The recent law prescribing death penalty for perpetrators of kidnapping in Cross River emerged as a dominant, mainstream thriller that shocked the conscience of society.
While I condemn kidnapping in its entirety, I would argue however that the new law is not human rights compliant especially when mirrored against the nature of crime and its political and economic consequences.
Perhaps the governor’s bill was endorsed ab initio and passed into law without debating exhaustively its multidimensional consequences including the conditions under which kidnapping, which is legally a criminal offense, will be tantamount to death penalty and subsequently the confiscation of the private property of the criminal, rather than imprisonment.
Given this contradiction it seems plausible that the law itself is in violation of not just the political rights of the criminal, but also private property rights in general.
I believe the confiscation of legitimate private property is permissible only under the condition of indebtedness.
In the context of kidnapping, both the governor and the House of Assembly have crossed the boundaries of justice so long as they fail to invoke the principle of mercy in dealing with criminal transgressions that hint on the ethical foundation of human rights.
This is especially because the crime of kidnapping can also be motivated by economic deprivation, which in itself is a violation of human dignity.
This law shouldn’t have been passed under the present legislative assembly that is governed by a man whom I believe commands excellent mastery of constitutional law, and has added to his list of expertise aspects of international law that gives him a holistic view in the business of law making.
The contradictions in this law unfold very critical questions, which may have been neglected at the time of debating the bill. How, for example, did kidnapping emerge in Cross River? When did kidnapping become a problem in Cross River? Where does kidnapping occur? Who are the kidnappers? What is the nature of kidnapping? Why is kidnapping a problem?
In order words what motivate people to contemplate kidnapping? Is kidnapping a naturally occurring behavior, or is it politically and economically motivated?
These questions have become necessary because the prevailing security discourse in Cross River is sustained by a straight jacket mentality that sees insecurity through the act of the perpetrator rather than the security guarantor – the state whose duty it is to protect the security of citizens by creating an environment inhospitable to kidnapping.
I will argue therefore that kidnapping prevails in places where state security is absent or non-existent. I believe the focus on legal punishment ignore the causes of kidnapping most often related to economic deprivation or political rivalry, of which power brokers themselves are implicated.
As an alternative the government should focus on addressing the causes of kidnapping rather than punishing the kidnapper without addressing the problem. The Niger Delta conflict has shown that kidnapping is both a political strategy and a criminal enterprise.
Where kidnapping is politically motivated the law must take its course but not to the extent of imposing capital punishment. Where kidnapping is motivated by economic survival the state must balance legal punishment with economic opportunity that gives kidnappers a lifeline.
Finally, the governor does not need “Operation Skolombo” to fight crime considering the economic implication of maintaining a security outfit detached from the state security apparatus – the Police.
The governor seems to have over stretched his security architecture by designing a new structure to perform the duty traditionally assigned to the Nigerian Police Force.
Alternatively “Operation Skolombo” should be overhauled while the budget is invested on job creation target at addressing the “skolombo” crises.
Empirical studies have shown that criminality tends to decrease in societies where former criminals are given opportunity to emerge as responsible citizens.
Ayade should focus on promoting laws that will transform criminals into self-sufficient responsible citizens rather than sending them to early graves and confiscating their property while the main problem of joblessness remain unsolved.
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