14 January 2010

Nigeria: Enugu Assembly's Law On Kidnapping

Enugu — The past year in Enugu State House of Assembly witnessed a lot of unfinished businesses by the lawmakers who characteristically blew hot in one moment and cold in another.

In the period under review, the House as part of its oversight functions, started probe of many government parastatals and agencies but most of the investigations remained inconclusive till date.

A typical example was the abandoned probe of the financial transactions of the Enugu State Housing Corporation (ESHC) over alleged widespread corruption in the agency.

Also inconclusive was the investigation by the 24-member House, of Commissioner for Local Government Matters, Prof. Frank Asogwa on allegations of graft made against him.

Whereas the House mandated the Governor, Sullivan Chime, to suspend the commissioner pending the conclusion of investigation on the matter, its decision came to naught as the commissioner was neither suspended nor redeployed.

So many other important bills like the hotel tax bill were introduced before in the House but no decisions were taken on them before the year ran out.

Many wondered whether the House would be able to give attention to such important bills this year (2010), considering the fact that the attention of the members would be divided between their legislative duties and politicking.

However, despite this perceived lack lustre performance of the House under the Speaker, Eugene Odoh, one of its applauded achievements in the past year, was the passage of the bill, prescribing capital punishment for kidnappers.

Many people in the state saw this as a giant step in the bid to curb this new trend crime that is fast crippling economic and social life of not only state but also the entire states of the South East geo-political zone.

The law, which took immediate effect, is an amendment to the Enugu State Criminal Code law, 2004.

The House unanimously passed the bill in February 2009.

It was initiated by Chime and sponsored before the House by the Leader, Johnny Obidimma, who represents Oji River State constituency.

The law states: "If the offender is armed with any dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument at the time of the offence, or is in the company of one or more other person or persons, or if immediately before, during or immediately after the offence threatens or uses violence, upon conviction, he shall upon conviction be sentenced to death".

However, the law prescribed 10 years imprisonment for any person who unlawfully imprisons anybody within the state in such a manner as to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or preventing him from disclosing to any person the place where he is imprisoned.

While announcing the passage of the law, Odoh thanked his colleagues for their contributions towards the passage of the bill.

He explained that the members gave the bill an accelerated hearing in order to address the needs of the state as of the moment.

He said that the passage was necessary in order to give the law enforcement agents the legal instrument with which to operate in performing their onerous duty of maintaining law and order in the society.

Odo urged those that would implement the law upon being assented to by the Governor to take it seriously so as to help check the rising cases of kidnap in the state.

However, reacting to this development, a legal practitioner who chose that his name remain out of print said that it was cruel for the Assembly to endorse such a bill initiated by the governor.

The source noted that crime is one of the offshoots of bad leadership occasioned by election rigging.

"The House and initiators of the bill cannot talk about rigging election because they are beneficiaries, and rather they are talking about capital punishment for kidnappers.

"Is it not an irony that in Rivers State where people are being kidnapped on a daily basis, the crime attracts life jail, which is enough punishment but our lawmakers in Enugu and their principals decided in all their wisdom to make it capital offence," the source said.

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