THE OFFENCE OF KIDNAPPING IN NIGERIA VIS A VIS THE RECENT BILL FOR THE AMENDMENT OF THE CRIMINAL CODE ACT.
Kidnapping is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement. The main purpose is to illicit gain, economic or material, in exchange for liberation. It is the act of taking a person or group of person into captivity in order to achieve a defined aim. The act places a victim on hostage for the purpose of using the abducted to attain a goal. Therefore, to kidnap, there must be two parties which include the living-prey on one hand and the heartless-predator who are there to manipulate terror, in order to attain an outlined objective.
It may also be used to pressure someone into or not doing a required task, usually illegal in nature. Kidnapping for ransom is one of the biggest organised crimes in Nigeria and is seen as a national security challenge. Thousands of Nigerians have fallen victim of the crime and have had to pay exorbitant amounts in ransom for their freedom. The current wave of abductions across the country makes every person a potential target regardless of social class or economic status. Kidnapping for ransom on a commercial scale became rampant in Nigeria from 2011 and has spread across all the 36 states and the Nigeria capital, Abuja.
In Nigeria today, there can be no doubt that, despite the several measures put in place by the government, the crime of Kidnapping has continued to be prevalent, especially in regions with high unemployment rates and grave socio-economic conditions. The Nigerian Police Force, in an attempt to curb the on-going scourge, introduced in the 2000s a sub-division known as the Anti-Kidnapping Squad. However, these efforts have largely been to no avail, mainly due to a lack of manpower and poor logistical operations.
The efforts to curtail kidnapping in Nigeria have also failed in large parts due to weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime, one where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence. As a result, there is a need for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach, with the intended goal of creating a more effective system in combating the ever evolving crime.
CRIME, PUNISHMENT & THE RECENT BILL PASSED BY THE SENATE
There is a school of thought that proposes that the legislative arm of the government could do more in prescribing stringent deterrent mechanisms in response to the increase in Kidnappings in the Country. The safety of lives and properties in this era of kidnapping across the Nigerian states could be checked through the progressive strengthening of the judiciary to ensure that rule of law to harness the anti-kidnapping laws. The national anti-kidnap law could be found within the Nigerian Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011, which is meant to promote “the protection of persons and their properties from abuse” as well as enhance “freedom of others in the same society”.
It is to that end that the Senate in July, 2020 proposed the raising of the punishment for the offence of kidnapping from the current maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment to a sentence of life imprisonment. These resolutions of the Senate followed the third reading and passage of “A bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP. C.38, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.” The Bill, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), sought to delete the statute of limitation on defilement, increase the punishment for the offence of kidnapping, and remove gender restrictions in the offence of rape and other related matters. The Bill also sought to eliminate the present time frame for reporting and prosecuting defilement cases in Nigeria as well as remove gender restrictions on the offence of rape by further educating on the propensity of rape on both male and female victims.
The Chairman, Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human and Legal Matters, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, noted that the aim of Criminal law and Criminal justice system is not only for punishment, but also for deterrence, retribution, restoration and rehabilitation of offenders. He further stated that where a law fails to achieve any of its main objectives, it becomes inherently defective, thereby precipitating the need for the amendment of such Laws to bring them into conformity with best practices and in response to the observed anomalies and a welcome development to the Nigeria criminal justice system.
On a domestic level, there is a plethora of examples of state governments introducing their own anti-kidnapping laws in an attempt to combat this crime. For example, in Ebonyi State, Section 3 of the Ebonyi State Internal Security Enforcement and Related Matters Law (CAP 55) which came into force on 9th October, 2009 states that] anyone found guilty of kidnapping in the state shall on conviction be liable to be sentenced to death. In Imo State, the former Governor, Ikedi Ohakim signed the anti-kidnapping bill into law in 2009, vowing that defaulters will pay with their lives. Governor Godswill Akpabi signed the Internal Security and Enforcement Bill, 2009 into law on May 15, 2009. The law among other things prescribes death penalty for offenders and empowers the governor to choose the venue and mode of execution of such condemned persons, while a person who abetted the escape of a kidnapper would face a 21-year jail term. Already in Rivers State and Enugu State, their respective Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review House of Assembly has passed the law prohibiting kidnapping, making it an offence punishable by death sentence. In Delta State, the House of Assembly passed the Anti-Kidnapping and Terrorism Bill ( albeit without the governor’s accent), with the rationale that the harsh and wicked activities of kidnappers and other terrorist acts were too overwhelming to Deltans and therefore decided to apply Section 100 Sub-section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which gives them power to veto the governor Many state Governments have come-up with anti-kidnapping laws. The violation of every law is often backed by sanctions or punishment.
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