by Tayo Akinbiyi
Lagosians were legitimately cheering the good news of the release of abducted Secretary of Isheri Estate (GRA) Landlord Association, Dayo Adekoya, when the news that seven persons had allegedly been kidnapped in Epe Area of Lagos State filtered into the air wave.
The alleged victims include five workers of a farm and two members of the Odua People’s Congress (OPC), who were recently employed as security personnel.
Igbodu community, in Epe, which has recently been transformed into a massive farming hub by the State Government, has witnessed some kidnapping cases involving farmers in recent time.
To show that kidnappers have become audacious in their operational mode, a top Lagos monarch, Oba Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Ibaland, was once abducted right in his palace by gunmen who murdered a security guard, Sunday Eniola Okanlawon and a commercial motorcyclist, Joseph Okeke and also attempted to murder the monarch’s wife, Olori Abosede Oseni. The monarch was to spend 21 excruciating days in the hands of his depraved captors before he was eventually released.
These daredevil men have become so callous that even children are not spared in their endless cruel search to make money at all cost. Last year, three school girls were seized from Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary, Ikorodu, but were later freed by the police. And recently, students and teachers of Turkish International School, Isheri, Ogun State, were kidnapped and later released.
Before now, kidnapping was alien to our culture. Things, however, changed when Niger Delta militants turned the creeks into a hub of ungodly pursuit, where top government functionaries, diplomats, relations of famous and wealthy celebrities, expatriates and host of other top shots were abducted and kept for ransom. In view of the economic gains of the unscrupulous business, its scope was to later spread from the Niger Delta creeks to other parts of the country, especially the South -East and South -West.
A recent Freedom House report indicates that Nigeria recorded one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world. Equally, a 2013 data of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 shows that kidnapping and connected crimes were serious problems in Nigeria.
But then, the good news now is that in Lagos State, kidnappers are liable to death. This is the highlight of the Anti Kidnapping Law recently enacted by the state. The law recommends death penalty for kidnappers in whose custody victims died and life jail for those who kidnapped for ransom.
The Anti-Kidnapping Law is all-embracing. It stipulates sentence for the actors, the collaborators, the aiders and those who were aware of the act but did nothing about it.
Though some have criticised the law as being too stiff, but the truth is that kidnapping is evil, barbaric, inhuman and despicable; and it should be treated as such. Aside the psychological and emotional damage that the act brings upon victims and their family members as well as well wishers, the woes that the dastardly act brings to bear on the nation’s economy are quite enormous.
However, for the new law to really have its expected impact, our justice administration system must measure up to expectation. Lagos State has particularly done much in this regards, but the police, especially, must play it own part quite appropriately. In most instances, cases that the public are interested in are often bungled because of obvious loopholes that Investigation Police Officer, IPOs, often make available for smart lawyers to capitalise.
Hence, for the new law to be suitably effectual, the police and all other relevant security agencies must be alive to their statutory responsibilities. At every stage in the judicial system, from the IPO to other judicial officers involved, at one stage or the other, in a kidnapping case, there must be unity of purpose and unwavering commitment to the preservation of the rule of law.
Prosecuting counsels should brace up to dispel the theory that they sometimes conspire with accused individuals to botch cases. Constant filing of amendment of charges after the arraignment of the accused, non-appearance in Court and unending demands for adjournments should not be frivolously used to delay cases.
The law is meant to trounce evil and evil doers. In any society where the reverse is the case, evil will reign supreme. Now that the law has spoken, let kidnappers and their collaborators beware!
- Ogunbiyi/Guardian is with the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy.