The entire globe have come to witness the recurring abduction of individuals across the globe and these abductions arise from differing circumstances which bother in most cases on financial political or religious gains. Kidnapping is the abduction or unlawful transportation of a person, usually to hold the person against his or her will. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime. It refers to the crime of seizing, confining, abducting, or carrying away a person by force or fraud, often to subject him or her to involuntary servitude in an attempt to demand a ransom. Most countries consider it a grave offence punishable by a long prison sentence or death.
As have been witnessed, most abductors either demand for ransom before releasing their victims, or they abduct their victims who they perceive to be their enemy politically or religiously and in this instance they mostly kill or eliminate such an abducted person. Kidnapping for ransom is a common occurrence in various parts of the globe today and certain cities and countries like Mexico and Pakistan are often dubbed ‘‘kidnapping capital of the world’’.
In Nigeria, kidnapping has become a worrying trend in recent times as we have come to witness especially in the southern parts of the country. Kidnapping has become endemic in the Nigerian society. It is fast becoming a lucrative alternative to armed robbery. The gravity of kidnapping is so intense that it has virtually affected many persons in our society. The current dimension of kidnapping took alarming dimensions in the Niger Delta region when militants in February 2006 abducted some oil workers, presumably to draw global attention to the dire situation in the oil rich Niger Delta region of the country – the victims were mostly foreigners. Since that time to date, the social ills of kidnapping has spread like wild-fire in most parts of the country, especially in the entire southern region. The targets today are no longer foreigners alone; practically every perceived rich Nigerian or relatives of rich Nigerians can now be a target of kidnappers.
The question now is, why is the crime of kidnapping seemingly so prevalent in Nigeria, are there no laws to adequately cater for this crime in our society?
A statistic released by NYA International, a specialist crisis prevention and response consultancy, indicates that Nigeria accounted for 26 per cent of kidnap and ransom incidents globally in the first half of 2013. Kidnapping is big business in Nigeria at this time; hardly does any month go by without news or reports that someone has been kidnapped.
The Criminal Code Act, CAP C38, LFN 2004, also provides a penalty for kidnapping. The law provides in Section 364 that –
“Any person who –
1. Unlawfully imprisons any person, and takes him out of Nigeria without his consent; or
2. Unlawfully imprisons any person within Nigeria in such a manner as to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or from discovering to any other person the place where he is imprisoned, or in such a manner as to prevent any person entitled to have access to him from discovering the place where he is imprisoned,
Is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for ten years.“
However, many people have argued that the present anti-kidnapping laws in the country are not stringent enough to dissuade criminals from finding it a lucrative avenue for making fast money. Many have lent their voices for stricter penalties for kidnapping in Nigeria. This is why states like Edo, Delta and Oyo States have passed the Anti – Kidnapping laws and imposed the death penalty for convicted kidnappers.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo state assented to the new Kidnapping (Prohibition) Bill 2016, which prescribes death sentence or life imprisonment for any person who engages in kidnapping. According to the law, any kidnapper whose victim or victims die while in captivity will be liable to capital punishment while a convicted offender whose victim is released or rescued unhurt upon the payment of a ransom, will be liable to life imprisonment and be compelled to pay back the ransom.
The law further prescribes various punishments for any person who threatens to kill, maim or cause bodily harm in order to compel another person, corporate body or organization to do or obtain from doing any act as a condition for the release of the victim. Similarly anyone who makes an attempt to kidnap, aids or abets kidnapping will be sentenced to not less than 15 years imprisonment.
One must commend the Oyo State House of Assembly for a thorough job. Virtually everybody who plays one role or the other in a kidnapping case, including the person who plans his kidnapping in other to extort money from another person is captured in this law.
As a way of endorsing the moves by some states in Nigeria in their efforts at trying to curb kidnapping in the country, the Nigerian Senate also endorsed a move to enact capital punishment for kidnappers. The Senate, agreed to begin a process for the enactment of a law that would prescribe capital punishment for kidnappers across the country. The Senate also asked state governments to enact laws that would prosecute kidnappers and other crime-related offences in their jurisdiction and recommended that the Inspector General of Police and Director-General of the Department of State Services, DSS, in particular as well as other security agencies be encouraged to do more.
These resolutions of the Senate were sequel to the consideration of a report of the Joint Committee on Police Affairs, National Security and Intelligence in respect of a motion on the unfortunate recurrence of kidnapping and hostage-taking in Nigeria, entitled, “A National Wake-Up Call.” The Senate also recommended that the funding of security agencies be taken as a priority project, bearing in mind that the practice of envelop budgeting for security agencies had proved ineffective, adding that efforts should be put in place to create employment opportunities for the nation’s teaming unemployed youths. It also agreed that security agencies should embark on training and retraining of their personnel for effective capacity building.
The Senate equally stated that synergy and information sharing between security agencies should be pursued vigorously. The recommendation for death penalty, as adopted by the Senate, was recommended by Senator Adamu Aliero (APC-Kebbi Central) as an additional recommendation after the six resolutions were already adopted by the lawmakers.
It is our hope that Nigerian institutions would sit up and pay more than lip services to its obligations to the Nigerian populace by not just enacting stringent laws against kidnapping but also following it up with the will to enforce those laws; making sure that no perpetrator goes unpunished irrespective of his tribe, religion or status in society. It is often said that Nigeria is not deficient in beautiful laws but what is lacking is the will to enforce these laws. The onus is on those in authority to enact and enforce anti-kidnapping legislations across the country.