BY AUSTIN OGWUDA
Wednesday April 17, 2013, has gone down as the day members of the 29-member Delta State House of Assembly took the bull by the horns to override the veto of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on the bill stipulating death penalty for kidnappers. The governor had since November 2012 when the bill was passed and sent to him refused to assent to the bill. The State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN), in this interview shed more light on the issue especially from the executive’s perspective.
The governor during his midterm report on Democracy Day mentioned that Delta State has the highest number of kidnappers prosecuted, could you throw more light on this?
Yes, I have the statistics. It is true that so far with my interaction with other Attorneys General, I think Delta State is up to the task. We are not sparing any effort at all in ensuring that suspects arrested are prosecuted. And because of the nature of kidnapping, what it takes and the elements of the offence, we have always found it very convenient to charge suspects for kidnapping and armed robbery because any kidnapping offence will involve use of arms, parting with money and such things. I will say that out of five kidnap cases only one may be charged for kidnapping depending on the facts of the case. We have gotten 60 convictions between July 2011 and 30th May 2013.
So, could it be true that the death penalty law for kidnappers was forced down your throat?
Understand me, the question we were looking at even before the law came is will death penalty be a cure? The position I took even at the programme, which incidentally his Excellency is also saying is that: it is not a cure. In fact, death penalty has never been a cure for any crime. I will say that with every sense of responsibility. The law is there but is it the cure? Is death penalty a cure for murder? It is not.
I can tell you that we still have offences of murder in the state. People are still being charged for the offence of murder committed day-in-day out. Death penalty has been there for armed robbery since 1970 but is the offence not being committed today? All we are saying is that let us have a strict penalty for such an offence (kidnapping). Let us not go under the illusion that death penalty will eliminate it entirely.
When the House of Assembly passed the anti-kidnapping bill and later overrode the governor’s veto were you comfortable because tongues were wagging that you did not advise the governor appropriately?
What we are talking about is Law and it is not right to say that one did not advise His Excellency appropriately. The advice was there but again we have two arms of government and under the Constitution, His Excellency was right to do what he did and the legislators have powers to do what they did and that is where we have separation of powers. So it is not a question of wrong advice. The law says that if the House passes a Bill and sends it to His Excellency and it is not assented to, and his Excellency decides to veto it, the House of Assembly also has the constitutional right to do what it did (override).
How do you react to the reasons given by the governor for his objection, especially the assertion that the bill as provided offends provisions of the constitution?
I think the governor’s views have expressed to the House the legal position that I am aware of. Under the Constitution, Police is a matter under the Exclusive list and if a matter is under the Exclusive list then in my own view, it is the National Assembly that can make regulations about the Police.