Heinous crimes: Senate proposes stringent measures

CHUKWU DAVID reports that the Senate, in a recent legislative intervention, took stringent measures against perpetrators of kidnapping and rape by prescribing life imprisonment for kidnappers and passing sexual harassment bill to tackle the vices

As Nigeria grapples with the menace of insecurity and other vices bedeviling the wellbeing of the citizenry, the Senate, in its recent legislative interventions, took steps to tackle the worrisome and escalating incidences of kidnapping and rape in the country. Accordingly, the apex legislative Assembly recently took very drastic actions against the offence and perpetrators of kidnapping by approving life imprisonment for convicted kidnappers in Nigeria, to serve as deterrent to other criminals within that aspect of social malady. Although the Senate did not specify the number of years in jail for offence of rape, as that was left to the discretion of the trial judge, the Red Chamber in its wisdom, however, made the case of rape to be gender inclusive in the mode of man raping woman and vice versa.

The lawmakers also extended the scope of penetration in the act of rape from the conventional private part of a woman to other areas of human body such as the mouth, ear and anus, saying that all carry jail terms based on discretions of judges. Similarly, to make defence difficult and tighter for sexual predators, the legislative Assembly also removed the issue of consent in the act of rape or fraudulent carnal knowledge of another person, as a means of discouraging this act of moral decadence in the country.

The Senate took these legislative measures during a clause-by-clause consideration of the report of its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on “the Criminal Code Act CAP LFN 2004 (Amendment), Bill 2020, which eventually passed third reading.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who represents Lagos Central Senatorial District on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The lawmaker has always been lamenting the scourge of rape in the society, saying that the vices had gained root in the country and should be tackled headlong. Considering the bill, the Senate observed that the frequency of kidnapping across the federation and the resultant trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, made it imperative to review the law, with a view to ensuring adequate and appropriate punishment for perpetrators.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary , Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), who presented the report for consideration, said that Section 364 of the Act was amended to make the punishment a life imprisonment instead of ten years.

“The passage of this bill would proffer a life sentence for persons found guilty of kidnapping as against the provisions of section 364 of the Act, which proffer the punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten (10) years, where the offence of kidnapping is established”, he said.

On rape cases, the Senate amended sections 218 and 221 of the 1916 Criminal Code Act which had to do with the issue of statue of limitations by opening period for complaints on the act from two months to whenever victims felt was convenient to voice out. While the Senate amended section 218 of the Act to extend the period of complaints and prosection of rape act to whatever time complainant wants the case to be taken up, it through amended section 221 of the Act, removed connotations that gave window of escapes to rapists at the detriment of victims.

The provisions read: “it should be noted that the proposition to delete statute of limitation on the prosecution of offences under section 218 and 221 of the Criminal Code Act, is a welcome development as the statue of limitation placed on defilement and rape , negates the principle of natural law, equity and good conscience.

“Secondly, the stakeholders contended that the use of the word “idiot or imbecile “in section 221 of the Act, has pejorative connotations, which have become derogatory and obsolete. As such, their usage should no longer exist in our laws, hence the need for the amendment in line with modern trend in legislative and best practice world over. “Furthermore, section 357 of the Criminal Code Act , defines rape as an offence against women.

However, in recent times, there are incidences of non- consensual sex, perpetrated against the male gender. Therefore, the passage of this bill will ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve in tandem with the rest of the world”. Senator Bamidele said that all its provisions when enacted, would apply to federal high courts in the Southern part of the country where the criminal code Act is applicable and operational. Earlier, the Senate passed a bill for an Act to prevent, prohibit and redress the menace of sexual harassment of students in the nation’s tertiary educational institutions in the country.

The bill, which was sponsored by the Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege (APC, Delta Central), passed third reading following the consideration of the report of the same Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters. Presenting the report for consideration, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Bamidele, told his colleagues that the legislation attracted tremendous support from fellow senators and other Nigerians from all walks of life, who attended the Committee’s public hearing or sent memoranda. He explained that the bill was neither targeted at the educators nor did it interfere with the autonomy of the universities, saying that it was intended to reposition and strengthen the tertiary educational institutions to maintain the core values of etiquette and excellence.

The lawmaker pointed out that the legislation would bridge the huge gap and give legal backing to any internal rule by educational institutions to check the incidences of sexual harassment. Bamidele said that contrary to ASUU’s claim that there were extant laws that could sufficiently address sexual harassment in tertiary institutions, the Committee found that there were no such laws.

“By enacting this bill into law the Nigerian Government would be fulfilling part of its obligations undertaken through the ratification of the United States Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, amongst others”, he said. During the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill, lawmakers, however, differed on the retention of clause seven in the bill.

Sponsor of the bill, Omo-Agege, who proposed an amendment to clause 7, argued that it was unnecessary for the prosecution to prove the intention of the accused person or the condition under which the act of sexual harassment was carried out, saying that the commission of sexual harassment was sufficient to try any educator accused of a sexual offence. However, the Senate Leader, Yahaya Abdullahi and Senator Abdullahi Adamu, opposed his position, arguing that if the bill made it unnecessary for the prosecutor to prove the intention of any accused person in a sexual harassment trial, it would lower the requisite standards obtainable in criminal proceedings.

In his contribution, Senator James Manager, said that going ahead to pass the bill without making it compulsory for prosecutors to prove the intention of the accused person in a sexual harassment case, might expose educators to blackmail and unjust punishment. In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that the passage of the bill by the Senate would ensure the safety of students of tertiary institutions in the country. With these two major interventions from the senate, it is clear that noose will be tightened on the roguish acts of kidnappers and rapists in the country.




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