In times of increased problems, people are bound to look in every direction for possible solutions. Insecurity in Nigeria is now at a crescendo and people are at work looking for a way out.
Right now, the National Assembly has before it a very good example of a very bad Bill. The Bill sponsored by Senator Francis Onyewuchi (Imo East Senatorial District) seeks to criminalize the payment of ransom to kidnappers.
Evidently, he who has not seen it has not reached where it is. Senator Francis Onyewuchi has not come face to face with a kidnap case.
It is already 7:00 pm. The dear one you have been expecting from Abuja since 4:00 pm has not still arrived. You are not worried. After all, the Road is in terrible shape. Just when you were settling to the day’s dinner, his phone rings. Instead of his usual voice, you hear the cranky voice of a man who in the most disjointed English introduces himself as a kidnapper and he is in possession of your brother. He is not asking for your comments. He switches off the phone for the next 10 hours or so.
Your empty phone falls from your hand. You also notice that some of your urine has started dropping. In your wet trouser, you rush out to recharge your phone to begin to broadcast the news you just heard to family members.
Day II: At about 5:00 am, King kidnapper calls back. He places a demand on you and informs you that time is of the essence. A default on your part would only mean that you have a dead brother. He gets your brother to speak to confirm the real and present danger before him.
The family is quickly assembled, along with friends of the family. On an hourly basis, the kidnappers call to find out the progress of collection. They renew their threat after informing you that you are not doing well.
Day III: The final ultimatum begins to come more regularly. If nothing appreciable is done in the next two hours, they tell you what will happen. They are serious!
An acceptable sum has now been put together. The family has seen a bold man who must be paid to drive all night and deliver the ransom. The ransom is delivered and the victim is released.
In some cases, the ordeal lasts for several weeks and months with the concomitant agony on the victim and his family.
The Onyewuchi measure now steps in to round up the released victim and the 10 family members who paid the ransom for his release and bundle all of them to Kirikiri for the next 15 years!
By extrapolation, we should all be in prison because there may have been occasions when our Government paid ransom on our behalf to secure the release of some kidnap victims!
Onyewuchi displayed gross shallow-mindedness and lack of in-depth research when he said that the payment of ransom is prohibited in the U.S.A. He did not point to the prohibition law.
What America says is that the citizens have no need to pay the ransom because they are already protected.
They showed us a bit of what they can do recently when an American citizen was kidnapped in a neighbouring country and brought to Nigeria.
American troops moved in. They wasted all the kidnappers and took their citizen away.
Any comparison of Nigeria with another country should be in a positive sense. We expected the National Assembly to be buried in research on how to attain the type of feat displayed by America in the recent case. By now they should be begging America to show them what to do. Let America name its price. If they want all our oil to give us that technology that will provide us security, of course, negotiate with them and let us have peace. After that, like America, Nigeria should then be in a position to ask its citizens not to negotiate or pay the ransom.
In a serious clime, this type of Onyewuchi measure would have no business scaling First Reading before being tossed into the wastebasket.
Why would any serious person be attempting to shift the Government’s primary responsibility of protecting the citizens to the very citizens that are expected to be protected? This really borders on criminal negligence on the part of the Government!
Experience has shown, too, that as we approach mid-term, more of these obnoxious measures would be expected. Those docile members soon begin to realize that they have not made their opening statements and the people are watching. They must struggle to say something – better a stupid thing than nothing.
In the Second Republic, one of our big Uncles in the House of Representatives came up with a proposal calling on the Federal Government to, as a matter of utmost urgency, establish one University in each Federal Constituency – 450 universities! He was asking this writer to see the proposal through the Business Committee. That the demand was ludicrous did not bother him. How else would his name appear on the order paper? And the elections were approaching! It is wonderful what people do for votes!