By Henry Umoru
If a Bill presently before the Senate passes third reading, kidnappers will be sentenced to life imprisonment as punishment for the offence committed, just as a jail term of thirty years will be for the collection of ransom.
To this effect, a bill proposing life imprisonment for the offence of kidnapping or any form of abduction, wrongful restraint and confinement scaled second reading Tuesday in the Senate.
The bill sponsored by Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC, Ogun Central) seeks to, among others, introduce stiffer punishments and punitive measures to combat and prevent kidnapping in Nigeria.
In his lead debate on the general principles of the Bill, Senator Amosun who observed that kidnapping is a major security challenge confronting Nigeria in recent times, said that light punishment for the offence has continued to make it grow and assume horrendous dimensions with a negative impact on the economy.
Senator Amosun said, “I feel highly honoured to lead the debate on the general principles of the Bill: Abduction, Wrongful Restraints and Confinement Bill 2021. This Bill was read for the first time on the floor of this Senate on Wednesday, 30th June, 2021.
“The aim of this bill is to proffer stricter and more stringent punishment for the offence of kidnappings, and bring to an end the debate of the adequacy or otherwise of punishment for kidnapping and other related crimes, like false imprisonment.
“The highest term of imprisonment prescribed for kidnapping in the Criminal and penal Code Acts is ten years. The light punishment against these offences has not helped in deterring the spate of abductions and kidnappings that have now become prevalent in the country. Overview of Kidnapping and Abduction in the Country
“Kidnapping is one of the major security challenges facing Nigerians in recent time. Though, it is not entirely a new phenomenon, yet, like a wild fire, it has continued to grow and assume horrendous dimensions.
“Some decades ago, kidnapping in Nigeria used to be regarded as a crime peculiar to some specific parts of the country, however, today; there is hardly a part of the country that is not faced with the threat of kidnapping thereby making it one of the most pervasive organized crimes in the country This is evident in series of kidnapping cases reported across the country almost on a daily basis.
“The impact of kidnapping on both economic and daily life has been devastating. For many Nigerians, kidnapping is far more devastating than the carnage of Boko Haram, in the northeast, or the carnage in the middle belt over land, pasture and water use between “farmers” and “herders.” In the oil rich South-South, kidnapping is often seen as a manifestation of the insurrection over how oil revenue is distributed.
“Over time, the pool of potential victims has shockingly been expanded. Now, most victims are often poor villagers, sometimes kidnapped indiscriminately, a departure from the targeted kidnapping of wealthy people. They struggle to pay ransoms because of their relative poverty; and this has resulted into many victims being killed in the process.
“Investigations have revealed that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of kidnaps for ransom of both locals and foreigners in all of Africa. Across the country, the story is the same. While the insurgents in the North East now thrive on the proceeds of kidnappings, Criminal elements in the South East and South West are also having a field day. In fact, kidnapping has now beenseen as a big and lucrative business.
“A recent statistic released by NYA (Neil Young Associates) International, a specialist crisis prevention and response Consultancy group, indicated that Nigeria accounted for 26% of kidnapping and ransom incidents globally. The group estimates that thousands of kidnappings take place in Nigeria annually, but many cases go unreported.
“Similarly, a Vanguard report published online on the 13th of July, 2021 stated that an average of 13 persons were abducted daily in Nigeria in the first half of 2021, bringing to 2,371 the number of reported persons kidnapped in the country within the first six months of the year.
“Giving the above worrisome statistics, you will agree with me that this ugly trend of kidnappings has the potential of negatively affecting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country at a time when our country is in dire need of it. All hands must therefore be on deck to curtail the rising ugly trend of kidnappings in this country hence the importance of this Bill.
“This Bill therefore seeks to introduce stiffer punishment for the offence of abduction, wrongful restraint and wrongful confinement for ransom. It also seeks to combat and prevent any form of kidnapping in Nigeria. This Bill also provides more punitive measures for ancillary crimes flowing from the commission of the crime of abduction, like death or grievous bodily harm. To achieve the deterrent effect, life imprisonment is proposed for the offence of kidnapping, particularly where death results from the act.
“The law is made stricter by ensuring that recipients of any proceeds of the act of kidnapping are heavily sanctioned with term of imprisonment of up to 30 years. The Bill proposes to give the Inspector General of Police wider powers to enable adequate policing of the crime of kidnapping.
“Beyond the power of demand for information from a suspect or anybody who is reasonably believed to have such information, the concerned members of the public are under obligation to give information to the police.
“Punitive measures for Kidnapping in Nigeria have largely been inadequate as earlier stated. Consequently it has not served the purpose of deterring kidnappings. It is a major national challenge and deserves to be treated with all seriousness.
“This Bill does not only attract attention to the damaging consequences of kidnapping on the image of the country but also provides an articulate and pragmatic approach at containing this scourge as it also provides the police with clear and concise legal instrumentality for responding to kidnapping.
“The Bill does not have any financial implication. It merely repeals the existing enactment in the Criminal Code Act and provides for a more robust and comprehensive legislation for the containment of the scourge of kidnapping.”