The Senate has passed for second reading 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 was sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi (Imo East).
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Leading debate on the bill, the lawmaker said the piece of legislation seeks to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013 to outlaw the 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 bill essentially seeks to substitute for section 14 of the Principal Act with a new section to read: “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.”
The lawmaker observed that kidnapping has become a fast and lucrative business, and has now remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria and the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.
“Some blame the rise of this criminal activity on poverty, religion, politics, deficiency of existing laws, unemployment, connivance of security agents, corruption, and greed among others.
“Our unemployed youths are also turning out to kidnapping to get money (ransom) as a survival strategy.
“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 a 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 do 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”, Onyewuchi pointed.
The bill, after scaling the second reading, was referred to the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters for further legislative work.