A few days back, over 20 gunmen allegedly stormed the Isheri North Estate and kidnapped the Secretary of the community association, Mr. Dayo Adekoya. The abductors reportedly killed three estate security men as they attempted to prevent the gunmen from escaping. On Saturday, 16th July, 2016, Oba Goriola Oseni, the Oniba of Ibaland, was kidnapped in his palace and the kidnappers 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.
In the aftermath of the sad event, the 73 year old monarch, his wife and five others were abducted. Ardent custodians of Yoruba tradition and culture have referred to the incident as a taboo. The respected monarch was to spend 21 agonizing days in the hands of his sadistic captors. While the gory incident lasted, his family members, community, fellow traditional rulers and, indeed, the whole of Lagos State anxiously waited for news concerning his release. When eventually the monarch gained his freedom, everyone heaved a great sigh of relief.
However, the story did not actually end there. Being a State that has enormous respect for the sanctity of human life as well as the upholding of the rule of law, the Lagos State Government, in collaboration with relevant law enforcement agencies, vowed that the perpetrators of the dastardly act would not escape the long arms of the law. The Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, was particularly emphatic that the architects of the heinous crime would be reprimanded. In a very unambiguous language, the Governor said: “The kind of Lagos we are trying to build isn’t one that tolerates this kind of needless gangsterism. Take my word for it, we are going to go after these evil doers and ensure that they are appropriately dealt with in the spirit of the law of the land. Our Lagos won’t be a haven for criminals”.
True to his words, weeks after the Oniba was released, his alleged abductors were caught by security agents. The suspects are: Yeris Fresh 45, Anthony Ebidaear, 51 and Keremeni Mode, 40. They are now standing trial on an eight-count charge bordering on conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, robbery, armed robbery, felony and kidnapping preferred against them by the Lagos State Government. Ordinarily, the State Government ought to have allowed the police to take over the prosecution of the case as it is customary. But because the State Government is itching to use this particular case to sufficiently drive home its zero tolerance for crime and all acts of criminalities in the Sate, the State Ministry of Justice is directly prosecuting the case.
According to Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, the State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, henceforth, the Office of the Attorney General will work closely with security operatives to ensure that all cases of kidnapping, cultism, rape, sexual and domestic violence crimes are prosecuted to logical conclusions. He said: “The swift commencement of the trial of the suspects in the kidnap of the Oniba is a strong signal by the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that it is not business as usual for criminals.” Kazeem further assured that the Ambode administration was determined to halt the scourge of kidnapping, cultists’ killings, rapes and murder in the state while adding that: “If you commit a crime, we will find you and prosecute you, no matter how long it takes”.
To fully express its determination to give the trial of the case everything it takes, at the commencement of the trial at the Lagos Magistrate Court, Igbosere, it was Mr. Adeniji Kazeem that personally led a team of counsel for the State. According to the prosecutor, the offences contravened Sections 233, 230, 299, 297 (2) (b) and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State C17, Vol 3 Laws of Lagos State, 2015. Just a few days ago, the case was up for hearing again at same court with Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo presiding.
It would be recalled that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode recently signed the Anti-Kidnapping Law, which specifies death sentence for kidnappers in the State. The law recommends death for kidnappers in whose custody victims die and life jail for those who kidnap for ransom. While speaking on the significance of security to his administration, Governor Ambode said: “Security is of utmost importance to our administration and we are confident that this law will serve as a deterrent to anybody who may desire to engage in this wicked act within the boundaries of Lagos”.
The Anti-Kidnapping Law is wide-ranging as it prescribes punishment for the actors, the collaborators, the aiders and those who saw the kidnapping being perpetrated and did nothing about it. Dwelling on the impetus behind the new law, Ambode revealed that kidnapping and all manners of atrocious crimes can no longer be tolerated in the State. Hence, the law is meant to read the riot act to criminals that Lagos is not going to be a safe haven for them. Other measures being put in place by the state government to tackle kidnapping in the state include improved security system in public schools and other easy targets, particularly popular public places to check kidnapping and other security violations.
That the Lagos state government is according the issue of security the desired attention is quite understandable. Lagos is the most populous state of Nigeria and is the leading non oil sector contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic product (GDP). With three lighter terminals and two ports, Lagos generates 50% of Nigeria’s port revenue and the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, is the major hub for aviation within West Africa, and between the region and Europe. Being the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, and indeed West Africa, like similar mega cities of the world, Lagos has enormous security challenges. Apparently, this makes Lagos a soft target for criminal activities and the law is meant to curb this.
Society has always used the instrumentality of the law to discourage potential criminals from engaging in unlawful actions. The law is meant to trounce evil and evil doers. In any society where the reverse is the case, crimes and criminals would reign supreme. According to Irish Statesman and parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. It is, therefore, gratifying to note that the Lagos State Government is obviously doing something to put an end to kidnapping and related crimes in the State. As in the case of Oniba, the law will definitely catch up with perpetrators of the recent crime at Isheri North.
Oyekanmi is of the Public Affairs Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Alausa, Ikeja