Akpan: Government must implement the law

Nseabasi Akpan

Nseabasi Akpan

The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May 2016, approved death sentence as punishment for anyone caught in the act of kidnapping. Consequently, several states, including Edo, Bayelsa and recently, Lagos State have ratified the maximum penalty for kidnappers. In spite of the pronounced punishment, the spate of kidnapping has increased tremendously across the country. In a chat with BRIDGET CHIEDU ONOCHIE, former head, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Nseabasi Akpan, blamed the situation on government’s apathy to enforce existing laws.

Why is it that existing laws have not deterred kidnappers?
We have to understand what kidnapping is. It is a process whereby an individual is taken from his place or resident, or from a known position to an unknown position. In many cases, it is economical and in many other cases, it is political. Now, you are throwing up a case or a situation where the anti-kidnapping laws are passed, yet, the crime has not abated. Yes, it is true that some states approved death penalty while others proposed life sentence. But what we are lacking in this country is the political will. The major reason kidnappers are not deterred is because they believe that since the law was proposed or passed, nobody has faced death penalty or even life imprisonment for the crime. The political will of those managing this system is lacking.

Look at it politically, because we have both political kidnapping and economic kidnapping. Those who kidnap because they need money are economic kidnappers. If it is political, you find that many of the cases are not reported, even when it is reported, they manipulate the structure or the system in order to free the kidnappers. So, if the kidnapper is very sure that nothing will happen to him, he will continue with the crime. That means the law is not even respected. Even the police or the authorities do not actually arraign the people before the court. When they do, you will just hear that they have been arraigned and you will not hear anything about it again. Why is there no political will to deal with offenders? It is because of the relation or the benefits between them and politicians.

This is also the reason many states do not want to pronounce death penalty against kidnappers. You know first of all that the issue of kidnapping is very recent. It was not too popular in Nigeria, and where it has to do with politics, because it comes often during political era when members of one party are expected to give way for members of the other group to go on, it is quite possible to be manipulated, and godfathers are always the champions in this situation. So, once they see their godfathers, they go on with the offence. It is very glaring.

Does the payment of ransom influence the upsurge in the crime?
It is a little bit complicated here because if you don’t pay the ransom, the victim might be killed. So, the right thing is first for the law enforcement agencies to smoke out the kidnappers and then, implement the death penalty. But the situation is that if one does not have godfather or he does not have any highly placed person or the money to pay the ransom, he or she might lose his life. Given this circumstance, I think the best thing is for the law enforcement officers to do what they are supposed to do. I also want to mention here that with the passage of the law, even though it has not been implemented and nobody has been prosecuted, we can see that in some states, particularly, those in the Southeast and the South-South, where it was more pronounced, it has reduced. The pronouncement of the law alone tends to put fear in the people. If the mere pronouncement of the law can inculcate little fear in the people, full implementation of the laws will go a long way in stamping out the crime.

Do you think our security agents and better equipped to combat the spate of kidnappings?
I have talked about political will and vested interests. Where there is no political will, the police will be reluctant to do their job, because they will be afraid that by mentioning the culprits and their godfathers, the consequence will be upon them. We heard what happened in Rivers State, how police officers were murdered carelessly. With these, police officers will operate with caution. But I wish that the police should do their work and the government should encourage them to do their work without fear or favour.

The way out in my opinion is to summon the political will to enforce our laws. One of the founders of Sociology mentioned that when a society is lawless and people no longer respect the law, definitely, people do what they like. So, you realise here that when people notice that laws are not functional or actually implemented, they continue doing what they are doing or what they feel they should do. At the end, even when it is political, they will demand for ransom. At times, the ransom is too much and we hear of people dying in some cases. Yet, the perpetrators are not prosecuted. Our attitudes should change to respecting the laws. Those who are responsible for implementing laws should do so without any favour. If state governors are determined, they would have been implementing the death penalty, but again, it boils down to political will.

Take Federal Government’s anti-corruption programme for instance, without the political will, it wouldn’t have been the way we see it today. Definitely, where there is will, there is a way. Look at the issue of pump price, when the increase in pump price was introduced, people condemned it. The previous administration tried, but it could not work. However, when President Muhammadu Buhari came in, he implemented it and it has worked to the extent that fuel is now available everywhere, even though expensive.

If the will power is there and the security agents are ready to do their work, if they are encouraged to do their work, the country will stamp out kidnapping.  But the economic factor is also there, there is poverty in the land. If government puts structures on ground that will generate employment and ensure economic recovery, the economic aspect of kidnapping will stop. Then, to stop political kidnapping, government should ensure that anybody caught to have played any part in the process of kidnapping should suffer same fate with kidnappers. If they go ahead and implement the laws, the problem of kidnapping will come to pass in the country.

In this article:
Dr. Nseabasi Akpan
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