The move by the Senate to propose that kidnappers should be jailed for life as against the provision of 10 year imprisonment in extant law, yesterday got a boost as a Bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap. 38 Laws of the Federal Government to this effect, scaled second reading.
Consequently, the Senate has also resolved to strengthen laws against rape in the country, just as it has also endorsed the removal of the two months statute of limitation in the prosecution of rape offenders as contained in the Criminal Code Act.
Against this backdrop, the Senate yesterday considered and read for the second time a Bill for an Act ti Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap C.38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004( SB2) Resolutions of the Senate yesterday were sequel to the consideration of a Bill which among others, seek to delete the Statute of Limitation on defilement and provide for life imprisonment for kidnapping in the Criminal Code Act respectively.
The Bill titled: “A Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP C38 LFN 2004 to delete the Statute of Limitation on defilement, increase in punishment for the offences of kidnapping, remove gender restrictions in the offence of rape and for related matters, 2019″ is sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos Central.
In her lead Debate, Senator Tinubu noted that the amendment being sought is to “delete portions of Sections 218 and 221, amend the definition of rape as contained in Section 357 and increase punishment for the offence of kidnap in Section 364.”
Senator Tinubu who noted that the globally accepted aims of criminal law and the criminal justice system include deterrence, retribution, restoration, and rehabilitation of offenders, said that the criminal justice system ought to deliver substantial justice and closure to the victim, the offender and the State, adding, “Where a law fails to achieve any of these, it is inherently faulty, hence the need for amendment.
”According to her, Section 218 of the Criminal Code provided that anyone who had unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 or attempted same would be guilty of a felony and liable to life imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment respectively.
She said, “My grouse however, is with the provison that prosecution of the offender must be commenced within two (2) months after the offence is committed. What this does, is impose a statute of limitation on prosecution of these offences.
“This bar to prosecution negates the principles of natural law, equity and good conscience,” she lamented. Senator Tinubu who insisted that Section 218 of the Code is not tenable in a country like Nigeria where investigations into cases of rape often take longer than two months, said, “Considering the shortage of Police personnel, relative to our population as prescribed by international standards, the two months limitation is unlikely to be met at all.”
She said that with the development and innovation in forensic technology and the accessibility or otherwise of such infrastructure in Nigeria, rushing investigations in order to commence prosecution within two months would lead errors.
Senator Tinubu said, “In the event that the Police proceeds to prosecute outside the two (2) months, all that it will take to dispel the entire charge is a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Court, on the basis that it was brought outside of the time allowed by law.
“Section 221 suffers a similar fate wherein it provides that where a person has or attempts carnal knowledge of a girl, being of or above the age of thirteen and under the age of sixteen, an ‘idiot or imbecile’, he shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of two years provided that the prosecution is commenced within two months after the offence is committed.
“We are at a time where these sort of crimes are on the increase. Daily, we are regaled with tales of children as old as a few months being defiled.
“Should perpetrators of such crimes be allowed to go scot-free on the basis of the technicality that prosecution did not commence within two months?”
Senator Tinubu who noted that the Bill also proposed an amendment to Section 221, to substitute the words ‘idiot or imbecile’, with the words ‘mentally challenged’, said, “While words like idiot, moron, and imbecile were professionally used to measure 1Q, they have acquired pejorative connotations, become derogatory and obsolete; and should no longer be contained in our laws .
“ The Senator further noted that while the Criminal Code Act defines rape in Section 357 as an offence against women, “there are incidents of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender.
“This definition is particularly grievous because it perpetuates the socio-cultural belief that men do not need to consent to sexual acts. “In addition, we must ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve with the rest of the world.”
The Senator who lamented that while the laws prescribes 20 years jail for armed robbery, it only provides 10 years incarceration for kidnap which amounts to the stealing of a human being, said that the proposed amendment seeks life jail for the offence of kidnapping.
Senator Tinubu said: “Section 364 proffers a punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten years where a crime of kidnap is established.
For avoidance of doubt, as defined by the Act, kidnap is unlawful imprisonment of any person to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or from disclosing to any person where he is imprisoned.
“Simply put, stealing a living, breathing human. Curiously, the Act provides a term of twenty one years for robbery and death for armed robbery.
Why is the punishment for stealing property and replaceable things higher than what is obtainable when you steal a human being? “The frequency of kidnap across the Federation and its resulting trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, make it imperative to review our laws with a view to ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators and deterrence for would be perpetrators.
Thus, this bill proffers a life sentence for persons found guilty of kidnapping.” In their various contributions, Senators supported the Bill.
The Senate approved that the Bill be read for a second time when it was put to voice vote by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan.