Kidnapping: The Legal Implications and its Challenges to Administration of Criminal Justice in Plateau State by Yahaya Mohammed Kanam, Esq.


Being a paper presented at the Kanam Progressives Online Youth Forum’s symposium tagged “Kanam in the face of New Security Challenges: The Role of Youths as the Catalyst for Peace” Held on 12th September, 2020.


Protocol

Permit me to begin by appreciating the organizers of this event for timeously putting this symposium together. This symposium is most timely as the issue of security is on the front burner. The discussions about security occupies every facet of the discussions about our continuous survival as a nation. It is therefore pertinent as young people to lead this discourse because the future belongs to us.

It is an open secret, sadly, that the entire country in recent times has been bedeviled by a myriad of security challenges ranging from armed banditry, communal clashes and kidnapping.

These security challenges undoubtedly put a strain on our security apparatchik and in fact the justice system.

Kidnapping is a serious crime and has potential of transforming into other felonious offences, such as physical violence, financial victimization, rape, torture and murder (culpable homicide). Kidnapping for ransom is not new and certainly not peculiar to Nigeria.

Kidnapping/hostage taking is an ancient crime and has been with other societies for long. However, the recent American Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) ranking of Nigeria to the fourth position in its global ranking on kidnapping and hostage taking is worrisome and a serious threat to Nigeria’s national security.

Before the 1990s, incidences of kidnapping were very few, however today, Nigeria has overtaken the United States of America as the epicenter of kidnapping in the world.

The current tide of kidnapping in Nigeria can be traced historically to the activities of Niger-Delta militants in the early 2000s. In those days, the militants kidnapped expatriates in the oil and gas industry ostensibly to draw global attention to the deplorable and despicable state of the oil rich Niger-Delta region due to frustration of the activities of multinational oil companies, environmental degradation, resources control etc. Since then, kidnapping has spread its ugly tentacles to other parts of the country.

With the advent of the Boko Haram Islamic sect in Northern Nigeria a lot of terror related kidnapping/hostage taking have became a tool for crimes against humanity. This crime is a common phenomena and one of the most serious security threats to national security across the country.
The consensus now is that, everyone is a target and nowhere is immune from kidnapping and kidnappers. What was initially adopted as a tool of ideological struggle has since become a major source of livelihood.

As the problem grew into a national security crisis, the initial victims were mainly expatriates/foreigners working in the oil and gas sector, but the kidnappers have since expanded their nets to cover Nigerians especially rich men, politicians and their families, traditional/religious leaders and anyone that has the connection or ability to pay. Kidnapping is now a huge business with numerous syndicates operating such businesses. Kidnapping is paying well for its perpetrators. It obviously yields more illegitimate money with minimal risk than armed robbery along high ways or in industrial and residential areas. There is a near certainty that the families or relations of the victim will pay ransom demanded by the kidnappers. This is as a result of bad governance, weak laws and even at that, those laws are not enforced.

Legal Framework of Kidnapping in Plateau State

Kidnapping is a crime in Plateau State just like in any other penal law. A crime is act of commission or omission that is regarded as an offence by the law. There is a lot of problem in the administration of criminal justice system as the wheel is clogged with loopholes and bottlenecks.

Prior to the coming into force of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, (ACJA) in 2015, Nigeria is divided into two (2) Criminal procedural jurisdictions, the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) applicable in the Northern States including Plateau State, and the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) applicable in the Southern States and the Federal High Court. These applicable laws were of colonial origin with little modifications.

Upon the coming into effect of the ACJA 2015, both the CPC and the CPA were merged and made Nigeria with a united Criminal Procedure Jurisdiction. Many states domesticated the Act into laws. In Plateau State, there is Plateau State Administration of Criminal Justice Law, (ACJL) 2018.

Preceding the domestication of ACJA into law in Plateau State, the state repealed its Penal Code which has colonial origin as well to Plateau State Penal Code Law 2017.
In Plateau State, the offence of Kidnapping is provided for under section 245 of the Penal Code Law of Plateau State 2017.
Section 245 provides:
Whoever unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, instills fear, tricks, abducts or carries away and holds for ransom, reward or otherwise any person, commits the offence of kidnapping.

Therefore in law, it is enough to establish an act of kidnapping by taking away of person for a ransom, or reward or any beneficial interest unlawfully against the will, wishes of such a person if he is an adult, or without the consent of his/her parents or guardian in the case of a minor.

This definition extended to confining of a person for a ransom or reward or any beneficial interest. Therefore, in law kidnapping does not necessarily envisages a scenario of taking someone into hostage but one could be kidnapped even in his own domain.

Under the aforementioned law, the punishment stipulated for kidnapping is life imprisonment. Section 245 (2) of the Penal Code Law of Plateau state 2017, provides:
“Whoever is guilty of the offence of kidnapping shall be punished with imprisonment for life”
Where death of a person is occasioned in the processes of such kidnapping, section 245 (3) of the Law provides:
“If the death of any person occurs as a result of committing the offence of kidnapping, the offender shall be punished with death”

The law further encapsulated provisions for conspiracy, attempt and threat to commit kidnapping under sections 246 of the Penal Code Law of Plateau State 2017. The punishment for conspiracy to kidnap where one or more of such persons do any overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy (to kidnap), each shall be guilty and liable on conviction to imprisonment for fourteen (14) years without option of fine. Where there is an attempt to commit kidnapping the punishment is imprisonment for twenty (20) years without option of fine.
Whoever causes extreme fear to or threatens any person by means of letter, tax, email, text message (sms), telephone call or any other method of communication, is liable on conviction to imprisonment for twenty (20) years without option of fine.
Likewise if someone instigate, aids, abets or assist the escape of a kidnapper is liable on conviction to imprisonments for twenty (20) years without option of fine. Whoever harboured a kidnapped person is on conviction liable to imprisonment for twenty (20) years without option of fine. All these are provided in section 247 and 248 of the Penal Code Law

Same applicable to someone who obtain any ransom for the release of a kidnapped is ten (10) years imprisonment without option of fine. Fourteen years (14) years imprisonment awaits a person who arrange for one’s self kidnap, false representation as a kidnapped or abducted person.

On reasonable suspicion, Police are empowered by the provisions in the Police Act CAP P19 LFN 2004 and the ACJL 2018 to effect arrest. The Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Plateau State 2018 made far reaching provisions upon arrest before proper arraignment in the court of law, on an application exparte even without jurisdiction, a lower court can order for the remand of the suspect under section 307 of the ACJL 2018.

With all the efforts made by successive governments across the country, kidnapping seems to be unabating. Therefore, there is more to the role of the criminal justice system in arresting the hydra headed monster called kidnapping.

From the available official data obtained from the Plateau State Police Command, in 2019, about 94 cases of kidnapping reported to the Police. In April 2019 the commissioner of Police Plateau State command created an Anti-Kidnapping Unit (AKU) with an office at Anglo Jos Police Divisional Headquarters. This is a highly commendable effort in curbing this dastard menace.

From 1st January 2020 to 31st August 2020, about 74 cases of kidnapping are officially reported to the Police in Plateau State. In January 2020, 11 cases were reported; February 2020, 10 cases; March 2020, 9 cases; April 2020, 3 cases; May 2020, 6 cases; June 2020, 14 cases; July 2020, 7 cases and August 2020 there were 14 kidnapping cases reported.

The criminal justice system comprises, largely, of the Police, the ministry of justice and the courts. The Police are usually the security operatives saddled with the responsibility of preventing and/or investigating criminal offences.

The ministry of justice is to proffer legal advice to the police and conduct prosecution of offenders. The Police do equally prosecute after obtaining legal advice from the ministry of justice.

The courts have the constitutional power in exercise of its judicial/adjudicatory powers to entertain criminal offences which includes kidnapping.

Challenges confronting the administration of criminal justice on kidnapping

There are multifarious challenges hindering the effective administration of criminal justice generally, however, with particular reference to kidnapping below are some of these challenges in Plateau State.

Delays in trials

One of the major problems of the administration of criminal justice system in prosecuting kidnapping cases apart from the delays in the process of determining whether a person will be tried or not, is the excruciatingly slow pace of the trials. This can be attributed to inability to conclude investigation in time, frivolous applications by lawyers, unnecessary adjournments and over burdening the court with cases etc.

  • Unavailability of victim witnesses to testify;
  • Transfer of investigation officers (IPO) who are not forthcoming due to finance or other official assignment to testify in court;
  • Difficulty in securing eye witnesses;
  • Poor working condition of judges, inadequate facilities and unconducive environment which makes them prone to rising early in sittings;
  • Lack of trained IPO’s in kidnapping cases;
  • Lack of motivation of official witnesses;
  • Lack of training and re-training of prosecutors on contemporary crimes like kidnapping; Corruption, bribe taking and gratification;
  • Politics is one factor;
  • Lack of technical devices (there is need to move from analog investigation to forensic);
  • Lack of funding of the police especially anti-kidnapping/legal units;
  • Lack of machineries e.g vehicles (Hilux), befitting office, cell facilities; etc
  • Lack of motivation of the security operatives; the morale of the anti-kidnapping personnel is low no provision for hazards.
  • Lack of cooperation from GSM service providers.

Recommendations

One of the biggest challenges facing administration of criminal justice in respect of kidnapping is that very few cases of kidnapping have been successfully prosecuted.

In the light of the numerous challenges faced by the criminal justice system in prosecuting kidnapping in Nigeria, it is recommended as follows;

  • That where a police officer acting as an IPO in a kidnapping case is transferred, the police high command should ensure that all subpoenas in respect of that case be honoured by such IPO, his transportation, accommodation and allowances be paid to him.
  • The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and the service providers should ensure that all mobile lines are registered for easy tracing and tracking.
  • Government should put in more effort in providing modern courtrooms which are well equipped.
  • The fight against corruption must be robust and shouldn’t be a matter of lip service from government.
  • There is need to train security operatives in the art of detection prevention and neutralizing the offense of kidnapping.
  • Discourage payment of ransom;
  • There should be full implementation of ACJL particularly with regards to number of adjournments that can be sought and granted.
  • There should also be synergy between security agencies especially in exchange of intelligence gathering and collections regarding hostage taking and kidnapping as well as joint operations.
  • Enhancing of expertise by designating some judges, prosecutors and IPOs to handle mainly kidnapping cases. This will eventually encourage specialization in the field of endevour.
  • Special legislation on kidnapping by both Federal and State legislatures empowering all law enforcement and security agencies through political will and adequate funding;
  • Curtailment of proliferation of small arms and ammunition, by improving surveillance and vigilant on our porous borders to minimize proliferation of small fire arms.

Let me conclude by urging young people to even in the face of difficult and challenging times try to stand out as exceptional and well cultured people. The quest for quick and easy money leads to a life of crime and criminality which most certainly ends in tragedy.

We must strive to always be above board. There are multiple noble ways of earning a living. Those means might be slow, but more honourable. As the saying goes, “a good name is better than silver and gold.” We should seek to be men and women of honour and avoid the temptation of crime.

References

  1. Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Plateau State, 2018.
  2. Penal Code Law of Plateau State. 2017
  3. Ibrahim & Mukhtar, an Analysis of the causes and consequences of kidnapping in Nigeria, Afrrev, VOL. 11, S/NO. 48, September, 2017.
  4. Obarisiagbon, E.I & Aderinto A.A., kidnapping and criminal justice in Nigeria, African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies, AJCJS, Vol. 11, April 2018.

Thank you and may Allah the merciful shower his blessings on you.


1 comment

  1. Abdullah Muhammad

    Very excellent presentation, praying that all the recommendations would be implemented so as to reduce if not to eradicate kidnapping in the entire region. May God help us with more of such resource personnels and implementing personalities as well. Kudos 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

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