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Nigeria: Making kidnapping a capital offence puts victims at greater risk, says Amnesty

Amnesty International today expressed dismay at the decision by Nigeria’s Imo State House of Assembly to pass a bill allowing the death penalty to be imposed on those convicted of kidnapping or whose premises are used by a kidnapper to hold someone hostage.

The organisation urged the Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, not to sign the bill into law.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher, Aster van Kregten said:

“Kidnapping is a terrible crime that causes anguish for both the victims and their families. But extending the scope of the death penalty to include this crime does nothing to protect the victims – in fact it puts them at greater risk.

“This law may act as an incentive to kill, as perpetrators may decide they have nothing to lose – leading to an increase in killings of victims, innocent bystanders and police officers trying to apprehend the criminals.”

Amnesty International said that making kidnapping a capital offence not only contradicts global trends which moves away from the death penalty, but may also encourage even more violent behaviour by kidnappers.

Aster van Kregten said:

“Experience has shown that the threat of the death penalty is not an effective answer to violent crime – it can actually exacerbate violence in a society.”

Use of the death penalty has not reduced armed robbery or murder rates in Nigeria. Between 1970 and 1999, more than 2,600 death row prisoners were executed, but during this period there was no decline in Nigeria’s crime rate.

Aster van Kregten said:

“The way to be tough on violent crime like kidnapping is to strengthen the police’s ability to detect potential crimes before they occur and prevent them.

“The Federal government needs to strengthen police training and resources to increase investigation capacity and effectiveness. This is the best way to start keeping citizens safe from violent crime in Nigeria – rather than resorting to knee-jerk and outmoded responses like the death penalty.”

At a recent UN meeting, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister said that Nigeria continues to exercise a self-imposed moratorium [on the death penalty].

Aster van Kregten continued:

“The Nigerian government’s recent statement at a UN forum that it is practising a moratorium on the death penalty was widely welcomed. We are therefore very disappointed to see Imo State taking steps that are contrary to that position.”

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