By Austin Ogwuda, Asaba
ALTHOUGH the menacing issue of kidnapping is not peculiar to DeltaState, there appears to be confusion especially between the members of the Delta State House of Assembly, who are constitutionally empowered to make laws for peace and good governance; and the State executive governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan.
Presently, the two arms of government are engulfed in cold war on how to address the issue permanently. While the 29-member State House of Assembly, on one hand, voted for outright death penalty for anybody caught in the act of kidnapping to act as deterrent; the governor, a medical doctor by training is vehemently opposed to it.
It is no longer news that DeltaState had witnessed series of high profile kidnapping ranging from kidnapping of commissioners, lawmakers, judges, mother of the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and even a 70 year-old cousin of Governor Uduaghan.
Ironically, the 70 year old cousin of the governor, Pa Sam Uduaghan was abducted on a fateful Wednesday morning , the 13th day of June last year, the same time the governor was receiving the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mohammed Abubakar who was on a visit to the State to receive some operational vehicles donated by the state government for improved crime patrol.
Some of the kidnappings are politically motivated–Ogeah
State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah said that some of the kidnappings are not always tied to demand for ransom. Some, according to him, are “politically motivated” and they are the ones that go for kidnappings that will attract the highest media attention.
This was his remark when the mother of Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped.
His words, “I don’t agree with you that the political elites have not been affected by the kidnap. I think they are rather the main target. When their loved ones are kidnapped as has been the case, the impact on them. We have had a serving commissioner, law makers and family members of top public office holders kidnapped in the past.
”The causes are many and varied, but for us in DeltaState, we think unemployment is a critical factor. That is why Dr. Uduaghan evolved the three-point agenda, comprising peace and security; human capital development and infrastructure
“Security”, he went on, “has always been a priority in the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of DeltaState. Although the police are controlled by the federal government, DeltaState has always funded the police command in the state. In fact, a Special Squad on kidnapping and other violent crimes was set up by Dr. Uduaghan with many operational vehicles and communication equipments procured for it. A lot of success was recorded through this special squad”, he stated.
….. Day Uduaghan broke silence on why he should not sign the death penalty
On Saturday, 24th February, 2013, at a town hall meeting organised as part of programme during the visit of the Good Governance tour team to DeltaState, the governor publicly broke his silence on the matter.
Before the governor publicly declared that there was no need to sign it into law, some Deltans including the lawmakers who passed the Bill since November last year were still optimistic that the governor might change his mind later, but the public utterance has sealed their hope for now.
Investigation by our reporter showed that there are mixed reactions to the governor’s position. While some members of the public interviewed are backing him, others disagreed, noting that only a capital punishment meted to such culprits would act as deterrent to others.
….. The governor’s bombshell
Said the governor while reacting to a question posed to him during the interactive session “…there is already a death penalty. Every kidnapper is an armed robber. So, I don’t know why we are talking today of death penalty for kidnappers. Why do I have to sign another law for kidnappers?
“Once you are a kidnapper, you are also an armed robbery. So, why all these unnecessary debate about Uduaghan not agreeing to sign death penalty for kidnappers and all that. The law is already there to sentence kidnappers to death”, he added.
The Speaker’s mind before Uduaghan dropped the bombshell
Speaker of the House, Mr. Victor Ochei had told our reporter sometime last year when the Bill was still being considered in an interview that “by the time we pass the Bill, it will scale through by the grace of God because, one, we received memoranda when carried out public hearing. The government through the chief law officer of the state, the Attorney General had made his submission to the committee, other organisations and the public have all made their submissions. So by the time we are coming out, we are coming out with a very robust bill. That is one bill signed by 28 members of the House.
“There is no way it will not scale through. If by the time the bill is ready and the governor does not give assent, there is a constitutional provision of what to do and I am sure he cannot discountenance the opinion of 28 members of this House . So, I don’t want to pre-empt what it will come out as if the bill is passed into law. There is a process, the next process. If it is not assented to, you are asking me this question, then I can tell you, yes, we can invoke section 100 of the Constitution but until that time comes, I think it will be too hasty to say”.
…. And the stalemate
By 8th of this month, March, it will be exactly four months the Bill was passed and sent to the governor for assent.
…. Ex Speaker lambasts House
Former Speaker of the House, Dr. Olisa Imegwu has said that the DeltaState governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan should not be entirely blamed for not assenting the Bill prescribing death penalty for kidnappers. He wondered why his former colleagues were dragging feet in vetoing the bill if it was the general feeling of the people they represent.
According to him, “Uduaghan is not the fault. Also, the legislators under the Constitution, after 30 days or so, says that if a Bill is given to you (governor) was not signed into law, you (legislators) override it by veto. Then you ask, if Uduaghan refused, let the legislators override it with veto. What I am telling you now is that the whole system of governance is broken down, it is dis-functional”.
…. Rights group backs Uduaghan
State Chapter of the Committee for the Defence for Human Rights (CDHR) has called on the state governor, not to assent on the recently passed Bill prescribing death penalty for kidnappers.
Although the group led by comrade Oghenejabor Ikimi outrightly condemned the act of kidnapping, he argued that death penalty was not the solution.
He said, “we members of CDHR, Delta state chapter make bold to say that the death penalty is not a solution to the menace of kidnapping but good governance.
“We therefore call on the Delta State Governor, His Excellency Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan not to assent to the passage of the Bill prescribing death sentence for the offence of kidnap in the state.