Against the backdrop of the abduction wave across the country, the demand for bulletproof vehicles by Very Important Persons and other wealthy Nigerians has increased, The PUNCH can report.
Armoured vehicle dealers, who spoke to The PUNCH, confirmed they had been recording increased sales of customised bulletproof Sport Utility Vehicles since the kidnapping epidemic worsened.
In recent weeks, armed gangs operating from various forests have infiltrated major cities and urban centres carrying out abductions of citizens and demanding outrageous ransoms.
The situation has compelled victims and families of abductees to crowd-fund for ransom from families, associates and social media in disregard of the warning by the Federal Government and the police that the practice would further worsen the kidnap-for-ransom crisis.
Armoured vehicle firms said prominent and rich individuals have strengthened their personal and family security with customised vehicles.
Speaking on the demand for armoured vehicles by VIPs, the Sales Manager, Inkas Armoured Vehicle Manufacturing Nigeria, Mr Haresh Jethmalanito, asserted that the armoured vehicle market was experiencing a boom, noting that dealers were making brisk business.
Jethmalanito said his company had been overwhelmed with demand for armoured vehicles since the beginning of the year, noting it was connected with the worsening insecurity in the country.
He, however, lamented that the high customs duties and fluctuating foreign exchange rates had been affecting his business.
Jethmalanito said, “The demand for armoured vehicles has increased by multiple folds. The prices have also gone up because of the demand. Also, customs duties and foreign exchange rates have been major issues for us. They are one of the major reasons I cannot tell you who our clients have been.
“I cannot also tell you how much we have been selling them. But what I can tell you is that there has been an increase in demand for vehicles as a result of the situation in the country.”
The President, Armor Max Vehicles, Mark Burton, also confirmed that the demand for armoured vehicles had increased.
He noted that the prices for the armouring and vehicles range from $35,000 to $90,000.
Burton said, “There has been a lot of demand. Our challenge has been the currency. Clients in most cases spend between $35,000 and $90,000 on the armouring plus the vehicle. Our armouring goods are imported into Nigeria. Costs have increased a lot due to the naira-to-dollar challenges.
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“When we started building (our company) in Nigeria, it was N300 to $1. Now it is over N1,400 to $1. But violence and insecurity have created the need for our products. Armormax Nigeria has been successful and grown into other countries like Ghana and Cameroon.”
The Managing Director, Globaton Services Ltd, Tonye Edwin, said his company got higher demand for armoured vehicles in December.
He also said the surge in demand had led to an increase in their prices.
Edwin said, “In January and February, I have not been getting clients like that. But in December, before the festive period, we got many requests from Nigerians, especially those travelling to the South-East. The increased demand led to an increase in the price of these vehicles.”
In response to the security challenge, the Nigerian Communications Commission has pledged to support the security agencies in tackling the kidnappings sweeping across the country.
The Vice Chairman, NCC, Aminu Maida, who said this during an interactive meeting with editors and bureau chiefs in Abuja on Monday, explained that the commission would enhance the capability of the security agencies to use technology to address abductions.
Asked why the security agencies were not effectively using the SIM-NIN linkage to track and apprehend kidnappers who negotiate for ransoms with the families of abducted persons on phone, Maida said, “Security is one area we need to be careful of because I am part of the enabler and what I can guarantee is that we will continue to work closely with the security agencies and other sister agencies to ensure the capabilities to help the security agencies face and tackle the challenges out there.’’
Maida vowed to sanction telecommunication firms and those involved in illegal registration of SIM cards.
“It is a cat-and-mouse game but the sanctions are there and we are actually in the process of issuing sanctions to some of those identified as culprits in these activities,’’ he said.
Maida, who was recently appointed by President Bola Tinubu, unveiled his vision for the NCC, noting that the agency planned to put in place the right regulations to reposition the telecom industry.
He said the NCC would address data security breaches and also address the hijack and improper reallocation of SIM cards, explaining further that the commission would focus on corporate governance of the telecommunication sector.
He added, “We are going to start with collaborations and hopefully, get a win-win for both sides because we are going to take matters to a different level. All these make us a lot more proactive so that we can see a trend but as it is today, what we see is those second-level complaints.
“They are those who bothered to come to us. We are going to be plunging into the systems of the operators so that we can see all stereotypes, so that on a weekly or monthly basis, we can analyse on our own and ask them those deep questions