At a plenary, last week, Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi-sponsored bill – Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021 – sought to imprison for 15 years distraught Nigerians who desperately want their kidnapped relations freed from criminals.
The bill has scaled second reading.
The SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm, had reported that, at least, $18.34m had been paid to kidnappers as ransom, by families and government, between June 2011 and March 2020.
Onyewuchi’s somewhat bizarre bill, and two other stories, from the National Assembly (NASS), formed the fulcrum of most conversations on the legislative arm of government past week.
Risking 15-year jail term
On May 19, the Senate considered Onyewuchi’s bill which provides that Nigerians who pay ransom to kidnappers and kidnappers who receive ransom risk 15-year imprisonment.
During plenary, Onyewuchi had explained that 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 collude 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.”
Onyewuchi’s bill has been greeted mostly with a backlash. Many have reasoned that he, and his NASS colleagues are chasing the wind, and wasting time on a bill that is needless.
It is no-brainer to admit that for a country weighed down by rising youth unemployment, excruciating poverty, wanton killings, corruption, among others, kidnapping can only be a common ill-trend.
Recent reports had noted how one Sani Idris Jalingo, brazenly identified himself as the leader of the bandits that kidnapped some students of Greenfield University while confirming that he had already netted N55 million from the distraught parents.
Reports further noted that the same criminal had demanded an extra N100 million and 10 motorcycles from the parents, and the Kaduna State Government.
Jalingo’s effrontery is, indeed, a sad commentary on the state of affairs.
To some, Onyewuchi’s bill can only be described as thoughtless and insensitive, as it has the potential to make matters worse for victims and their families by seeking to punish them for the shortcomings of government.
Indeed, given how precious life is considered globally, it is to be assumed that distressed families will spare nothing to have their loved ones return alive from kidnappers den.
It would be commonsensical, therefore, to expect that lawmakers should be thorough and realistic in their propositions and search for lasting solutions to ills plaguing the Nigerian society
NASS MEMORY LANE
“This action is capable of undermining the nation’s judiciary, subverting the Constitution, intimidating judges of all courts of record, and creating uncertainty in the electoral process. By unilaterally suspending the CJN (Walter Onnoghen) without following the provision of the Constitution, President Buhari has sent a dangerous signal to the entire world that Nigeria is no longer a democratic nation and that we have returned to the old, jaded era of military dictatorship?”
Answer: See end of post
Two other stories
Funding Armed Forces
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, on May 17, claimed that about 91 percent of current funding to the Armed Forces went to salaries and welfare, leaving only 9 percent for capital purchases.
Speaking in Abuja at a one-day public hearing on the Armed Forces Support Trust Fund Establishment Bill 2021, the Speaker represented by the House Leader, Hon. Ado Doguwa, said among others, “To succeed in this fight, the Armed Forces of Nigeria requires more funding for modern weapons and required training. Spending on military hardware must definitely increase to support the zeal and commitment already being exhibited by our soldiers.”
Gbajabiamila’s revelation, though sad, depicts all that is wrong with the country’s efforts at tackling insurrection and banditry.
It’s either that the leadership is not getting its priorities right or that those saddled with the responsibility of managing the resources budgeted for war against terror are looting same and leaving little or nothing to truly empower the men and officers at the battle fronts.
The disclosures, no doubt, call for a more intensive probe and prosecution of all those who may have been fingered in crimes against the state.
Indeed, the expectations are that for any inquest to be meaningful it should go as far back as 2015, and where it is deemed necessary make appropriate recommendations for enhanced funding for the military.
Making JUSUN work
On May 20, the House of Representatives resolved to end the continued shut down of courts due to the industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).
This was sequel to a motion: “Call on the Federal Government to Ensure Speedy Resolution of the Lingering Strike Action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN),” moved by Hon. Sergius Ose Ogu during plenary.
He had argued that “…the closure of courts portends grave danger to the polity and is capable of exacerbating the current security situation in the country.”
Suffice to say that the intervention of NASS is basically persuasive and has no force of law. At best, its initiative only brings to fore the contradictions in the Nigerian constitution that have created so much room for sub-national actors to abuse powers vested in their offices.
Perhaps, the on-going constitution amendment hearings will find enduring solution to the several abuses of the Nigerian constitution.
But until then, the JUSUN strike presents a major test of how the constitution can be made to work in the interest of the Nigerian people.
The Judiciary must be made to enjoy all the independence it deserves, not just in name but in deeds, and financial autonomy sure will be a lasting testimony to that claim.
Answer: Dr. Bukola Saraki
Saraki made the statement on January 25, 2019, following the suspension of then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari. He was still the President of the Nigerian Senate when he issued the statement. Onnoghen was suspended three weeks before the 2019 General Elections for allegedly failing to declare his personal assets before taking office in 2017.
By John Chukwu…
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