SENATE AND NON-PAYMENT OF RANSOM TO KIDNAPPERS
BY DONS EZE
Henceforth, anybody who has the misfortune of being kidnapped, or any of his or her loved ones kidnapped, as a result of the rising kidnap cases in Nigeria, should simply raise his or her hands to God in prayers, ask Him to please touch the hearts of the kidnappers to release their victim(s).
If God harkens to the prayers, fine, but if He decides otherwise, no problem. Nobody should bother going to the police or any of the security agencies, because they will not do anything meaningful to rescue the victim(s).
Similarly, nobody should contemplate running around looking for where to borrow money to pay as ransom to the kidnappers, unless such a person is tired of enjoying his freedom and needs a long period of confinement. This is because paying ransom to kidnappers will soon be outlawed, and criminalized, once the bill before the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, sails through.
According to the bill soon to be passed by our Distinguished Senators, anybody who is convicted for paying ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists, for the release of kidnapped persons, will spend 15 years in prison.
The Senators had in a lead debate sponsored by Senator Francis Onyewuchi, adopted a bill titled, “Terrorism Prevention Bill (amendment) Bill, 2021, which sought to substitute Section 14 of the Principal Act with a new section to read…
“Anyone who transfers funds, makes payment or colludes with an abductor, kidnapper or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped, is guilty of a felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years”.
Justifying the bill, which carries such long term of imprisonment, the Senators contended that “hostage taking or kidnapping has become a fast and lucrative business in Nigeria. It has now remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria and the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.
“Kidnapping is on the increase in Nigeria and it is prevalent across all the geopolitical zones. Some blame the rise of this criminal activity on poverty, religion, politics, deficiency of existing laws, unemployment, connivance of security agents, corruption, and greed among others.
“Our unemployed youths are also turning to kidnapping to get money as a survival strategy”, therefore, ransom payment must be discouraged to stop kidnapping, the Senators affirmed with certainty.
Beautifully rendered. We hope we will share the same optimism with the Distinguished Senators that once this bill is passed and our President appends his signature to it, the incessant cases of kidnapping in Nigeria, will automatically come to an end.
But for us, we see it as mere scratching the surface, treating the symptoms, rather than the actual cause. Soon after the Nigerian civil war, around 1974 or so, there were reported cases of armed robberies in different parts of the country. Our military rulers at the time, put on their thinking cap, and came to the conclusion that the solution would be to tie any such perpetrator to the stake, and have him publicly executed. We celebrated it. That was when the likes of Sunday Oyenusi was shot at Victoria Inland Beach in Lagos.
Since then, we have been tying many armed robbers to the stakes and got them publicly executed, including the almighty Lawrence Aneni, but that did not bring to an end the rampant cases of armed robbery in the country.
One therefore wonders how 15 years inprisonment, not even for the perpetrators of kidnapping, abduction or terrorism, but for the person, who out of desperation, paid ransom to kidnappers, will end that nefarious activity.
When they carry another person’s corpse, we see it as resembling a log of wood. Pray, let none of these people sponsoring the new anti-kidapping bill, and their sympathisers, be kidnapped, and nobody will pay ransom, and let us see what will happen thereafter.
It is not the payment or non-payment of ransom to kidnappers that is the problem, but unequal distribution of of the country’s resources. How can a few people sitting at the top, be cornering all the available resources, and expect that there will be peace and orderliness in the system? That will not be possible.
If we actually want peace in Nigeria, if we want to reduce the rampant cases of kidnapping and other social vices in the country to a barest minimum, let there be equitable distribution of the resources of the country. The gap between the haves and the have nots in Nigeria, is too wide, and unless this is urgently addressed, the country will continue to experience social upheavals. It will never know no peace, if they like, let our lawmakers come out with thousand and one lianti-kidapping laws.
In addition, since there is no society without crimes, the police in Nigeria should be properly equipped, strengthened, and encouraged to do its work. The police ratio to the population of Nigeria is said to be grossly inadequate. Therefore, urgent action should be taken to remedy the situation, while at the same time, ensure that proper discipline is inculcated on the police personnel for them to earn the respect of the citizenry.
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI