Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State has declared that kidnapping, banditry and cattle rustling are now to attract the death penalty. This was declared by the governor in a bid to curb the spate of killings and kidnappings in the state. Masari signed into law yesterday the state’s revised penal codes on crime and criminality. This new law also prescribes life jail and fine for rapists. In his words: “We are all aware that Katsina State is currently faced with security challenges hence the need to revisit our penal and procedural laws to deal with any suspect that may be found wanting.”
“The laws signed today, particularly, the section dealing with kidnapping, cattle rustling, banditry, rape and other related offences are now made capital offences. Cattle rustling and kidnapping now carry the maximum penalty which is death sentences, while the offence of rape now carries life imprisonment. The Katsina government is hopeful that making the above crimes attract the capital punishment would go a long way to check the rising wave of crimes in the state.”
This sure sounds like a good idea in the ears of many as it reveals efforts by the government to curb or possibly end crimes in Nigeria, and especially in the state of Katsina. But the question is, “Is death penalty the solution to kidnapping, banditry and other crimes?”
In 2016, the Senate approved a proposal to introduce a bill that will make kidnapping punishable by death. Many commentators welcomed the decision arguing that the death penalty will deter the increasing number of kidnappings in the country. But then, don’t you think they were wrong?
Kidnapping, banditry and even terrorism have reached epidemic levels in Nigeria and whilst the need for the federal government to fight this crime effectively has never been more urgent, the death penalty is not the solution. The reason for this is that there is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters kidnapping, banditry or any other crime for that matter. Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments.
A series of authoritative studies conducted for the United Nations in regions around the world repeatedly found that the death penalty does not have a greater deterrent effect on crime than a term of imprisonment. In 1970, the military government of General Yakubu Gowon introduced the death penalty for armed robbery in response to the alarming increase of the crime in Nigeria. This did not solve the problem, in fact armed robbery is as common today as it was then.
Equally, the enactment of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and the Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 introducing the death sentence for terrorism-related offences has not curbed the problem in Nigeria. According to a Global Terrorism Index published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, in 2014 Nigeria witnessed the largest increase in terrorist-related deaths ever recorded by any country, increasing by over 300 per cent to 7,512 fatalities.
Over the last six years a number of states including Bayelsa, Delta and Edo have made laws prescribing the death penalty for kidnapping, however this has not stopped the practice. The past few years have seen high profile kidnappings of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s uncle in Bayelsa state, His Royal Majesty Josiah Umukoro in Delta state and Hassana Garuba, a magistrate in Edo state and likewise this year, the traditional ruler of Daura in Katsina State was also kidnapped. Whilst the senate has the constitutional mandate to enact laws, making kidnapping a capital crime will breach Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights law.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria became a party in 1993, permits countries that have not abolished the death penalty to use the punishment only for the “Most Serious Crimes”. Under international human rights standards “Most Serious Crimes” are crimes that involve intentional killing. Kidnapping does not meet this threshold. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life as declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in which banditry could fall under as lives are lost during banditry attacks. It is the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.
Everyone has the right to life regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime they have committed. This does not mean that criminals should not face justice and punishment, for their crimes. They should, the federal and state governments have a range of options they can legally use, including prison terms. The federal government should immediately take steps to address the root causes of kidnapping, banditry and other crimes by dealing with the high unemployment in the country and ensuring that the Nigeria Police Force and other crime fighting agencies are well funded, trained and equipped to deal with crime.
Good investigation into alleged crimes, timely arrests of suspects and effective prosecution will go a long way in reducing bandit attacks, kidnapping and other crimes. The world is moving away from the use of the death penalty. In 1977 only 16 countries had abolished the punishment for all crimes. As of today the number stands at 102 countries, a majority of the countries in the world. In 2015, four countries, including Madagascar and the Republic of Congo both in Africa, joined the ranks of countries that have consigned this cruel punishment to history.
Expanding the scope of the death penalty goes against this positive global trend and will further entrench Nigeria amongst a minority of countries that hold on to the death penalty. Executing criminals is not the solution to ending the scourge of crimes in Nigeria. Rather it is a knee-jerk reaction by a government that wants to appear tough on crime. Instead of being a form of toughness, recourse to the death penalty is in reality a symptom of failure in governance. Rather than expanding the death penalty, the Senate should abolish it altogether and find better measures to curb crimes in the nation.
What are your own opinions, comments or views on this? Kindly share in the comment space below.
Source on Masari’s death penalty law: scoopernews.com