The Nigerian Navy and the Economic and the Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have made a case for payment of ransom to terrorists.
The two government institutions rejected the proposed criminalisation of ransom payment to abductors, terrorists and kidnappers.
A representative of the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Egbuchulam, spoke at the National Assembly, Abuja during a public hearing on the Terrorism Prevention Act (Amendment) Bill 2021, which seeks to outlaw payment of ransom to secure the release of captives.
The hearing was organised by the Senate joint Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele.
Section 14 of the bill provides: “Anyone who transfers funds, makes payment or colludes with an abductor, kidnapper or terrorist to receive any ransom for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped is guilty of a felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years.”
In his submission, Egbuchulam, said instead of outright criminalisation, negotiation or payment of ransom should be subjected to security vetting.
He said: “It is suggested that the Bill could make the negotiation/proposed payment of ransom to kidnappers or terrorists to secure release of hostages subject to the prior knowledge of ONSA/Armed Forces of Nigeria/Police for coordination.
“It is opined that subjecting such payment of ransom to security vetting and tracking is preferable to outright criminalisation.”
The EFCC representative Director, Legal and Prosecution Department, Chile Okoroma, applauded most of the provision of the bill, but kicked against prosecution of somebody that paid ransom saying it should be narrowed down to those who received ransom not those that paid the ransom.
According to him, the bill on terrorism is well intended, but the issue of prosecuting those that paid ransom should be looked at, it should be narrowed to those who received payment for ransom.
However, the Nigerian Correctional Service, in its presentation, agreed with all provision of the bill including the prosecution of anyone that pays ransom.
According to Correctional Service: “We agree with the proposed amendment to this bill.”
Bamidele said the Bill seeks to outlaw payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for release of someone who has been wrongly confined or imprisoned.
He said: “The Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Bill was sponsored by Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi (Imo East Senatorial District).
“The Bill, among other things, seeks to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013 in order to outlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers and terrorists for the release of any person who has been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped.”