Oladipupo Awojobi, in Lagos, writes on a bill, currently before the State Assembly, aimed at tackling the problem of Kidnapping
In March, unknown gunmen abducted three students of the Babington Macurley Junior Seminary (BMJS), Ikorodu, Lagos. The gunmen, suspected to be dislodged pipeline vandals had stormed the school premises located at Agunfoye-Lugbusi village and took three girls away.
It was gathered that the armed men gained entry by breaking the perimeter fence which served as protection for the boarding students. The girls were released days later after ransom was reportedly paid.
Also, a Lagos monarch, the Oniba of Iba, Oba Goriola Oseni, was kidnapped in his palace premises few months back. The Oba’s wife was reportedly wounded during the incident, while one of his guards was said to have been fell by the kidnappers’ bullet. Oba Goriola Oseni was later released by his abductors after his family allegedly paid a ransom of N15.1 Million in two installments.
In July, 2016, some kidnappers, numbering 15, who had since been arrested, stormed Egan, Itoki Area of Ikorodu, Lagos and abducted two poultry farms owners. They allegedly went to the area in three boats, abducting the owners – Alhaji Oyebanji Wasiu and Alhaji Isiaka Owolabi, along with the manager of the two farms, Abiodun Adeniyi, 43.
The victims were taken deep into the creek, where they were instructed to contact their families, who reportedly put together the sum of N22m as ransom, which they dropped at a particular location as instructed by the kidnappers.
Armed with three AK47 and rifles, one pump-action rifle, nine magazines and 270 rounds of live ammunition, they killed the manager of the farms, Adeniyi but investigations later revealed that there was a deep-seated vengeance involved, hence, the murder.
Also on October 6th, 2016, kidnappers stormed Igbonla Model College, Epe, Lagos and abducted the vice principal, a teacher and four students.
The gunmen stormed the school at about 7.45am in three speed boats.
The students were observing their morning assembly, when they were abducted. The armed men marched them through the bush path and escaped in their boats through Ogbere River.
A student told investigators that the hoodlums came through the gate: ”They met us during our morning prayers. They were armed with sophisticated weapons and when we saw them, we ran helter skelter. We later discovered that our teachers and four students were taken away.”
The victims were later released by the kidnappers after ransom had been reportedly paid.
On September 17, four landlords were kidnapped in Isheri, a boundary town between Lagos and Ogun states.
They were having a walk-out when about eight gunmen stormed the area and took them away. The victims were released after four days in captivity.
All these must have informed the decision of the Lagos State House of Assembly to be pro-active and come up with strict punitive measures that would reduce or even end the current spate of kidnapping in the acclaimed centre of excellence. The state Assembly is about to pass a bill that recommends death sentence for any kidnapper, whose victim die in captivity as a way of putting an end to the recent upsurge in kidnapping in the state.
When the law is eventually passed, those who derive income from kidnapping fellow human beings for ransom would be forced to either drop the idea or relocate to another part of the country.
The Bill, entitled; “A Bill for a law to provide for the prohibition of the act of kidnapping and for other connected purposes,” is a private member Bill sponsored by the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Ajayi Obasa.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Public Petition, Human Rights and LASIEC, Hon. Funmilayo Tejuosho, had presented the report of its Stakeholders Meeting on the bill during plenary on Monday, November, 28.
According to the bill, kidnappers, whose victims did not die in captivity would be jailed for life.
The bill states that any person, who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures or takes another person by any means or tricks with intent to demand ransom or do anything against his/her will commits an offence, and liable on conviction to death sentence.
However, the lawmakers amended this sections of the law, while debating the report of the committee and agreed that the death sentence should only be imposed on those, whose victims die in their custody.
Attempt to kidnap is also criminalised under the bill and it was suggested that such a person would be committed to life imprisonment.
Also, the bill is against false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person under Section 4, and this attracts seven years imprisonment.
The lawmakers also approved the section of the bill that states that whoever threatens to kidnap another person through phone call, e-mail, text message or any other means of communication should be jailed for 25 years.
Furthermore, the bill provides that any person, who knowingly or willfully 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 and liable to 14 years imprisonment without an option of fine.
In addition, the bill is against false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person and this attracts seven years imprisonment for offenders. Furthermore, the bill 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 and liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of 14 years without an option of fine.
If enacted into law, the bill will ensure Lagos joins the growing number of States such as Edo, Ogun and Anambra that have imposed death sentence on kidnappers.
At its sitting on November 28, the Assembly in a motion by the Majority Leader, Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, and others, the Assembly also called on Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to properly secure the state against kidnapping and other criminal activities.
It was resolved through the motion that Governor Ambode should take all necessary steps aimed at involving the Nigeria Air Force, Nigerian Navy and the Nigeria Army in checkmating kidnapping in the state.
Ambode was directed to arrange with the state Commissioner of Police and heads of other security agencies in the state to increase security patrol and to station Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and other security equipment in Maya, Epe and other strategic areas of the state. The governor was also enjoined to ensure the prosecution of those arrested in connection with gang wars in the state.
Contributing to the motion, Hon. Gbolahan Yishawu, had said it was apt and that it captured the mood of the state.
He stated that criminals in the state came up with a lot of strategies despite the huge amount of money the state government had spent on security.
The lawmaker however, advised that the security men should be equipped with gun boats and other tools to fight crime on water.
Also, Hon. Tobun Abiodun emphasised that the government should do its best to drive criminals from the state as he said that they had now moved to places such as Epe, Ikorodu and Badagry.
Tobun further advised the state government to consider aerial surveillance as he said that the criminals now operate in the creeks.
However, Hon. Tunde Braimoh observed that security challenge was not peculiar to Lagos State and that it was a common phenomenon in a metropolitan state like Lagos. In his comments, Hon. Olumuyiwa Jimoh advised that the state should attach importance to having more marine policemen as the state’s waterways were porous.