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Why death penalty is not the answer for kidnapping


Gabriel Osu

Some few days ago, the Lagos State House of Assembly was reported to have passed a bill, which stipulates death penalty for any kidnapper, whose victim dies in his custody and life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of involvement in established cases of kidnapping. This, according to the lawmakers, was aimed at reducing the high incidences of kidnapping being witnessed in Lagos. We gathered also that several other states are already considering adopting the Lagos position in stemming kidnapping in their domain.

I am in full support of the need to stamp out all forms of criminality from our society, including kidnapping, electoral fraud and such others that are common with public officials. However, I am not in support of death sentence. Those who throw their weight behind death penalty are quick to point to China, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, as some of the climes currently practising such and which have helped to drastically reduce corruption in their societies. They believe that if we adapt similar measure, crime will become a thing of the past. How true is this?

As a Catholic Priest and one who has sworn to defend the dignity and sacredness of human life, I totally disagree with that postulation. I am one of those who have always believed that Nigeria, as a country, would never move forward, except genuine effort is made to pull out corrupt tendencies from our system. However, on the issue of death penalty, I believe it is immoral and can never be the best option to checkmate corruption. The Catholic Church, to which I belong, abhors death penalty. We believe that God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning, until its end. No one can, under any circumstances, claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.

In the process of meting out death sentence, there is the tendency of sentencing an innocent person. The wrongful execution of an innocent person is an injustice that can never be rectified. Death penalty can prolong suffering for victims’ families. If you go down memory lane during the military era, the killing of some young men for allegedly peddling drugs have not in any way reduced the number of those plying the trade. Many more have since joined. It can never serve as a deterrent.  Besides, aside kidnapping, criminal such activities as electoral fraud, embezzlement of public funds and other heinous crimes being perpetuated by some of our politicians and civil servants are equally grave. Should we then also introduce death penalty for the highbrow perpetuators?

The way forward is for the political class to do what is right, by leading with true fear of God and providing the platform for our youths to be gainfully employed. A hungry man is an angry man, and an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.
• Very Rev. Msgr. Osu, Director, Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos.

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Gabriel Osu
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