Monday, April 27, 2009

Kidnapping of Canadian Rotarian Demonstrates Need for Contingency Planning, Kidnap Strategy

Ten days after the sudden abduction of a Canadian woman, Julie Ann Mulligan, 45, by unidentified Nigerian gunmen in Kaduna, local police and Rotary International are no closer to determining the whereabouts of Mulligan. Police reportedly have several leads, but in technologically sparse Nigeria, the case seems to be going nowhere.

The incidence began when the five visiting Rotarians arrived in Kaduna on April 15. On April 16, Mulligan was kidnapped. Strangely, her four colleagues promptly returned to Canada, abandoning their program in Kaduna. The victim and her colleagues were housed in a local inn where the Canadians were paired with local Rotarians. Mulligan's team-mate was Moses Kadeer, a Nigerian. Subsequently, and while returning to the hotel in Kadeer's Toyota Corolla, Kadeer and Mulligan were stopped by gunmen. The gunmen ordered Kadeer out of his car, seized his car keys, took his wallet and mobile phone, as well as his camera. While Kadeer was released, Mulligan was taken to an unknown location.

The police subsequently contacted Mulligan's captors' untraceable cellphone under circumstances which are yet to be fully understood. As a result, the kidnappers demanded US$136,000. Last week, Rotary International ruled out the option of paying the ransom. According to the police, Rotary International, especially its local chapter, are partly to blame for the kidnapping because of very poor security, given the fact that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, particularly for foreigners.

COMMENT: The sad part in this case is rather than proactively focusing on locating the whereabouts of Ms. Mulligan, the Nigerian police and Rotary International have lost vital time by exchanging criticisms of each other. From one account, Mulligan may be ill. Left untreated, she could become seriously ill or perhaps even die, while the shareholders tasked with gaining her freedom argue. Unfortunately, Rotary International erred terribly when they stated that they refused to pay the demanded ransom, in a country where refusal pay usually ends up with a dead hostage. The cardinal rule in hostage negotiation is to never tip your hand and publicly state what you will or will not do.

Given the threat level in Nigeria, any foreigners working in Nigeria should be well-protected with all aspects of their security arrangements by competent security consultants. Unfortunately, Rotary proudly stated that they had never made special security arrangements, another strategic mis-step. Moreover, Rotary should have had kidnap-ransom insurance coverage on all Rotarians traveling in the developing world, but particularly in lawless countries such as Nigeria. If it has not already undertaken plans to rescue Ms. Mulligan, the Canadian government should be encouraging Rotary International to consider negotiating with the kidnappers, for if this doesn't happen, it is unlikely that Mulligan will be safely returned. One thing Nigerian kidnappers do not like is to be stiffed.

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