Insecurity: Ending era of ransom payment


  • ‘Ransom payment’ll cease with improved security’

Lawyers have expressed deep concerns over the unabated cases of ransom payments to kidnappers and terrorists amidst the passage of a Bill criminalizing same by the Senate. The lawyers, who are critical of the Bill, believed that the only way to stop people from paying ransom is for the Federal Government to promptly see to the end of kidnapping and other frightening insecurity challenges facing the nation. AKEEM NAFIU reports



The unabated cases of ransom payments to kidnappers and terrorists despite the passage of a Bill criminalizing same by the Senate have elicited deep concerns among some senior lawyers. The lawyers while querying the rationale behind the passage of the Bill, carpeted the lawmakers, saying they ought to know that such legislation will be observed in breach considering the precarious situation of things in the country.


They opined that the only way to discourage people from engaging in ransom payment is for government at all levels to be alive to their responsibilities of protecting lives and property of Nigerians as enshrined in Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution. The Senate had on the 27th of April, 2022, after passing a Bill seeking to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, prohibited ransom payment to kidnappers and terrorists in the country.


The legislation, Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, was passed after the lawmakers considered a report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters.


The report was considered after it was laid by the Committee’s Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central). Presenting the report, Senator Bamidele told his colleagues that the Bill seeks to outlaw payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped.


He said the the proposed repeal and enactment Bill was geared toward improving the effectiveness of countermeasures against terrorism, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing.


The senator noted that the National Task Force on improving Nigeria’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime in Nigeria proposed improvement on the Act in order to address the deficiencies noted in its provisions so as to align with the required standard as obtainable in other jurisdictions.

He added that the amendment to the Terrorism Act would set standards and regulatory system intended to prevent terrorist groups from laundering money through the banking system and other financial networks. “The overall import of this Bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom In Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country.


“Having policies in place to combat financing of terrorism will surely reduce or eliminate privacy and anonymity in financial and other sundry transactions as it relates to the subject in our society.


“The need to comprehensively review the Terrorism Prevention Act arose from the unfavorable ratings of Financial Act Task Force (FATF) recommendations of Nigeria’s Mutual Evaluation Report and consequent placement of Nigeria in FATF’S International Cooperation and Review Group Process with its impending sanctions on Nigeria’s economy.

“The passage of this Bill will save Nigeria from being included among countries in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List with its attendant negative consequences, which might ultimately result in international sanctions that would affect the image of the country in the comity of nations*, Bamidele stated further.


In his remarks following the passage of the Bill, Senate’s President, Ahmad Lawan, expressed his hope that the legislation would complement the Federal Government’s efforts in the fight against insecurity when signed into law by President Buhari.

Lawan said: “It is our belief here in the Senate, that this Bill, by the time signed into an Act by Mr. President, will enhance the efforts of this government in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping and other associated and related vices.

“This is one piece of legislation that can turn around not only the security situation in Nigeria but even the economic fortunes of our country.

“We have done so much as a government, in terms of infrastructural development across all parts of this country, but because the security situation is not the kind of situation that we all want, this tends to overshadow all the tremendous and massive developments in our country.


“I believe that the Executive will waste no time in signing this Bill into law, and it is our hope that this additional piece of legislation will achieve the purpose for which it has been worked upon by the Senate, and, indeed, the National Assembly and, for the reason for which it would also be signed by Mr. President.

“Let me make it very clear here, that the fight against insecurity, whether it is kidnapping, terrorism, or whatsoever, is not the sole role of a government.


“The contribution and support by citizens are essential because our security agencies need vital and critical information against terrorism and other things that make life difficult for us”.


Ransom payment continues Some days after the Senate’s passage of the Bill prohibiting ransom payment, indications that it may not achieve the intended purpose emerged after reports that a whopping N100 million was paid by the Methodist Church in Nigeria to secure the release of its Prelate, His  Eminence Samuel Kanu-Uche and two others from kidnappers’ den. The Prelate was kidnapped alongside his Chaplain, Very Rev. Abidemi Shittu and the Methodist Bishop of Owerri, Rt. Rev. Dennis Mark, while they were returning from a programme in the Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State.


They however regained freedom 24 hours after their abduction. Following their release, the Prelate addressed a press conference where he broke the news of the ransom payment. Kanu-Uche told journalists that he and his team were on their way to the Airport when they were abducted.


His words: “In order to catch up with my flight at 4pm, we took off by 2pm to go to the airport, oblivious of the fact that kidnappers were waiting on the road. As we were descending to Ileru in Abia State, they came out from the bush and divided themselves into three groups.


“Some were at the back, some at the centre. Then, there was another group in front to make sure we did not run away. They fired shots at our vehicle and eventually abducted three of us. The communication man of the church and the driver escaped. “They took us into the bush and tortured us. In the process of the torture, I hit my right eye on a tree and even when blood was flowing and was soaking my handkerchief, they did not feel like anything happened. All they said was that we should follow them.


“The eight-man gang was made up of Fulani boys who claimed to be against the government. Only one of the hoodlums understood English, while others spoke Fulfulde. They even said that if they get Buhari, they will chew him to pieces because he had disappointed them. “I observed that military men were around the place where the hoodlums operated, while their cows were also around the vicinity.


“We were taken into the bush and we trekked up to 15 kilometres. Eventually at 11pm, they said we should negotiate and each of us should pay N50 million, making N150 million. They later pegged the ransom at N100 million. “They pointed their guns at us. They threatened that if we involved the DSS, police or Army, they would kill us. They said down there, there is a gully of seven decomposing bodies and we cut off their heads. We also perceived the odour of killed human beings.


“Their leader asked for five Ghana- Must-Go bags for the N100 million. He also said Lagos is on their radar. “The Methodist church sent N100 million for the three of us who were kidnapped. The money came from members of the Methodist Church of Nigeria.


The Nigerian Army is complicit in the kidnapping”. Lawyers speak Some senior lawyers have called on the Federal Government to be alive to its responsibility of protecting lives and property of Nigerians. The lawyers spoke at the weekend on the heels of the rising tide of ransom payments to kidnappers and terrorists despite the existence of a Bill criminalizing same.


They maintained that the Bill is destined to fail as long as the security situation in the country continue to deteriorate. Speaking on the issue, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Adekunle Ojo (SAN), disclosed that it is only when people are no longer being kidnapped that ransom payment will stop.


Ojo said: “Passing this kind of Bill at this point in time amounts to a misplaced priority. What should be paramount is how do we stop people from being kidnapped by kidnappers and terrorists. You can’t dictate to a man who is in a ditch how to save his life.


“In essence, the law is bound to fail and will be counted among the obsolete laws in circulation. Before a law is passed, lawmakers are expected to think about the prevailing circumstances in which the law will operate. What social value will this law serve? What is the essence of passing a law that would be observed in breach?


“A cleric in one of the orthodox churches was kidnapped recently and upon his release, he spoke on how a whopping sum of N100 million was paid by his church for his release. How can you criminalize ransom payment under such atmosphere?. I think it amounts to idleness on the part of the senators to come up with this kind of legislation.


“People are being kidnapped on a daily basis and security operatives were even reported to be complicit in some of the cases and the only thing our lawmakers believed could end the menace is to criminalize ransom payment. This is ridiculous to say the least”.


A former National President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, noted that the responsibility of protecting and rescuing victims of kidnapping is that of government. “I couldn’t fathom the rationale behind that Bill by the Senate.


It was nonsensical and provocative. In the first place, the outright breach of Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution which mandates the protection of lives and property by government at all levels was enough to completely locate the responsibility within the ambit of those in authority.


This idea of passing the buck of cardinal responsibility of government to the people, no less victims of leadership failure was questionable.


“The responsibility of protecting and rescuing victims of kidnapping is that of government. However, it is unthinkable that a victim of kidnapping by reason of leadership failure will be put at a fix to decide on how to secure his or her release from kidnappers’ den.

This is double jeopardy. “What I think should be done to end the era of ransom payments is for the Federal Government to up its games, get out of the box and creatively find ways of providing security for lives and property of Nigerians”, Malachy said. A University lecturer, Dr. Fassy Yusuf, linked the unabated cases of ransom payments to government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities.


He said: “The failure of government to live up to its responsibilities will further push relatives of kidnap victims to take desperate steps to rescue their family members. The situation of things in the country is debilitating, critical and has gone beyond mere declarations.

“The situation is making us to feel like we are in a jungle or banana republic. Until government is ready to live up to its responsibilities and ensure the security of lives and property, people will continue to do everything to ensure their wellbeing.

“I don’t think I have any solution to end the era of ransom payment in the country because the government that ought to perform is not performing. The only thing that can save us now is for our security architecture to be overhauled.


Government should rejigged the security architecture and ensure that all the security agencies are able to perform their responsibilities. Government should continue to change the leadership of security agencies until the desired results are achieved”.


A Lagos-based lawyer, Mr. Destiny Takon, noted with dismay that incidences of terrorism and kidnapping for ransom have become so routine, pedestrian and normal. He said ransom payment will stop when government is ready and determined to stamp out the vices. “Terrorism and kidnapping were first, heinous crimes before the senate criminalized payment of ransom to perpetrators of those offences.


“Available statistics showed that incidences of terrorism and kidnapping are on the rise from day to day in Nigeria, with the government of  the day looking the other way and has in fact told Nigerians to pray to God for their deliverance against the “alien invaders” from Libya and other North African countries. In sane climes, the Heads of security agencies, should have been sacked by now or resigned by themselves, for their failure to provide security or justify their appointment.


“Indeed, incidences of terrorism and kidnapping for ransom have become so routine, pedestrian and normal that they hardly deserve mention in the daily news media and the government of the day, telling Nigerians by their body language that they are ‘on their own’ “The passage of the Bill by the Senate is comparable to criminalizing the taking of paracetamol to soothe the pains of a headache, without doing anything to stop the cause of the headache itself. It is simply, a mere window dressing and a misplaced priority.


“The way to arrest the sad trend of ransom payment therefore, is for the government of the day to live up to its divine and constitutional duty to protect its citizens by providing security for them, rather than blowing the whistle at ransom payment which is only a desperate resort by abandoned and helpless citizens, in a bid to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones”, Takon said.


In his reaction, Chief Iheke Solomon, noted that the State has failed and ransom payments, kidnappings, banditry, extra judicial killings and other forms of criminality shall not cease. He said: “They will be on the increase, and the perpetrators like their counterparts in public offices will only be emboldened because the foundation of the State is erected on falsity, crude force, sectional interests and fraud.


“Laws are not obeyed merely because of the sanctions they attract. Intrinsic value and high quality of life is the essence of a law abiding society. Every society is a product of its image. The Nigerian State is in a free-fall and helplessly drifting.


The centre Is no longer holding. “That there’s no precipitous implosion and contemporaneous descend into anarchy is not an indication that the Nigerian State is pulling through. We pretend to evade the truth.


But even in our closets, we know of a truth that our country was founded on force and fraud, we cannot therefore expect good and patriotic citizens who value the sanctity of life and respect of the law”.




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