known of suspected kidnappers that have been charged to court.

The Public Relations Office of the Lagos Police Command has presented some tips on how to prevent getting kidnapped and surviving strategies in hostage situations.

Some of these tips include:
• Vary your routes as well as the timings when going out and coming
• Driving in the centre lane of a multiple lane highway
• Never leave the kids in a car unattended
• Operators of schools particularly junior schools should employ well trained security personnel
• Avoid going out alone

And if in a hostage situation, these clues may help!
• Do not attempt to fight the captors or try to resist being taken hostage
• Follow the instructions of your captors as they are in a highly emotional state and could be deadly, especially in the first 30 minutes.
• Try to drink water and eat food in order to maintain strength.
• If there is any rescue attempt by force, drop quickly to the floor and seek cover. Keep your hands on your head. When appropriate, identify your self.
• Escape only if you are sure you will be successful.
• Suggest ways you may be of benefit to the captors in negotiations that could free you. Never plead, beg or cry.

Let us add that you should always seek travel advisory from your country on situations on the ground, restive areas to be avoided and locate local help.

We wish to reiterate that Nigeria remains good for business and many of your types are enjoying their stay in the country-having fun and making money. The advice here is for you to ask all the pertinent questions before arrival and be vigilant while here.

You may contact the local police station nearest to your location or your embassy. In Lagos, the Rapid Response Squad telephone contacts are +234 1 774 5705, +234 1 774 5706 and a toll free emergency number, 767 and the Command Control Room on +234 806 035 7795.

Where possible, we may be able to offer some advice on ‘baseline conditions’. Email us on ibgnigeria@gmail.com or call Ndudi Osakwe on +234 80 2353 0007.