THE Senate has raised the punishment for kidnapping from 10 years to life imprisonment.
It also deleted the statute of limitation on defilement as well as removed gender restrictions on rape.
The resolutions followed the third reading and passage of “A Bill for an Act to amend the Criminal Code Act CAP. C.38, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004.”
The Bill, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central), seeks to delete the statute of limitation on defilement, increase punishment for kidnapping and remove gender restrictions on rape and other related matters.
The Bill also eliminated the current time frame for reporting and prosecuting defilement cases across the country.
It also removed gender restrictions on rape by explaining that both male and female could be raped. The senators noted that when the Bill becomes law, an offence of defilement or rape would be actionable perpetually.
In his report on the Bill, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human and Legal Matters, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central), noted that aim of criminal law and criminal justice system is not only for punishment but also for deterrence, retribution, restoration and rehabilitation of offenders.
He insisted that where a law fails to achieve any of its main objectives, it becomes inherently defective; hence the need for the amendment of such a law to conform with best practices.
The senator said the amendment of the Criminal Code Act was in response to the observed anomalies.
“Therefore, the amendment to the Criminal Code Act, that is being proposed, is a welcome development to our criminal justice system.
“Firstly, it should be noted that the proposition to delete statute of limitation on the prosecution of offences under sections 218 and 221 of the Criminal Code Act is a welcome development as the statute of limitation, placed on defilement and rape, negates the principles of natural law, equity and good conscience.
“There is no gainsaying the fact that anyone who has carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 13 or a girl being of or above the age of 13 and under the age of 16 or attempts to commit same offences, may not be punished, as prosecution of such offence is barred after the expiration of two months from the date of commission of the offence by virtue of statute of limitation.
“Furthermore, Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines rape as an offence against women.
“However, in recent times, there are incidences of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender.
“Therefore, the passage of this Bill will ensure that our laws and jurisprudence evolve in tandem with the rest of the world.”
Also, attempt by Senator Uche Ekwunife (Anambra Central) to effect an amendment to Section 357 of the Bill to define persons susceptible to rape and accommodate “married and unmarried persons” was rejected by lawmakers during the clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.
The Senate, which retained the provision of Section 364 of the principal Act, expunged the gender specific term “him” and substituted same with “such person” in defining the punishment for the offence of kidnapping.
The Senate has urged the Federal Government to urgently rehabilitate and concession the Eastern rail line.
This was even as the Upper Chamber mandated its Committee on Land Transport to liaise with relevant ministry and agencies to facilitate the execution of the Eastern corridor.
In its resolution, the Senate mandated its Committee on Legislative Compliance to ensure compliance by the Executive in executing the project.
The resolutions followed the consideration of a motion, titled: “Urgent need to resuscitate and re-activate the rehabilitation and concession of the Eastern Rail Line Project,” sponsored by Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia North).
In his lead debate, Kalu noted that one of the greatest challenges facing the nation as an emerging economy is poor infrastructural development.
“The movement of goods and persons from one point to another is becoming very cumbersome, if not hazardous,” he said.