The Nigerian Navy Thursday faulted the proposed criminalisation of ransom payment to abductors and terrorists.
Rear Admiral Kennedy Egbuchulam, Director of Administration, Naval Headquarters, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, spoke at the National Assembly, Abuja, at a public hearing on Terrorism Prevention Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 which seeks to outlaw payment of ransom to secure the release of captives.
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The hearing was organised by the Senate Committees Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters; and Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi (Imo East).
Section 14 of the bill provides that “Anyone who transfers funds, makes payment or colludes with an abductor, kidnapper or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped is guilty of a felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years.”
Egbuchulam said instead of outright criminalisation, negotiation or payment of ransom should be subjected to security vetting.
He said: “It’s suggested that the Bill could make the negotiation/proposed payment of ransom to kidnappers or terrorists to secure release of hostages subject to the prior knowledge of ONSA/Armed Forces of Nigeria/Police for coordination. It’s opined that subjecting such payment of ransom to security vetting and tracking is preferable to outright criminalization.”
Similarly, EFCC Director of Legal and Prosecution Department, Chile Okoroma, said: “The bill on terrorism is well intended but the issue of prosecuting those that paid ransom should be looked at. It should be narrowed to those who received ransom.”