To tackle repeated cases of kidnapping in Lagos State, a private member bill sponsored by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Mudashiru Obasa, seeks death penalty for kidnappers.
Titled ‘A bill for a Law to provide for the prohibition of the act of kidnapping and for other connected purposes,’ the proposed legislation went through public hearing in Lagos on Friday.
The public hearing, which attracted stakeholders, took place at the Lateef Jakande Hall within the Assembly premises.
It comes on the heels of two cases of kidnapping of school children in the state, who were abducted after gunmen stormed their schools.
The children in both incidents, have, however, been since released by their abductors.
Apart from the incidents, other cases of kidnapping have also been recorded in the state in recent times.
The bill prescribes that any person, who kidnaps, abducts, detains or captures, or takes another person by any means, or tricks his or her with intent to demand ransom, is liable on conviction to death sentence.
Also, attempt to kidnap, in the bill, attracts life imprisonment, while false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person, under section 4, attracts seven years imprisonment.
Among others, it also provides that any person, who knowingly or wilfully allows or permits his premises, building or a place belonging or occupied to which he has control of, to be used for the purposes of keeping a person kidnapped is guilty of an offence under the law.
Such a person is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of 14 years without an option of fine.
The bill attracted divergent views at the public hearing.
Mr Richard Komolafe, from the United Action for Change (UAC), commended the move for stiffer penalty for kidnappers, but said that death sentence was no longer fashionable all over the world.
Komolafe, a lawyer, said hanging itself is inhuman by conventions as against life imprisonment.
Mrs Yejide Kolawole, the Director of Legal Drafting, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, said it was essential that the element of conspiracy to kidnap be added in the bill.
“I suggest 21 years imprisonment for conspiracy to kidnap, depending on the level of involvement.
“However, seven years penalty for section 4 is too mild; I suggest 20 years to deter those who would want to engage in the crime.
“On section 5, anyone who instigates kidnapping should be given a stiffer penalty of 25 years, though the person does not participate overtly in the act.
“On section 7, owners of a building used to aid kidnapping should have a higher punishment than mere forfeiture of property,” she said.
Also, a Chief Magistrate in Lagos State, Mrs Seri Sholebo, said it was fundamental to add conspiracy to kidnapping, as the ministry had not been able to convict offenders on conspiracy since 2011.
Sholebo suggested 180 days window for trial of offenders rather than the stipulated 60 days, due to anticipated delay in handling the cases.
The legal adviser of the Lagos command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Mrs Adebimpe Bada, said the bill was impressive and called for the protection of whistle blowers.
Mrs Idowu Alakija state Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), said that there were challenges which would not make 60 days trial possible.
According to her, some victims and witnesses are unwilling to appear in courts for kidnapping cases.
Alakija also said that death sentence was no longer popular, and had not been effective in serving as a deterrent, suggesting life sentence.
Mr Adefunmilayo Tejuosho, Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petition and LASIEC, whose committee handled the public hearing, said that the bill was necessary to curtail kidnapping in the state.
Tejuosho commended the sponsor of the bill, Obasa, saying that stiffer penalty was needed to nip the trend of kidnapping in the bud.
“We need laws to safeguard the citizens. We looked at the law on kidnapping and we felt that it should be amended to curb the crime.
“Criminal act has become lucrative and it is thriving today and this is worrisome. There must be a deterrent law to make the crime unattractive. The punishment should be severe and harsh,” she said.
In his keynote address, Obasa condemned the trend of kidnapping in the state, stressing that the act should be punished by the death penalty.
Obasa, who was represented by the Majority Leader of the House, Mr Sanai Agunbiade, said that those who engaged in the crime were not fit to live.
“The best we can do is to elaborate and increase the penalty to deal with the menace,” he said