Nigeria’s Senate passed a law on Wednesday setting minimum 15-year prison sentences for paying a ransom to liberate an abducted person and making kidnapping punishable by death in situations where victims die.
Armed gangs operating mostly in Nigeria’s northeastern and north-central regions have been spreading fear for more than a decade through kidnappings for ransom, primarily targeting students, peasants, and highway commuters. Additionally, they have killed thousands of people.
The bill, which changes Nigeria’s terrorism statute, imposes the death sentence on convicted kidnappers in situations when the abduction results in death, and life imprisonment in all other cases.
Opeyemi Bamidele, head of the Senate judiciary, human rights, and legal committee, testified before the Senate that making ransom payment punishable by imprisonment would “deter the growing tide of kidnapping and abduction for ransom in Nigeria, which is rapidly expanding across the country.”
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has already designated the armed kidnapping gangs, colloquially referred to as “bandits,” as terrorists this year – but this has had no effect on the kidnappings, which have become practically everyday occurrences.
Before being delivered to the president for signature, the measure will be considered in the lower House of Representatives.