PHOTO: Thetoc.grLagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has signed the Anti-Kidnapping Law, which stipulates death penalty for kidnappers. The law recommends death for kidnappers in whose custody victims died and life jail for those who kidnapped for ransom. Espousing the importance of security to his administration, the governor has said: Security is of utmost importance to our administration and we are confident that this law will serve as a deterrent to anybody who may desire to engage in this wicked act within the boundaries of Lagos.
The Anti-Kidnapping Law is comprehensive as it prescribes punishment for the actors, the collaborators, and those who saw the kidnapping being perpetrated and did nothing about it. Certainly, the wave of kidnapping has gotten to a stage where the government can no longer fold its arms and watch as kidnapper terrorise the populace. Thus, the law is meant to send signals to kidnappers that an end has come to their filthy and criminal game.
It is not surprising that the Lagos State government is paying deserved attention to security issues. Lagos, being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, and indeed West Africa, has enormous security challenges bearing in mind its burgeoning population, its ports and waterways, its border with Benin Republic as well as its numerous banks, industries and other commercial enterprises.
With this peculiar status, the rate of crime in Lagos, over the years, has been relatively higher as it is in other parts of the country. Though, a national problem, topping the log of debated crimes among Lagosians these days is kidnapping. Kidnapping was re-invented’ in the creeks of the Niger Delta by militants as a way of coercing government to meet their developmental demand. Later on it was ‘perfected’ in the South East for commercial purposes. Today, the crime has become converted into a top money-spinning industry by unscrupulous criminals who kidnap for ransom across the nation.
According to a Freedom House report, Nigeria recorded one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world in 2013. Similarly, the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 indicates that kidnapping and related violence were “serious” problems in Nigeria.
Today, in Nigeria, kidnappers spare neither the old nor the young. Their victims cut across age grades while hitherto considered sacred men have been touched. Father of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Pa Ebele Jonathan was kidnapped while his son was the Vice President. Senator Iyabo Anisulowo, Chief Olu Falae, and a traditional ruler in Lagos, Oniba of Iba, Yishau Goriola Oseni among other high profile personalities which included parents of footballers like Joseph Yobo and Mikel Obi had all been kidnapped in the recent past. Last year, three school girls were seized from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, but were later freed by the police. And recently, students and staff of Nigeria-Turkish International School, Isheri, Ogun State, were kidnapped and later released after ransom was paid.
Just in the same manner society has always used punishment to discourage prospective criminals from unlawful acts, signing of the Anti-Kidnapping Law is understandably aimed at checkmating the spate of kidnapping with stiffer penalties, including death sentence for offenders.
Currently, the pain that the spate of kidnapping is causing the country is enormous. We are a nation in recession and, therefore, in dire need of fresh investments that could boost the economy. Naturally, no sane investor would want to put his money in an unsafe environment. So, kidnapping grossly undermines the country’s economic prospect. Not only this, it is an embarrassment to the image of the country. It doesn’t do our nation much good to be viewed in the comity of nations as a haven of rogues and criminals. Many times, these criminals have dealt in the most inhuman and callous ways with expatriates working, particularly, in the oil industry as well as other sectors. This isn’t right as it does more havoc to the image of our nation when it is seen as an unsafe place to transact business.
However, for the new law to really become effective and achieve desired goals, there is an urgent need to boost the efficiency of relevant law enforcement agencies through training and empowerment. Our security operatives should also improve on their modern technology skill acquisition. Singapore, for instance, has recorded a greater success in criminal justice delivery system because there is certainty of apprehension and prosecution through the instrumentality of modern technological devices. Similarly, South Africa has recorded a greater success in criminal justice delivery system because there is certainty of apprehension and prosecution through the instrumentality of modern technological devices.
It is only when the law enforcement agencies are sufficiently empowered and motivated coupled with an atmosphere of a corruption-free judiciary and a dogged tenacious prosecutorial drive that any penal sanction, no matter how severe, can be meaningful.
On a final note, implementing death penalty to prevent continuous growth of the crime is required to stop Nigeria from becoming a kidnapper’s den like Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Philippines, where the crime has developed a life of its own.
Omisore works for the Lagos State Government.