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Senate proposes death penalty for kidnappers

The Senate on Wednesday canvassed death penalty for arrested kidnappers as part of measures aimed towards taming the crime in Nigeria. Against this background, a Bill for an Act, aimed towards prescribing capital punishment for criminals behind kidnapping is to be prepared and processed into law in the National Assembly. The measure by the Senate to fight the crime of kidnapping came to the fore after a Joint Committee on Police Affairs and National Security and Intelligence which investigated cases of kidnaping in Nigeria filed its report during Wednesday’s plenary.

Also on Wednesday, a bill for a law which prescribes five-year jail term for lecturers who engage in sexual relationship with students was passed for first reading in the Senate. The Committee among others had recommended that henceforth, funding of security agencies should be taken as a priority since budgetary allocations to them over the past years have not been helpful.

The Committee in its report also laid much emphasis on creation of employment opportunities for the teeming youths of Nigeria who are mostly unemployed, since the problem of unemployment was identified as the main cause of the crime of kidnapping. Senators during debate on the Committee’s recommendations observed that the government of Nigeria should begin to take immediate measures towards addressing the problems of kidnapping in the country, which they noted has reached an alarming stage.

They argued one after the other that the crime has been festering across Nigeria more because security operatives have consistently been failing to track kidnappers most especially after ransoms they demanded had been paid. Senators expressed regrets that although the crime of kidnaping started from the South-South region of Nigeria many years ago, the failure of security operatives to curb it has made it to become a nationwide crime with virtually all states of the federation being afflicted.

They also blamed lack of synergy and intelligence sharing among security agencies as part of reasons kidnapping and hostage taking have been growing in Nigeria. Deputy Senate President who shared the logic often deployed by kidnappers with his colleagues used his personal experience to suggest that security operatives should not stop work on ensuring the release of kidnappers, but should rather continue to track them till they get arrested.

He recalled how he was kidnapped in September 2000, as chief of staff to the then Enugu governor in which case he spent two days in the hands of his captors, stating that the rush to payment of ransom to kidnappers has been the reason the crime would continue to grow.

Kidnappers, he said, are always in a hurry to dispense with their victims while their attention has always been on making quick money. According to him, kidnappers are always afraid of being caught in their act, and so would not mind to collect any amount offered to them just to gain time and avoid complications that could lead to their arrest. He said, “I think there are categories of kidnappers.

Those who kidnap to make a statement, and those who kidnap for money, which I believe we are talking about. “We should discourage kidnapping by refusing to pay ransoms, because from my experience these kidnappers are always in a hurry to get the money and move on.”

Senator Godswill Akpabio faulted claims that kidnapping started from the south-south. According to him the crime took off from Anambra state when a state governor was kidnapped for political reason. He added that Niger Delta militants later adopted kidnapping as a means of protest against the government, but not as a way of making money.

“When kidnapping started in the Niger Delta, it was like a protest – not for ransom. When it started in South-East, it was commercialized, most especially in Abia state where people built houses with bunkers under,” he said. Senator Adamu Aliero said the governments of Nigeria should address the issue of kidnapping since it has started affecting the quest by the country to attract foreign investment.

He said most investors have been avoiding coming to Nigeria because of the security challenges the country has been facing, worst of which, according to him is the issue of kidnapping. Bill against randy lecturers Meanwhile, the bill, which prescribes five year jail term for lecturers who engage in sexual relationship with students, sponsored by Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege (Labour-Delta Central) and co-sponsored by 46 other senators, seeks to completely prohibit any form of sexual relationship between lecturers and their students. Briefing newsmen after plenary, Omo-Agege said that the nation’s institutions of higher learning must be sanitised to rid them of lecturers who saw female students as “prize’’.

According to him, when the bill is passed and signed into law, any lecturer found guilty will be liable to a jail term of up to five years but not less than two years with no option of fine. “When passed into law, it makes it a criminal offence for any educator in a university, polytechnic or any other tertiary educational institution to violate or exploit the student-lecturer fiduciary relationship for sexual pleasures. “The bill imposes stiff penalties on offenders in its overall objective of providing tighter statutory protection for students against sexual hostility and all forms of sexual harassment in tertiary schools. “The bill provides a compulsory five-year jail term for lecturers who sexually harass students.

“When passed into law, vice chancellors of universities, rectors of polytechnics and other chief executives of institutions of higher learning will go to jail for two years if they fail to act within a week on complaints of sexual harassment made by students. “The bill expressly allows sexually harassed students, their parents or guardians to seek civil remedies in damages against sexual predator lecturers before or after their successful criminal prosecution by the State.

“The bill also seeks to protect, from sexual harassment, prospective students seeking admissions into institutions of learning, students of generally low mental capacity and physically challenged students,’’ he stated. The lawmaker said that it was practicable in other climes as “honour codes’’ but stressed that it should be domesticated in Nigeria in the Penal form.

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