Senate faults judges’ lenient penalties for drug offences
*To compel candidates’ participation in presidential debate
The Senate has faulted the flexible penalties judges impose for drug offences in the country.
To correct the situation, a bill was yesterday sponsored by Senator Gbenga Ashafa, (APC, Lagos East) titled, “A Bill for an Act to amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act Cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (2004).”
The lawmaker stated that the NDLEA Act prescribed 15 years to life imprisonment for culprits in narcotic cases. He, however, lamented that some judges have formed the habit of reducing sentences to lower terms and in some cases options of fines.
Ashafa recalled some instances of such reduced sentences in the case of one Shola Adeitan, 32 who was sentenced to five years for dealing in cocaine, while another convict, Bello Adam, 37 was sentenced to two years for marijuana.
Similarly, he also recalled the case of a 19-year-old Pakistani, Iftikhar Arslan, who was in 2015 sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Federal High Court in Lagos for importing 25.4kg of heroin into Nigeria.
“Worse still, is the fact that when some of the judges pass these light terms of imprisonment, the convicts in some cases are further given options of fines, which is only available for accused persons found guilty of obstruction of the agency or authorised officers, not for actual perpetrators of the offence.
“The purpose of the stiff punishment is to deter people from engaging in drug-related activities. Where a person caught with cocaine is sentenced to a few months’ imprisonment, or given an option of fines as can be seen in certain cases, one wonders what signal the country is sending to drug dealers and traffickers, their countries, our youths and the international community.
“The arbitrariness that is being perpetrated by the trial judges by not following the provisions of the NDLEA Act clearly can lead to corrupt practices. As a matter of fact, it only encourages illicit drug practices.”
The Senate also approved for further legislative processing, a bill to compel presidential and governorship candidates of major political parties in the country to participate in debates ahead of general elections.
Tagged “Nigerian Political Debates Commission Bill, 2015” and sponsored by Senator Abdulfatai Buhari, (APC, Oyo North), the bill passed the second reading stage after exhaustive debate on the floor of the upper legislative chamber yesterday.
Defending the bill, Senator Buhari said it was a proposal to give legislative backing for the establishment of a commission with the responsibility to organise and conduct debates for all the candidates cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to participate in election into the offices of the president and vice president of the country as well as governor and deputy governor of a state.