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Southern Kaduna, Afenifere fault Senate on Terrorism Act Amendment Bill

By Msugh Ityokura (Abuja), Saxone Akhaine, Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
29 April 2022   |   4:26 am
Leaders of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) have warned the National Assembly on the decision to outlaw payments of ransom to terrorists without any effort in rescuing kidnapped victims, even as security situation in Kaduna and other parts of the country worsens.
Nigeria Senate

National Assembly. Photo/facebook/TopeBrown/NigerianSenate

• Insecurity threatening our nation, could spell doom for Africa, says Speaker
• End kidnapping, terrorism quickly by adopting three strategies, Afenifere tells FG

Leaders of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) have warned the National Assembly on the decision to outlaw payments of ransom to terrorists without any effort in rescuing kidnapped victims, even as security situation in Kaduna and other parts of the country worsens.

The body yesterday faulted the passage of a bill seeking to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, and prohibit the payment of ransom to kidnappers in Nigeria by the Senate. The passage of the bill followed the consideration of a report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters on Tuesday.

The bill was laid by the Committee’s Chairman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central). Bamidele said the bill seeks to outlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for release of any person who had been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped.

According to the lawmaker, the overall import of the bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom, which is fast spreading across the country.

But president of SOKAPU, Jonathan Asake, who addressed a press conference in Kaduna yesterday, blamed the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for escalation of the security situation and for lacking political will to end the current attacks and killings by Fulani militias in Southern Kaduna communities.

Asake said: “We are surprised that the National Assembly are contemplating to criminalise payments of ransom to bandits who kidnap their victims. The question is: has the government or the lawmakers made alternative measures in securing victims or hostages from the hands of terrorists?

“We have seen a lot of the victims being killed by bandits and terrorists if their relations do not pay ransom. If the lawmakers want Nigerians to take their decision to outlaw payments of ransom to terrorists, let them show us what they have done or are doing to secure citizens from the hands of terrorists. If you have relations captured or kidnapped, and you are asked not to pay ransom and the government is doing nothing to secure their lives, it does not make sense.”

On the escalation of insecurity in Kaduna and other parts of the country, Asake said: “It is clear that Kaduna is under siege by a combination of killer Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits and other criminal groups who have continued to terrorise peaceful, vulnerable and defenceless residents.

“There is no single day that passes without an ugly incident of attacks and massacre in rural communities or mass abductions of people in both rural communities and suburbs of urban areas. These ceaseless attacks have continued to leave in their trail tales of massacre, maiming, destruction of property and crops, raping of women and mass displacement of persons from their homelands.

“Just this Monday, April 25, heavily armed herdsmen riding on motorbikes invaded some communities in Kamaru ward, Chawai Chiefdom of Kauru Local Government Area where no fewer than 25 persons were murdered in cold blood.

“By 4:30p.m. of that fateful Monday, the attackers commenced their assault on Ungwar Rimi community and continued to kill, maim and destroy property without any confrontation from security forces. The attack on Ungwar Rimi lasted over three hours.”

Asake added that no fewer than 148 communities have been displaced in Southern Kaduna and about 200,000 internally displaced persons stranded in the state.

“We are calling on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) foreign missions, European Union, United Nations, among others, to beam their searchlight on the atrocities, crimes against humanities and ethnic cleansing being perpetrated against the people of Southern Kaduna under the watch of Governor Nasir el-Rufai,” Asake declared.

THE pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has also faulted the Senate over the passage of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022. In a reaction made available to The Guardian, the National Publicity Secretary of the body, Mr Jare Ajayi, pointed out that the Terrorism Amendment Act left the substance to chase shadows as well as further punishing victims and their families.

Ajayi wondered whether the payment of ransom is the problem or the act of kidnapping itself?

“According to those behind the bill, the intention is to block the source of money, which seems to be the motivation for kidnappers; but what happens to the victims? Without advocating the continuation of this dastardly act, is the Senate saying that families of kidnapped victims should fold their arms and watch their person’s life wasted?

“Would it not be far better for our lawmakers to go to the roots of kidnapping and ensure that it comes to an end quickly with the culprits severely punished? Why doubling the jeopardy of the victims and their families?” he asked.

Ajayi concluded that what the government should do is to put a quick end to kidnapping and terrorism, saying: “Three of the several ways to achieve this are to immediately: Allow state police, equip security agencies adequately and be sincere in the fight against terrorists by actually allowing security agencies to deal with them decisively.”

MEANWHILE, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has lamented the deteriorating level of insecurity in the country, saying security challenges are threatening Nigeria’s existence.

Gbajabiamila, who spoke on Wednesday while delivering a paper at the School of Oriental Studies, London, said if insecurity persists, it would spell “great danger” for Africa and the rest of the world.

Delivering a paper titled ‘Democracy in Challenging Times: Role of African Parliaments in Safeguarding and Delivering on the Dividends of Democracy,’ the Speaker, however, said the Federal Government has activated measures to curb crime in the country by increasing funding for the military and police.

“The most pressing of these challenges today is the national security crisis that threatens the foundations of our nationhood and portends great danger for Africa and the world if it persists,” he said in a statement issued yesterday by Lanre Lasisi, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity.

“First, to address present challenges and then to build resilient institutions that can withstand uncertainty in troubled times, more than anything else, our focus must remain on the young and vibrant youths of Nigeria and Africa who have so much to offer the world and who have proven that they can thrive under challenging circumstances given half a chance.

Gbajabiamila said the House will continue to make laws “for positive change, for righting wrongs and establishing new protocols better suited to the reality of the times than whatever existed before.