Kidnapping epidemic: Kano, nine others mull death sentence, life jail

Amid the growing concern over the raging abduction epidemic in the country, no fewer than ten states have vowed to implement the death sentence and life imprisonment for convicted kidnappers.

The states made the vow on Tuesday as the Inspector-General of Police, Olukayode Egbetokun, deployed intelligence squads to state commands and formations to tackle the wave of abductions and other crimes across the country.

States including Kano, Benue,  Bayelsa,  Enugu,  Anambra, and Nasarawa and another northern state in separate interviews with The PUNCH, affirmed their commitment to applying the death sentence to anyone convicted of kidnapping in their jurisdictions.

Officials of Kwara, Ondo, and Osun states vowed to ensure the implementation of relevant anti-kidnapping laws including life imprisonment.

The nation has been on edge over the wave of abductions sweeping across several states and the Federal Capital Territory in the past few weeks.

Dozens of victims have been abducted by gunmen and millions of naira extorted from them in what appeared to be an organised criminal enterprise.

In Kano State,  the Director-General of Media and Publicity, Sanusi Tofa, confirmed that the administration of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf would apply the anti-kidnapping law which prescribed the death sentence for convicts.

“We will continue with the death sentence on kidnappers as approved by the immediate past administration,’’ Tofa told The PUNCH on Tuesday.

The Anti-kidnapping, Abduction and Forced Labour Bill were signed into law by the immediate past administration of former governor Abdullahi Ganduje after its passage by the state House of Assembly in October 2016.

The anti-kidnapping law had been in existence since the colonial era, but it did not provide any serious punishment for kidnappers until it was amended by the state assembly.

Under the revised law, any person found guilty of kidnapping would face life imprisonment without an option of a fine.

However, the former governor in 2019 approved the death penalty for anyone found guilty of kidnapping across the state.

“The law provides for death sentence for kidnappers who abduct and kill their victim, while kidnappers who abduct but did not kill their victim, if apprehended and found culpable, would be jailed for life”, Ganduje had said while signing the amended bill into law in 2019.

On his part, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and Public Order in Benue State, Fidelis Mnyim, assured that the administration of Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia was committed to the implementation of the anti-kidnapping law which stipulated the death sentence for abductors.

He explained that several kidnap suspects had been arraigned in court.

Benue threatens kidnappers

He said, “The present administration is 100 per cent committed to the implementation of anti-kidnapping law of the state.’’

 Asked how many of such cases have been handled, the commissioner said, “There are a lot of cases that have been filed in this regard. We don’t jump and implement the law, our legal jurisprudence is in such a way that if you catch someone on sight committing a crime, the person, in the eyes of the law is presumed innocent until such a person is found guilty by the court.’’

Former governor Samuel Ortom had on the same day signed into law the Open-grazing Prohibition and Ranches Establishment Law, 2017, and the Adoption, Hostage-taking, Kidnapping, Secret Cult, and Other Related offence, 2017.

The law further stipulates that anyone whose house was used for unlawful detention and kidnapping, if found guilty, is liable to the death sentence.

Also, whoever permitted his premises to be used for hostage-taking will forfeit the property to the government.

Any threat to any person on kidnapping is liable to a seven-year jail term.

 The law further stipulates that any public office-holder who sponsors kidnapping and is found liable will be removed from office and risks three years in jail.

The Bayelsa Anti-kidnapping law, which was christened ‘Bayelsa State Kidnapping and Allied Offences Act, 2013’, prescribed the death sentence for the offence of kidnapping.

It was assented to by former governor Seriake Dickson after it was passed by the House of Assembly.

The legislation empowers the governor to sign the death warrant of a person or group of persons convicted for the crime of kidnapping and other related crimes.

 The state AG, Biriyai Dambo, SAN, could not be reached for comment on the implementation of the law or whether it would be reviewed.

But sources said there was no immediate plan by the state government to review the law.

The Commissioner for Justice in Anambra State, Prof. Chika Ifemeje, could not be reached for comment but an official in the justice ministry said the Anambra State House of Assembly had amended the state Criminal Code, making it an offence punishable by death for any person convicted of kidnapping.

The official said, “The legislators at one of their plenary sessions amended sections 315 and 316 of the Criminal Code to stipulate capital punishment for offenders.

 “Although, no offender has yet been punished and there is no plan yet to review the laws to recommend life imprisonment, the state government, through the relevant agencies and security apparatus, is doing everything possible to ensure strict enforcement of anti-kidnapping laws.

“For now, what the law says is that it an offence punishable by death for any person convicted of kidnapping and if there will be a review to accommodate life sentence, it is the state assembly that will take that decision.”

An official of a state in the North-Central pointed out that in the state where a kidnapping incident involved death, the perpetrators would face the death penalty while a case that did not result in the death of the victim would attract a life sentence.

Nasarawa laws

In Nasarawa, the State Kidnapping Act Prohibition Law, 2020, stipulates the death penalty on conviction and forfeiture of any property used by kidnappers while the owner of such a property would be liable to 20 years in jail.

Governor Abdullahi Sule assented to the bill passed by the state House of Assembly.

He explained that the law was enacted to tackle kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, attempt to kidnap, fake kidnap, false representation to release a kidnapped victim, and assisting in the escape of kidnappers.

Speaking while signing the bill, Sule had said, “I need to state that the Nasarawa State Kidnapping Act Prohibition Law was extensively deliberated and passed by the state House of Assembly.

“This law spells out various offences relating to kidnapping and prescribes stringent punishment for perpetrators, such as life imprisonment and the death penalty.

 “The law stipulates forfeiture of any property used by kidnappers in the state while the owners of such a property would be liable to 20 years jail term.”

Speaking on the measures put in place to eliminate abductions in Ondo, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Mr Charles Titiloye, confirmed that the anti-kidnapping law was being implemented in the state.

The law, he noted, was passed to protect the people of the state.

The commissioner said, “ The bill was signed into law by the Dr Olusegun Mimiko administration. The penalty is life imprisonment.”

A former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr Taofeek Abdulsalam, explained that the law was passed by the sixth assembly in the state, adding that the penalty for kidnapping is life imprisonment for the offender.

He said, “ It was passed into law during our time (Sixth Assembly) and the penalty is life imprisonment.”

Speaking on the possible review of the law, the Majority Leader of the state assembly, Mr Oluwole Ogunmolasuyi, said, “The bill was passed and signed into law by the previous assembly but we will study and know if it needs to be reviewed or not.”

Life jail

On his part, the Kwara State AG and Commissioner for Justice, Ibrahim Suleiman, disclosed that the penalty for kidnapping in the state is life imprisonment.

Responding to The PUNCH’s inquiry in Ilorin on Tuesday, Suleiman said, “We have laws that stipulate life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of kidnapping in the state. We are not thinking of amending the law now”, the AG said.

However, in a move to reinforce the onslaught against abductions, the IG on Tuesday ordered the posting of 54 Assistant Commissioners of Police to head the Force Intelligence Departments at zonal and state command levels nationwide.

 Egbetokun had in September 2023 approved the upscaling of the Force Intelligence Bureau to the Force Intelligence Department.

The Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, in a statement, said the redeployment of the ACPs was to further strengthen the intelligence department of the Nigeria Police Force.

He noted that the posting was premised on the zeal of the IG to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the intelligence department at every level of the force.

Adejobi said, “It will be recalled that the IGP on assumption of duty reactivated the presidential approval to upgrade the Force Intelligence Bureau to the status of a department with the appointment of DIG Habu Sanni as the DIG in charge of the new Department of Force Intelligence.

“The IG has, however, tasked the newly appointed senior officers to deploy all intelligence-based assets in combating crimes and criminality in their respective areas of responsibility.

“He has further charged them to entrench professionalism and apply their wealth of experience in the course of discharging their duties towards strengthening the already existing intelligence architecture of the Force. The posting is with immediate effect.”

The police high command had in September 2023, announced that the creation of the FID would solidify ongoing efforts to bolster and upgrade the intelligence capabilities of the NPF, aiming at enhancing internal security measures and addressing contemporary challenges.

 By entrusting the ACPs with the responsibility of heading the SIDs, the IG emphasised that his administration aimed to infuse the units with leadership that possesses a blend of operational experience, strategic thinking, and a deep commitment to maintaining law and order.

 He noted that the step was expected to result in sharper intelligence operations, more effective crime prevention, and an overall elevation of our law enforcement standards.

Speaking with The PUNCH on the anti-kidnapping measures in Osun State, the Corps Commander of Amotekun, Brig. Gen. Bashir Adewinbi, (retd) said Governor Ademola Adeleke had given the organisation a standing order to rid the state of the menace.

Adewinbi further said, “The governor has mandated us not to allow kidnapping to thrive in Osun State and we are doing our best. We have three different squads-anti-cultism, anti-kidnapping and anti-robbery.

“We work with the police on any operation we want to do. With the cooperation of all the security agencies, we hope kidnapping will not extend beyond what we have presently. I want us to look inward. Those involved live with the people, not people from outside.

“In that wise, I implore our people to give timely information to the security agencies so that we can respond on time. Let’s be careful and vigilant in Osun. We are doing our best to ensure we don’t experience kidnapping in the state.”

Meanwhile, the Osun State Commander of the Nigeria Hunters and Forest Security Service, Ahmed Nureni, has advised the government to involve local hunters in the fight against violent crimes, especially kidnapping.

According to him, with the hunters’ good knowledge of the forests where kidnap victims were often held, all the government needed to do was to support the hunters who would work with the conventional security men with tracking devices.

“Menace of kidnapping can be checked with the government providing support for the hunters, who have good knowledge of the forest. Those of them that will work with the conventional security men should be supported with good tracking devices,” Nureni said.

Also, the Enugu State Government has vowed to implement the provisions of the Anti-kidnapping Law 2009 to the letter.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr Aka Eze, says that the Enugu State government led by Governor Peter Mbah doesn’t joke or compromise with the security of lives and properties of her citizens.

“We will implement every law that will curb insecurity in the state including kidnapping. We have laws in Enugu state that have remained dormant until we came on board.

“Therefore, the onus is on us to not only implement extant laws to secure lives and property but also strengthen them or even make new ones as if necessary.”

He added, “Security of lives and property is the number one priority as far as the Governor Peter Mbah administration is concerned. This is what Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) demands of every government

“Enugu State, under Mbah, has no room, no forest, and no space for criminals.”

The PUNCH reports that the Enugu State House of Assembly on February 19, 2009, unanimously passed into law a bill making kidnapping with the use of a gun a capital offence in the State.

The law, however, stipulates a 10-year imprisonment for anybody found guilty of kidnapping without the use of a weapon.

The law which took effect from February 19, 2009, was an amendment of the original law which carried 10 years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, a  legal practitioner, Rabiu Musa, advised the Federal Government to emulate Plateau State by imposing the death penalty on anyone found guilty of kidnapping-related offences.

Musa said, “Here in Plateau State, the immediate past administration enacted a new law on kidnapping and it was assented to by the governor before he left. It imposes the death penalty for anyone who is found guilty of kidnapping-related offences.

“The Federal Government needs to urgently amend the law to the death penalty so that the punishment can be capital enough to deal with them.”

Another lawyer, Idris Ahmad, noted that the death penalty should be imposed on given to any kidnapper found guilty of killing his victims or the individual who came to deliver the ransom.

“Kidnapping has become too rampant in our society and in all honesty, Nigeria needs to have a good security architecture and legal structure to combat this menace.

“The death penalty should be imposed only if the culprits killed the victim in the process or killed someone that came to pay ransom. Otherwise, life imprisonment should be imposed,” he recommended.

James Onoja, SAN, who was a victim, demanded capital punishment for kidnappers.

“To me, life imprisonment is not enough. I was a victim of kidnapping last year; I paid ransom more than 12 times on December 23, 2023. Seven members of my family were kidnapped before they were released. I mean life imprisonment is not enough but capital punishment would be okay,’’ he insisted.

•Additional report: Additional reports by Sanusi Abiodun, Gift Habib, Princess Etuk, Ikenna Obianeri, Bola Bamigbola, Daniels Igoni Yenagoa, Collins Agwam, Tunde Oyekola, Chika Otuchikere, Peter Dada and Chika Otuchikere


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