Nigeria: 'Ineffective Legal System to Curb Criminality, Cause of Banditry'

Kaduna — The 19 Northern Governors have attributed the increasing level of armed banditry, kidnapping and other criminal activities in the north to the inability to codify criminal justice system in the region.

According to the Governors who met in Kaduna yesterday, efforts are being made to fortify the Penal code in the Northern States in order to ensure that all forms of criminal activities are brought to an end.

Borno State Governor and Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF), Kashim Shettima, in his opening address lamented over the weak legal code which has not been able to check insurgency and other criminal acts, pointing out that "in the face of the increasing security challenges, especially emergent criminal activities such as kidnapping, cattle rustling, incessant communal clashes, inciting religious preaching and suicide bombings among others, most of which were not properly codified in the criminal justice system of Northern Nigeria, we found it judicially imperative to incorporate such criminal offences into the penal code."

He said: The Forum has, therefore, established a committee of Attorneys-General of the 19 Northern States to critically examine the provisions of the criminal justice system vis-à-vis, the emergent criminal activities, with a view to ensuring that perpetrators of such criminal offences are brought to justice."

"Accordingly, the forum advised all State Houses of Assembly in the 19 Northern States to make amendments and modifications to the existing criminal justice system."

Shettima also spoke on other issues affecting the North, noting that "sequel to persistent reports of drug abuse especially among the youths and women in the Northern States, the Forum initiated the move to fight the menace in a holistic and all-encompassing manner, by setting up committees of relevant stakeholders in each State of the region, towards eliminating the scourge of drug abuse."

He also revealed: At the National level, the Forum made a passionate appeal to the Federal Government to frontally deal with the issue of drug abuse and possibly declare a state of emergency in the fight against the scourge. It is gratifying to note that the Federal Government has heeded our call, which culminated in the setting up of the Marwa Committee against drug abuse."

"I would, at this juncture extend the Forum's appreciation to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman, and Dr. Vincent, a professional psychiatrist for drawing the attention of the Forum to the problems associated with drug abuse and making invaluable and implementable recommendations on the way forward."

Recounting the achievements of the NGF in the past four years under his Chairmanship, Shettima explained that, "the forum in a bid to attain some degree of financial independence, resolved to create a joint financial institution, which could serve as a vehicle for the region's economic recovery and overall sectoral development."

"In pursuance of this objective, each state is to contribute N50 million monthly, for a period of six months. So far, we have N650 million out of the expected N5.7 billion. I am, therefore, calling on states that are yet to fulfill their pledge to do so in order to enable us embark on the implementation of the various programmes and projects articulated under the scheme.

"This includes the establishment of a renewable energy plant capable of generating 3000 - 4000MW of electricity," he added.

Shettima further stressed on the effort by the Northern Governors to reposition the business and economic interests of the States, pointing out that, "the forum has also been able to make pragmatic initiatives towards the resuscitation of the New Nigeria Development Company in order to restore its position as the business and economic live-wire of the region."

"To this end, about six billion naira was approved by the Forum for the implementation of a five-year strategic development plan, which if properly executed would undoubtedly propel the region into economic prosperity. In addition, a new commodity marketing company was established, as a subsidiary of the NNDC, to develop and promote agricultural activities in the region. In order to further consolidate the economic base of the region, the NNDC had signed a memorandum of understanding with Savanna Petroleum Limited for the development of four oil blocks."

Additionally, he explained: " The NNDC has commenced negotiations with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to venture into oil and gas exploration in the Northern region. Plans are also underway to resuscitate the Kaduna Textiles Company into full production of textile materials, which hopefully, would among other things, meet the uniform needs of our Armed Forces and other para-military agencies."

"The Forum has also been able to resolve the misunderstanding between pensioners and the management of the New Nigeria Newspapers, to the extent that the process has began for the payment of the entitlements of pensioners. This is part of the strategic plans to reinvigorate the newspaper towards making it an economically viable and professionally competitive in line with international best practices."

At the end of a meeting yesterday, the Forum elected Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, as its new Chairman to succeed Shettima to continue to build on the achievements of its past leaders.

Shettima said the election of the Plateau governor was based on the peace and harmony he has brought to the people of his state.

He commended members of the Forum for electing Lalong and urged them to give him all the needed support to succeed.

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