Despite Stricter Laws, Rape, Kidnapping Thrived In 2015
ACCORDING to recent reports by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Nigeria took a prominent place within the top 10 countries in the world with an alarming record of kidnapping in a year. To put it in better perspective, Nigeria ranks sixth just behind Philippines, India, Pakistan, Libya and Mexico which top the list.
The above statistic might look surprising to many, but available information show that while high profile cases get extensive publicity from the media, most of the kidnap cases get resolved without the public ever hearing about them, as they are not reported in the media. Many people would rather settle the requested ransom quietly because of the seeming fear that the life of the kidnapped person may be in danger if the security agencies and the media are brought into the matter. So, in most cases, it is the high profile cases that are usually mentioned which make it even more difficult to identify, prosecute and convict those involved in this heinous act.
Very recently, the Oyo State House of Assembly revealed has been paid as ransom to kidnappers to rescue victims between the months of August and November. If these are calculated with the rest of the months of the year, it is no wonder why this evil is on the increase.
Just a few months ago, September 21 precisely, Chief Olu Falae, a former permanent secretary, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, former Minister of Finance, former presidential candidate of the All Progressives Party (APP) in 1999, a chieftain of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-cultural group, and founder of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was snatched from his farm like any common thief to the horror of the whole nation. That day was his 77th birthday as well and instead of celebrating, he languished as a hostage in the den of the kidnappers for four days. Despite claims by the Nigerian Police that no ransom was paid for his release, the elder statesman’s family refuted this claim insisting that they coughed out an undisclosed amount of money to secure his release.
While this present administration was marking 100 days in office, the nation’s image was dealt a terrible blow with the reported kidnap cases of Dornu Kogbara, popular columnist with Vanguard newspapers and Mrs. Tosin Nwosu, wife of the Deputy Managing Director of Sun newspapers, Mr. Steve Nwosu.
Kidnapping of priests is now a ‘lucrative’ venture in many parts of the country. Fr. Gabriel Oyaka was on his way to Abuja on September 7, when he found himself blocked by armed bandits and whisked away into the night. His family was contacted for ransom and till date, the outcome of the whole debacle is still unclear. On 15 August, a Claretian priest, Fr. Dennis Osuagwu was kidnapped and assassinated in Nekede, Imo State. On 8 June, Fr. Emmanuel Akingbade, the pastor of St. Benedict of Ido-Ekiti, Ekiti State was kidnapped, then released on 16 June. Early this year, Fr. Innocent Umor was kidnapped, in the Diocese of Idah, in Kogi State. The priest was however released two days later.
This menace is, however, not restricted to priests as the deputy secretary-general of the Nigerian Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Adam Idoko was kidnapped at his home in September this year. N20 million was demanded for his release.
A few days ago, Prince Eke, husband to popular singer Muma Gee, was kidnapped and N15 million was demanded for his release. He has since regained his freedom but the singer did not divulge if the ransom money was paid or not.
Kidnapping is not contained the exclusive list of the Nigerian Constitution, therefore, State Houses of Assembly have the powers to enact such laws. Along this line many state governments have done so. Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State was one of the governors in the Niger Delta region to approve death penalty for kidnappers in 2013. His Edo State counterpart, Adams Oshiomhole, also approved capital punishment for kidnapping in 2013. Oshiomhole declared that the death penalty in the state applies to all acts of kidnapping, whether or not it involved murder.
The Delta House of Assembly also passed the Anti-Kidnapping Bill 2013, imposing a death sentence on any person convicted of kidnapping in the state, into law. Earlier, kidnapping was made a capital offence in 2009 in six Nigerian states: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo. The Governor of Abia State promulgated an anti-kidnapping law to save the state, which recorded the highest number of kidnapping cases in the South-East zone with most of the incidents occurring in Aba, the commercial nerve centre of the state. The law, like others, prescribes death sentence for convicts.
Only recently the Cross River State Governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, signed into law a bill that prescribes death penalty for convicted kidnappers in the state. The law also empowers the state to seize assets as well as freeze accounts belonging to convicted kidnappers and those who aid and abet kidnapping in the state.
Similarly, the Kogi State Executive Council recently approved death penalty for kidnapping and other related criminal activities in the state. Despite all these laws, no kidnapper has ever faced the ultimate death penalty.
Security experts have identified the quick payment of ransom by government and individuals, high rate of unemployment/poverty and unwillingness to enforce kidnapping laws as factors responsible for the increase in the evil act. Gone are the days when rich people were usually victims, these days, almost anyone can be kidnapped for a ransom as little as N10, 000.
Sadly, rape in Nigeria was on the increase this year despite stiffer penalties to curb the nefarious act. Worse was the fact that it is under age rape that is on the increase and female children were the most affected. Rape remains one of the most prevalent but under-reported crimes in Nigeria and this is a huge cause for concern. Time and time again throughout the course of the year, the media was awash with horror stories of young children sexually assaulted by adults and sometimes, age mates.