A bill seeking to prohibit the payment and receipt of ransom for the release of any person kidnapped, imprisoned or wrongfully confined in the country was on Wednesday May 19 considered by the Nigerian senate.
The bill titled Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021 which stipulates a 15-year jail sentence for anyone found guilty of such action is being sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi and it scaled second reading during plenary.
Onyewuchi who raised an alarm of kidnapping becoming a lucrative business in the country, said the bill essentially seeks to substitute for section 14 of the Principal Act a new section to read: “Anyone who transfers funds, makes payment or colludes with an abductor, kidnapper or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped is guilty of a felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years.”
“Kidnapping is on the increase in Nigeria and it is prevalent across all the geopolitical zones.
“Some blame the rise of this criminal activity on poverty, religion, politics, deficiency of existing laws, unemployment, connivance of security agents, corruption, and greed among others.
“Our unemployed youths are also turning out to kidnapping to get money (ransom) as a survival strategy.
“Whatever the reason, it is most obvious that kidnapping in Nigeria puts everyone at risk, the rich and the poor, old and young, male and female, foreigner or indigene, expatriate or non-expatriate, traditional rulers and religious leaders, among others”
Pointing out that countries like USA and the United Kingdom do not support payment of ransoms to kidnappers, Onyewuchi also cited a report compiled by the Financial Times and the USA Global Risk Consultancy in November, 2019, which revealed that Nigeria has the highest rate of kidnaps for ransom of both locals and foreigners in all of Africa with kidnappers operating in each of its 36 states.
“Payments of terrorist ransoms is illegal under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 while the USA adheres to a strict No-Concessions policy on the payment of ransom.
“The continuous payment of ransom must not be encouraged, in addition government should provide adequate security and strengthen the economy as a matter of urgency, accelerate its poverty alleviation programs, provide employment opportunities targeting youths who are mostly involved in abductions and kidnappings, strengthen our law enforcement agencies, and provide the necessary support to end the menace of kidnapping.”
The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work after scaling second reading.
By Jide N.