On Thursday, 24th of December 2020, The Governor of Plateau State Simon Lalong signed into law the anti-kidnapping, anti-land grabbing, cultism, and other anti-violence-related matters bill which was recently passed by the House of Assembly.
In the words of the governor, he said “The anti-kidnapping, anti-land grabbing, cultism and other anti-violence related matters law is due because of the increase in kidnapping and other violent crimes in the state.”
He also mentioned that “As a responsible government, we cannot fold our arms and watch our people terrorized by criminals, who are clearly out to cause mayhem. This law will deal with anyone caught in the act.”
This new law which was signed grants a death sentence either by hanging or lethal injection to those convicted for kidnapping and a minimum of 7 years jail term to those found guilty of cultism. Those convicted of being involved in violence against persons risk spending 10 years of jail time.
The question then is; IS THIS BILL NECESSARY OR NOT?
It is worthy to note that Plateau state has in recent times experienced a surge in bandit attacks in communities most especially in the Northern Senatorial District of the state which had claimed the lives of citizens as well as the violent takeover of lands, livestock, and homes.
A family of four was shot and injured on the evening of May 5th by armed assailants who invaded their home in Ghana Ropp, Barkin Ladi LGA while on the 23rd of April, assailants attacked the village of Atang, near Gidan Waya in the Godogodo Chiefdom of Jemaa LGA at around 10 pm and abducted the son of the Chief of Godogodo Chiefdom, Emmanuel Iliya Atang subsequently demanding a ransom of N30 million.
Truth be told, the state has been through a lot and it is understandable why the lawmakers would push through with the bill and why the governor would sign it into law but is this the right step to take in ensuring not just a reduction but an outright end to the nefarious criminal activities in the state?
The bill has been passed into law with the hope that it would serve as a deterrent to persons involved in these criminal activities but will it?
One of the major problems the criminal justice in Nigeria faces is the delay in the dispensation of justice. As a result of this, we have a problem of overcrowding in prisons and other detention centers and this is due to the high percentage of inmates awaiting trial.
We are therefore faced with the issue of persons being arrested but then awaiting trial for as long as possible and in some cases, some who can afford to get bailed. Convictions and acquittals have become rare in the system and this bill certainly doesn’t address that.
Another issue to contend with is the level of security in the state. Criminal activities have been on the rise and the criminals have become more brazen become they seem to get away with the crimes they commit. There have been fewer cases of arrests made in the state and more cases of the criminals not being apprehended.
The governor while signing the bill mentioned that 592 Community Police Constables who had recently been trained by the government had been inaugurated and hoped that “they will boost the work of conventional security personnel to improve security in our communities.”
Sadly though, there was no mention of equipping the security agencies and personnel better, and of course, while a greater number of is a welcome boost, the welfare of security personnel and proper equipping well is paramount in ensuring a crime-free state.
While the passing into law of the new bill seems like a step in the right direction, other belying problems need to be solved and sorted out as well in ensuring that kidnapping, cultism, land grabbing, and other crimes are put to a stop in the state.