The Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union has faulted the bill passed by the Senate prohibiting the payment of ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria, describing it as an action that would endanger the lives of kidnap victims if passed into law.
The Senate had on Wednesday passed a bill amending the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, by prohibiting the payment of ransom to kidnappers in the country.
This came 30 days after the abduction of the Abuja-Kaduna-bound train passengers by suspected terrorists.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had said the amendments contained in the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, could turn around not the security situation in Nigeria and its fortunes when signed into law.
But SOKAPU accused the Federal Government of hypocrisy, arguing that top government officials secretly paid a ransom to secure the release of their loved ones while other victims from poor families were left at the mercy of their abductors.
“Our position as SOKAPU is that we are the worst hit by these kidnappings. We would have been the ones jumping up in happiness over the bill but to say that you have passed a bill to stop the payment of ransom is not enough in our opinion. The government must put certain mechanisms in place to solve the problem of kidnapping.
“When someone’s relative is taken into a forest, there is no time of frustration and restlessness greater than that time. When a person, who is the breadwinner of another person is taken, everything is to be done to get them out.
“From our experience in Kaduna State, the governor has said he has nothing to do and he has not done anything to rescue the people that are being taken, so it is the poor families that are always selling everything they have ever got, borrowing money everywhere to save the people that are important to them,” the National President of the union, Jonathan Asake, told our correspondent on Friday.
Asake said the government had the capacity to and should track down kidnappers in the country rather than create a law criminalising the payment of ransom by families of kidnap victims.
“If the government has not shown the mechanisms in place to rescue the victims of these kidnappings and is saying it wants to make a law to prohibit the payment of ransom, then it is saying kidnappers should kill people without caring. Meanwhile, high-profile people always secretly pay a ransom. When the train passengers were kidnapped, N100 million was paid for the CEO of the Bank of Agriculture; it was later that the secret came out but they claimed they didn’t pay anything yet the poor masses are still there in the forest today with children and nothing has been done.
“So, where did that money come from? If he was not a bank executive, would they have been able to pay the N100 million? So, that N100 million must have come from the government coffers. They are now making a law that the poor people should remain in the forests with kidnappers but when any of their relatives are kidnapped, they use government money to pay. So, there is a lot of hypocrisy about it (bill) and that is why we in SOKAPU are not in support of it,” he added.
Similarly, the Human Rights Writers Association said the Federal Government lacked the right to tell the citizens not to take steps to ensure that their loved ones did not suffer an unjustifiable death if it could not confront the criminals and terrorists responsible for the kidnapping.
Its National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said, “The legislation does not make sense at all. Locally, the security forces in Nigeria have shown remarkable incapacity to adequately tackle kidnapping and heightened insecurity.
“If, as a government, you do not have the capacity or political will to confront criminals and terrorists who are kidnapping your citizens, what legal right do you have to tell your citizens not to take any kind of steps they wish to take so any member of their family does not suffer an unjustifiable and untimely death.
“So, I think that legislation is not logical. That legislation is something that was done without rationality. That legislature is far away from the reality of the Nigerian situation now.”
Onwubiko said the Senate should have provided a legislative framework making kidnapping punishable by death to encourage states to create and enforce such law.
He added, “If it gives that legislative guideline, states that had been planning to create such law or had created it but had yet to enforce it would be encouraged to do so because kidnappers are supposed to be given the maximum sentence.
“It (kidnapping) is a terrible offence that is worse than armed robbery. What is the National Assembly doing to get the President to either get the army to rescue the kidnapped citizen or impeach the President? It is an impeachable offence if the President cannot enforce the primary duty of the government to protect lives and property. This is what the National Assembly is supposed to face.”
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