Fair call – The Nation

  • But death penalty will not curb kidnapping, any more than it has curbed armed robbery

Osun State will join the league of states in Nigeria that have prescribed death penalty for kidnappers if the governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, assents to the anti-kidnapping bill just passed by the state house of assembly.  The bill was passed by the Committee of the Whole, after making corrections to certain provisions of it.

Speaker of the House of Assembly, Timothy Owoeye, said the 10-year penalty for kidnapping in the old bill had been replaced, on conviction, with death penalty if the victim dies in the process of abduction or while in the custody of the abductors.

“Any person who kidnaps another person by any means or instilling fear or tricks or compels another to do anything against his will commits an offence.

“Where the life of the person kidnapped is lost in the process and the kidnapper is liable on conviction, he or she is to be sentenced to death.

“Not lost in the process, but he is released upon payment of a ransom or performance of a ransom act, the kidnapper is liable on conviction to repay the sum he/she received as ransom and to imprisonment for life and the ransom act shall be reversed.”

The law is similar to that of  Kano State which, as far back as 2016, blazed a trail by prescribing, on conviction, death penalty for kidnappers whose victims are killed while kidnappers who did not kill their victims would be sentenced to life imprisonment, if found culpable.

The same law is applicable in Lagos State, where Governor Akinwunmi Ambode signed a similar bill into law on February 1, 2017, with a pledge to ensure its full implementation to eradicate kidnapping.

It is instructive to note that the Senate also in September 2017 approved death sentence for whoever engages in the act which leads to the death of the victim, and a 30-year jail term for anybody that colludes with an abductor.

Without doubt, these laws were the respective institutions’ reactions to the worrisome spate of kidnappings in the country.

As a matter of fact, the crime has become a booming industry, forcing many armed robbers to abandon robbery for kidnapping which appears relatively easier, less risky and yet fetches more money if successful.

We therefore appreciate the concerns that informed these decisions. This is much more so when it is realised that protection of lives and property is the very essence of any government.

But then, we are philosophically opposed to death penalty, which many human rights organisations have been clamouring for its abrogation. One, its potency as a deterrent measure is suspect.

For example, armed robbery has not stopped in the country despite the execution of armed robbers in the military era. Perhaps this is why many governors have been reluctant to sign death warrants of condemned armed robbers since the return to civil rule in 1999.

As things stand, we do not see many governors that will be willing to sign the death warrants of kidnappers when only two of them had signed such in the last 20 years, despite the fact that our courts keep pronouncing the death penalty as punishment for convicted armed robbers.

We will only continue to compound the congestion in our correctional centres if the courts keep sentencing people to death and they are not executed.

There is also the psychological trauma that the condemned prisoners experience as they are forever haunted by the expectation of the hangman that never comes.

Above all, death penalty is irreversible. Even if there was a mistake in the course of trial (which sometimes happens), it would be difficult to review the case since the condemned prisoner would have been executed before the discovery of miscarriage of justice. You cannot bring him back to life.

So, while we share the strong sentiments of our lawmakers on kidnapping, we believe that life imprisonment would do for people convicted for the crime – unless they want to make laws that no one would be willing to implement.

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