By Dr. Abubakar Alkali
Clearly, the criminalization of ransom payment and the apparent failure of the government to protect its citizens are not mutually exclusive.
The Nigerian senate should enact laws to confront the bandits, not those laws that will further push the families of captives into a ‘tight corner’
The federal government comprising of the executive, legislature, and judiciary has failed to protect its citizens against bandits and other terrorists. The same government is now making efforts to ban citizens from bailing themselves out from the bandits through the amendment of the terrorism prevention act 2011 (as amended).
What an irony!
When anyone is in the kidnappers’ den, the only thing they want is to get out alive. Not minding how, where, and when. The only thing their family wants is to get their loved ones out ASAP.
The kidnappers’ den is where anything can happen at any time. The risk is great because the hosts (terrorists) are on drugs and hemp 24/7.
Indeed, it was a clear twist, a misplaced decision, a dereliction of duty, and somewhat admission of failure for the Nigerian senate to criminalize the payment of ransom. It is like shying away from responsibility, passing the buck to, and blackmailing the victims’ families. The Nigerian senate knows better than to stop families from rescuing their loved ones when the government has failed to do so.
According to the Nigerian senate in its wisdom, Nigerians should leave (or sacrifice) their loved ones to fate in the hands of the bandits for these terrorists to do what they want with the innocent captives.
Yes, in some countries, payment of ransom is criminal but that cannot be applied to Nigeria because the rate of kidnapping in Nigeria is extremely high.
It is a very clear analogy that if the government cannot protect its citizens, it (the government) has no moral ground to stop the payment of ransom.
The government should allow the citizens to bail themselves out through ransom payment if they cannot protect them. Ransom payment is a necessity because there are no available options. This is more so when juxtaposed with the fact that the government both at the federal and state levels, has consistently asked citizens to defend themselves. If the government is happy for the citizens to defend themselves, why is the government not happy for the citizens to pay the ransom and rescue their loved ones from terrorists?
Obviously, ransom payment is another form of informal defense.
The only way that the senate can justify its criminalization of ransom payment is to guarantee the safety of lives and property as contained in section 14, 2(b) of the 1999 constitution which is clear, explicit, and unambiguous that ‘the protection of lives and property shall be the primary purpose of government.
The decision of the Nigerian Senate to criminalize the payment of ransom can only stand if the government has stopped the incessant and unending cases of kidnapping in the country. Bandits now operate with unbelievable dexterity and in what seems to be an open space. Just when you thought you heard the last episode, another unbelievable and mindless case of kidnapping comes up.
Without a doubt, the measures put in place to check insecurity are either insufficient or weak, or even both. Something is missing somewhere.
Use of mobile phones by kidnappers to negotiate ransom payment
The most disturbing aspect of the current reign of kidnappers in Nigeria is the use of MOBILE PHONES to negotiate ransom payments without being tracked and digitally demobilized. With little doubt, Nigeria is the only nation on earth where kidnappers are allowed a free space to use mobile phones without being tracked, arrested, and brought to justice.
No kidnapper has been convicted or prosecuted in the northwest
Since records began, no kidnapper in the northwest geopolitical zone has been convicted or prosecuted despite several arrests.
- No special courts or tribunals to prosecute kidnappers while so much money is spent on ELECTION TRIBUNALS to try election petitions and bang on time.
- Bandits are allegedly released without trials
- Our gallant military is laying down their lives for the nation and should be supported with INFORMATION and COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY (ICT) to crush the bandits
Again, the federal government which includes the Nigerian senate, must up its game against the bandits from a three-pronged approach:
- INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY (ICT)
- JUSTICE REFORMS: PROSECUTION OF KIDNAPPERS
- A WELL-EQUIPPED AND FULLY MOTIVATED LOCAL VIGILANTE TO WORK WITH OUR GALLANT SECURITY FORCES ESPECIALLY THE MILITARY TO DECIMATE THE BANDITS.
Time is running out …… and fast.
DR. Alkali is the Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN) and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org