Scarcely has Lagosians fully savored the good news of the release of abducted Secretary of Isheri Estate (GRA) Landlord Association, Dayo Adekoya, when the news that seven persons have allegedly been kidnapped in Epe Area of Lagos State filtered into the air waves.
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 kidnap cases involving majorly farmers in recent time.
Though majorly a national issue, of late Lagos has had to grapple with pockets of kidnapping incidents, here and there. Not quite long ago, 20 gunmen purportedly stormed the Isheri North Estate and kidnapped, Mr. Dayo Adekoya. The abductors reportedly killed three estate security guards as they attempted to prevent the gunmen from escaping.
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 gun men who purportedly 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 hand of his depraved captors before he was eventually released.
These dare devil 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 staff of the 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 a 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 US 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, like smokers, kidnappers are liable to death. This is the highlight of the Anti Kidnapping Law recently signed by the State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. The law recommends death penalty for kidnappers in whose custody victims die and life jail for those who kidnap for ransom.
The Anti-Kidnapping Law is all-embracing. It stipulates sentence for the actors, the collaborators, the aiders and those who are aware of the act but do nothing about it. The law is primarily meant to warn criminals to desist from further engaging in kidnapping.
It is quite apt that the Lagos State Government and a few other States in the country are exploring the instrumentality of the law to tackle what has now become a monster in our nation. Since what separates the human society from the animal kingdom is the preservation of law and order through the enactment and enforcement of set of rules and laws, it is expected that the Anti Kidnapping Law will go a long way in checkmating the spate of kidnapping in the State. With the ratification of the law, the State Government is simply signifying to kidnappers and their collaborators that it is no longer going to be business as usual for them.
Though some have criticized the law as being too stiff, 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.
As expected, no rational investor would put his money in an unsafe environment. So, kidnapping grossly undermines the country’s economic prospect. Not only this, it is an embarrassment to the image of the country. It doesn’t do our nation much good to have a demeaning global reputation of a haven of rogues and criminals. Many a times, these criminals have dealt in the most inhuman and callous ways with expatriates working, particularly in the oil industry as well as other sectors. This isn’t right as it does more havoc to the image of our nation when it is seen as an unsafe place to transact business.
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 its own part quite appropriately. In most instances, cases that the public are interested in are often bungled because of obvious loopholes that Investigation Police Officers, IPOs, often make available for smart lawyers to capitalize on.
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!
Meanwhile, for emergency situations and other security related matters, Lagos residents could avail themselves of the toll free hotlines; 767 and 112.
Ogunbiyi is the Lagos State Ministry of Information and strategy, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos.