Lagos State Government may soon join the growing number of states such as Edo, Ogun and Anambra that have imposed death sentence on kidnappers. According to a private member bill sponsored by the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, any person, who kidnaps, abducts, detains, captures or takes another person by any means or tricks with intent to demand ransom or do anything against his/her will commit an offence, and liable on conviction to death sentence.
The bill went through a public hearing on yesterday at the Lateef jakande Auditorium within the Assembly premises with some stakeholders in attendance. Attempt to kidnap is also criminalised under the bill and it was suggested that such a person would be committed to life imprisonment.
Also, the bill is against false representation to release a kidnapped or abducted person under Section 4, and this attracts seven years imprisonment.
Furthermore, the bill provides that any person, who knowingly or wilfully allows or permits his premises, building or a place belonging or occupied to which he has control of, to be used for the purposes of keeping a person kidnapped is guilty of an offence under the law and liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of 14 years without an option of fine.
A legal practitioner, Mr Richard Komolafe from the United Action for Change (UAC), who spoke at the stakeholders meeting, commended the bill but said that death sentence was no longer fashionable all over the world. Komolafe said:”Hanging itself is inhuman by conventions as against life imprisonment. I appreciate this bill, it is very timely, but we hope it will be passed in time.”
He, however, urged the lawmakers to find a way of not getting genuine rescuers from being roped in cases of pretentious kidnap. Another stakeholder, who is the Director of Legal Drafting in the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Yejide Kolawole, who also commended the bill, said that it was essential that element of conspiracy and attempt to kidnap be added in the bill.
I suggest 21 years imprisonment for conspiracy to kidnap, depending on the level of involvement. However, seven years penalty for section 4 is too mild. I suggest 20 years to deter those who would want to engage in the crime.
On Section 5, anyone who instigates kidnapping should be given a stiffer penalty of 25 years, though the person does not participate overtly in act.
On Section 7, owners of a building used to aid kidnapping should have a higher punishment than mere forfeiture of property, she said.
Also, a Chief Magistrate in Lagos State, Mrs Seri Sholebo said that it was fundamental to add conspiracy to kidnapping, stressing that the ministry had not been able to convict offenders on conspiracy since 2011. Sholebo however, suggested 180 days window for trials of offenders rather than the stipulated 60 days due to anticipated delay in handling the cases.
A Director in the Lagos State Office of Public Defender (OPD), Mr. Borokini Fatai wanted to know what could happen if the trial could not be concluded within 60 days, as he said that a defence counsel could ask for the withdrawal of the matter after the stipulated number of days.