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Senate moves to prohibit ransom payment to kidnappers

…proposes 15 years imprisonment for defaulters

The Senate, yesterday, considered a bill that seeks to prohibit the payment and receipt of ransom for the release of any person kidnapped, imprisoned or wrongfully confined. The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which scaled second reading during plenary, is sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi.

In his debate, the lawmaker explained that the proposal biu sought to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013tooutlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappersand terrorists for the release of any person wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped. Accordingtohim, the bill seeks to substitute for Section 14 of the Principal Act, a new section to read: “Anyone who transfers funds, makespaymentorcolludes with an abductor, kidnapper or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person, who has been wrongfully confined, imprisonedorkidnappedis guilty of a felony and is li-ableonconvictiontoaterm of imprisonmentof notless than 15 years.” He expressed serious concern that kidnapping hadbecomeafastandlucrativebusiness, notingthat,“it has nowremainedthe most virulentformof banditryin Nigeriaandthemostpervasiveandintractableviolent crime in the country.” The politicians attributedthespateof kidnappings in the country to factors such as corruption, unemployment, povertyandconnivanceof securityagents. He lamented that the frequency at which persons were kidnapped daily had put most Nigerians at risk.

He cited a report compiled by the Financial Times and the USA Global Risk Consultancy in November, 2019, noting that Nigeria hadthe highestrate of kidnapsforransomof both locals and foreigners in all of Africa, withkidnappers operating in each of its 36 states. He said: “The reason behind payments of ransom is rooted in the fact that people easily identify with individual suffering. However, history has shown that even where ransom is proven to have been paid, the life or safe return of a kidnap victim may not be guaranteed.” He observed that countries like the USA and the United Kingdom did not support payment of ransoms to kidnappers.

“Payments of terrorist ransoms is illegal under the UK Terrorism Act 2000 while the USA adheres to a strict No-Concessions policy on the payment of ransom”, he pointed. The Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Bill, 2021, after scaling second reading, was referred by thePresidentof theSenate, AhmadLawan, totheCommitteeonJudiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters forfurtherlegislativework.

The committee, which is chaired by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, is expected to report back in four weeks. Meanwhile, two separate billsseekingtoestablishthe Federal University of Science and Technology, Lau, TarabaState, andtoamend the Federal Universities of Technology Act 2004 also passed second reading on Wednesday. The bills are sponsored by Senators Shuaibu Isa (TarabaNorth), andOyelola YisaAshiru, andreferred to theCommitteeonTertiary InstitutionsandTETFUND for further work, to report totheChamber withinfour weeks.




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