Ongoing efforts to end insecurity in the country gained a boost as the House of Representatives passed through First Reading, a bill which seeks to prohibit kidnapping, hostage-taking and for related matters.
The private member bill sponsored by Hon. Francis Waive, provides for life imprisonment for anyone found culpable without option of fine.
The bill also provides for stiffer punishment for hostage-taking, conspiracy and any bank staff who divulges the financial status of a customer to kidnappers or unauthorized persons to encourage the kidnap of the customer.
The objectives of the legislation as provided in Part 1 of the bill, provides for “an effective, unified and comprehensive legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of the act of kidnapping, hostage taking and other related matters in Nigeria; measures for the detention, freezing search, seizure, confiscation and forfeiture of kidnapper’s property; appropriate punishment for the act of kidnap and to ensure safety of lives of citizens and well being of the victims of kidnap.”
Part II which provides for Offence of kidnapping, stipulates that: “No person shall knowingly and intentionally: attempt or threaten to kidnap any person by means of a letter, e-mail; SMS, telephone call or any other method of communication with the intent to kidnap; kidnap, forcibly takes, holds, abducts, captures amongst others or detain another person; or prevent another person from applying to the court for his release or from disclosing to any other person the place where he is being held or; prevent any person entitled to have access to another from discovering the place where he is held hostage with or without demand for ransom; or stimulate or connive with another to kidnap oneself or any person; or withhold information from security agencies of the location of any person kidnapped; or withhold information of the means of livelihood of a person(s) involved in the act of kidnapping and for attempted kidnapping; or intimidate or harm, threaten to take and keep another person as surety until certain conditions are met and it shall not be an excuse to rely on the fact that the threat was made by the use of an electronic device, telephone or some other devices with a remote possibility of bringing the threat of reality.”
According to the proponent of the bill in Part III on the punishment for kidnapping, “Notwithstanding the provisions of the extant laws, this Act and punishments prescribed therein supersede every other punishment prescribed.
“Whoever kidnaps any person under section (3) of this Act commits an offence and shall upon conviction be sentenced to life imprisonment without option of fine.”
“Whoever with criminal intent initiates a compromise, settlement or refuses to give testimony in court in respect of the offences stated in section (3) of this Act shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to be sentenced to life imprisonment.”
“Any person who with criminal intent, attempt or threaten to kidnap any person by means of a letter, e-mail, SMS, telephone call or any other method of communication with intent to kidnap upon conviction is liable to 25 years imprisonment.”
“The owner of property whether moveable or immoveable who knowingly lets or allow his property/premises to another for the purpose of kidnap or harbouring any person is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be sentenced to life imprisonment and forfeiture of the said property to the Federal Government.”
“The Attorney- General or his representatives shall apply to the court for the sealing of any property reasonably suspected to have been used in the commission of the act of kidnap.
“The sealing of the premises under sub section (6) of this section shall remain in force pending the final determination of the criminal liability of the offender unless the court orders otherwise.
“The Police shall within 2 days of completion of investigation, send the Police Investigation Report to the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice.
“Where death occurs as a result of kidnapping, the offender is liable on conviction to death sentence.
“Where 2 or more conspire to commit the act of kidnapping, on conviction is liable to 20 years imprisonment.
“Any person whether or not in authority, who receives information that the act of kidnap has been committed or is about to be committed and fails, refuses and or neglects to take appropriate action to prevent same or to facilitate the apprehension of the culprit commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment of 10 (ten) years without an option of fine.
“Any offence committed that is related to the offence of kidnap which punishment is not stated hitherto shall receive a punishment not lesser than life imprisonment.
“Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act, the Police shall assist the court with the gathering of investigation on the offence of kidnap.”
The bill also seeks to empower the Police to enforce all rules and regulations on kidnapping in Nigeria; adopt measures to prevent and combat the acts of kidnapping in Nigeria; facilitate the detection and investigation of acts of kidnapping in Nigeria; establish, maintain and secure communications to eradicate the rapid increase of kidnap in Nigeria; conduct research with the aim of improving preventive measures to efficiently and effectively combat kidnapping in Nigeria; investigate whether any person or entity has directly or indirectly committed the act of kidnap under this Act or under any other law.
The bill further seeks to empower the Police to execute search warrants authorizing its officers or any other law enforcement officer to enter into any premises, property or conveyance for the purpose of conducting searches in furtherance of its functions in further investigation against kidnap; Notwithstanding the provisions of sub section (g) above the law enforcement agencies or security agencies can enter any property without warrant when there is a reasonable suspicion that a premises is used for the act of kidnapping.
“If the Police or other security agents suspect on reasonable grounds that the act of kidnap was committed by a person, they have power to arrest and detain such a person or enter into his premises for investigation without a warrant.
“Upon reasonable suspicion, it shall be lawful for the Police or any law enforcement agency upon an order of the court to obtain confidential information from telecommunication companies;
The bill also proposed fine of N20 million for each request made, on any erring telecommunication company which fails to comply within 48 hours.
“Where any person believes on reasonable grounds, that another person is a kidnapper or an accessory before and/or after the offence of Kidnapping, he may, where possible, arrest the suspect and hand him over to the police,” the bill stated.
On the prohibition of hostage-taking as provided in Part IV of the bill, Hon. Waive proposed that: “Any person, whether a citizen or alien, shall be guilty of an offence if such Person knowingly and intentionally; contemplates, plans, attempts, or induce, coordinate, the taking into hostage of a person or group of persons; hold, seize, hijack or detain another person or group of persons with or without the demand for ransom; or seize or hold a person as security for the fulfillment of a condition; or unlawfully and intentionally depriving a person of his or her :freedom of movement; or prevent any person entitled to have access to another from discovering the place where he is held hostage with or without demand for ransom; or seize or detain and threaten to kill, or to injure, or to continue to detain another person in order to compel a third person or a Governmental Organization to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the person detained, or attempts or conspires to do so.
Part V of the bill which provides for punishment for hostage-taking, provides that: “Any person who contravenes section (5) of this Act commits an offence and shall on conviction be sentenced to life imprisonment without option of fine.”
Clause 5(2) further provides that: “any person who seize or held or detain and threaten to kill, to injure, or to continue to detain another person in order to compel a third person or a Governmental Organization to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the person detained, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall on conviction be sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.
Clause 5(3) also stipulates that: “Where death occurs as a result of hostage-taking, the offender is liable on conviction to death sentence,” while clause 5(4) provides that: “any person or group of persons who held hostage or detain an alien, shall on conviction be liable to life imprisonment.”
Part VI which provides for Conspiracy, provides that: “Where an offence is committed under this Law, each of the following persons who partook in the commission of the offence with criminal intent or motive shall be deemed to have taken part in committing the offences: Every person who actually commits the acts or makes the omission which constitutes the offences;
Every person who does any act for the purpose of enabling or aiding another person to commit the offence; Every person who Counsel, procures or sponsors any other person to commit the offence; Any person who aids another in committing the offence; Any bank staff who divulges the financial status of a customer to kidnappers or unauthorized persons to encourage the kidnap of the customer; Every person who is aware that an offence is about to be committed but refused to notify the police; The occupants, owner or security personnel of the premises where the offence of kidnap or hostage taking is taking place or have been taking place who is reasonably believed to have known that such offence is being committed or is about to be committed.
According to him, “A conviction under sub section (1) of this section shall carry the same punishment in all respects as a conviction for committing the offence of kidnap. Any person who with criminal intent; permits the escape of, or aids any person to be at large; or assist the escape from arrest or detention of another person who commits any offence under this Act and shall on conviction be sentenced to life imprisonment.”
As stipulated in the bill, the related offence shall be tried summarily by any Division of the High Court of the state in Nigeria, notwithstanding the place where the offences were committed, adding that the Court shall ensure that persons charged under this Act have speedy trial.
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