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A call for death penalty for drugs/terrorism

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By Emmanuel Onwubiko

A few days back, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made one of the most unfortunate but tragic blunders in one of their legislative activities.

The Senators passed an Amendment to the anti- Kidnapping legislation and stated that payments of ransom by relatives of the victims of kidnappings are outlawed and punishable under federal law.

Ordinarily, this may seem like following on the footsteps of such nations like the strongest nation in the World- the United States of America which as a state policy does not permit the payments of ransom to terrorists or kidnappers. Of course, there is no doubt that terrorists and kidnappers are the same because terrorists indulge frequently in kidnappings to extract compromises from the States. But the United States of America has very effective armed forces that are intelligence-led and uses techniques and technologies to solve crimes within a short period of time. But Nigeria has no such capacity or rather politicians running the Country lack the political will and the will to power intelligence-led and technologically impressive crime detection and law enforcement.

However, although we copy most political principles and some aspects of our criminal laws from the jurisprudence of the USA but Nigeria is a nation weakened dangerously by the deliberate corrupt practices of those who lead the various levels of government at all levels from the local, sub-national and national. Nigeria is a Country whereby the judiciary is not independent contrary to the constitutional provision in Section 6 which states emphatically that the judiciary has the authority to exercise the judicial powers of the Federation.  This provision is breached regularly because the President and governors intermittently interfere in the administration of criminal justice. In some instances, the judges are compelled to read out verdicts written for them in the offices of governors and president.

As aforementioned, government officials engage in all kinds of sophisticated crimes of stealing on a massive scale of the funds meant for essential facilities and services like security, health care and road infrastructural projects. These thieving government officials violate Section 15(5) of the Constitution which states that the States shall eradicate corruption and abuse of powers. But most government officials exhibit attributes of comprehensive corruption and are often power-drunk including wives of governors of states and the wife of the President in most administrations. So this is why the governors have failed to enforce the death penalties passed by even the highest courts in the land because the law gives the discretion to execute convicted terrorists or not under the jurisdiction of the State governors. But because most of these governors stain their hands with all kinds of crimes, they are often bribed to suspend the enforcement of the death penalty and this has led to the expanding frontiers of terrorism and all kinds of violent crimes in Nigeria which are largely caused by intakes of hard drugs trafficked by some powerful criminals with connections to the seats of power. The governor of Anambra State said drug trafficking barons and kidnappers have taken over control of political powers in most parts of Nigeria in the 21st century.

So by doing this atrocious act of theft of cash belonging to the public, the officials thereby weaken institutions of law enforcement to an extent that now, it would seem that non-governmental individuals who possessed sophisticated weapons are wielding more violence than the statutory armed forces of Nigeria that has the statutory jurisdiction of controlled coercion and legal violence.

In Kaduna State, terrorists attacked a train for two months now and have held on to over 200 hostages with the Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari not knowing how to rescue those Nigerians including a baby that was born in captivity with those terrorists who are mostly of the Fulani ethnicity same as President Muhammadu Buhari and same as all the heads of the internal security institutions under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who practices nepotism. But the USA sent a rescue team all the way from the USA to somewhere in North West and this team successfully rescued an American citizen taken hostage by boko haram terrorists even when Nigeria’s armed forces have been so much corrupted and weakened to be able to replicate such a feat.

So what it means is that terrorists wield more powers than the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.  These terrorists don’t just get armed with sophisticated weapons but they are motivated and emboldened by the high numbers of hard drugs and substances they consume in their camps which are no go areas for the Federal armed forces that are not being efficiently coordinated by the Federal Government.

The extant laws against hard drug trafficking and terrorism are not too strong enough to deter would-be kidnappers,  terrorists and all kinds of heartless killers of citizens.  This then leads the writer to ask that Nigeria restarts the use of the death penalty. In fact in most cases, as we will see, the prosecutors from the federal government compromise national security and undermine their assignments thus creating rooms and lacunae for boko haram terrorists to escape the long arm of the law.

Since the public execution of convicted capital offenders stopped about a decade ago, the rate of sophisticated crimes have skyrocketed and now we have terrorists and kidnappers that we never had long time ago when public execution was in place.

So the question is why legislate against payments of ransome when government fails in carrying out its constitutional primary duty as spelt out in Section 14(2) (b) of the Grund Norm of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 as amended which states that the primary duty of government is the protection of lives and property of the citizens.

So a return to public execution and the amendments of relevant laws against hard drugs and terrorism to include the death penalty are being canvassed. The death penalty is in operation in the World’s strongest Democracy which is the USA from whence we borrowed our presidential system of government.  So it won’t be a bad idea to try to use capital punishment to stamp out the twin social evils of terrorism and kidnappings which are really siamese twins or better still two sides of a single coin. The death penalty exists in China and Saudi Arabia and crimes such as terrorism and kidnappings are minimised.

In the USA as we learnt from a research published by some scholars, Congress, as well as any state legislature, may prescribe the death penalty, also known as capital punishment, for capital offenses. The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty does not violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, but the Eighth Amendment does shape certain procedural aspects regarding when a jury may use the death penalty and how it must be carried out. Because of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, the Eighth Amendment applies against the states, as well as the federal government.

Eighth Amendment analysis requires that courts consider the evolving standards of decency to determine if a particular punishment constitutes a cruel or unusual punishment. When considering evolving standards of decency, courts look for objective factors to show a change in community standards and also make independent evaluations about whether the statute in question is reasonable.

Method of Execution-A legislature may prescribe the manner of execution, but the manner may not inflict unnecessary or wanton pain upon the criminal.

State courts and lower federal courts have refused to strike down hanging and electrocution as impermissible methods of execution. In Baze v. Rees, 553. U.S 35 (2008), the Supreme Court held that the lethal injection does not constitute a cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court in Baze also applied an “objectively intolerable” test to determine if the method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The legality of lethal injection was upheld in Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. __ (2015).

On the Classes of Persons ineligible for the Death Penalty according to the writers is to be discerned In Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002), the Supreme Court determined that executing mentally retarded criminals violates the ban on “cruel and unusual punishments” because their mental handicap lessens the severity of the crime and therefore renders the extraordinary penalty of death as disproportionately severe. However, in Bobby v. Bies, 556 U.S. 825 (2009), the Court held that states may conduct hearings to reconsider the mental capacity of death row inmates who were labeled mentally retarded before the Court decided Atkins, because, before Atkins, states had little incentive to aggressively investigate retardation claims.

In Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), the Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty for all juvenile offenders. The majority opinion pointed to teenagers’ lack of maturity and responsibility, greater vulnerability to negative influences, and incomplete character development. The Court concluded that juvenile offenders assume diminished culpability for their crimes.

In Hall v. Florida, 572 U.S. __ (2014), the Supreme Court held that a bright-line IQ threshold may not decide whether someone is intellectually disabled (formerly “mentally retarded”) for the purpose of being eligible for the death penalty. We will very shortly see why terrorists and drug trafficking barons should be publicly executed basically because hard drugs stimulate the committing of violent crimes that deprive many citizens of their Right to life as protected by Section 33(1) of the Constitution which states that no extrajudicial execution of civilians or citizen is permitted.

On 27/07/2019, a foreign media published this about terrorists of boko haram genre and how hard drugs are their tools for committing these crimes against humanity, thus justifying my call for the death penalty for terrorists and drug trafficking barons and not the small agents recruited by them to ferry small quantities of drugs for small fees. Many other publications have linked terrorists to large dosages of intakes of hard drugs.

The foreign media highlighted reports that Boko Haram started out as an Islamist group railing against corrupt officials in northeast Nigeria, but its decade-long insurgency has now devastated the region.

It then gave the statistics of deaths from drug-induced boko haram terrorism thus: “The campaign of violence has cost at least 27,000 lives, displaced some two million people and spawned an affiliate of the Islamic State group.”

 

It then asked historically, But what is Boko Haram and responded by linking these extremists to adoption of hardline Islamic ideology of non-tolerance for other faiths or even moderate Islam.

On the theme hardline  Islamic state, the foreign press says that Boko Haram aims to create a hardline Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria. The group’s nickname loosely translates from the Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden”.

Its founder and spiritual leader Muhammad Yusuf, it says, pinned the blame for Nigeria’s ills on Western values left by former colonial master Britain. He also accused the country’s secular leaders of corruption and neglecting development in Muslim regions. Yusuf came to the attention of authorities in 2002 when he began to build a following among disaffected youths in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital in northeast Nigeria.

He was the founder of boko haram sect that witnessed sudden transmutation when was killed in police custody in July 2009 after an uprising in Maiduguri that prompted a military assault. Some 800 people died in the action, and Boko Haram’s mosque and headquarters were left in ruins.

Many of its supporters fled the country and with that came its violent turn as correctly interpreted by this foreign media.

It reports rightly that Boko Haram was broadly peaceful before Yusuf’s death. But his successor, his right-hand man Abubakar Shekau, undertook a violent campaign of deadly attacks on schools, churches, mosques, state entities and security forces. Some Boko Haram members are thought to have trained with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.

Among the group’s most notorious acts was the April 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from the remote northern town of Chibok in Borno state.

Fifty-seven fled in the immediate aftermath, and more than 100 of the 219 who spent years in captivity have since been released, found or escaped.

The mass abduction brought world attention to the insurgency at a time when Boko Haram was seizing territory across the northeast, which became a largely no-go area, with the violence spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

In August 2014 Shekau proclaimed a “caliphate” in the Borno town of Gwoza, and in March 2015 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The violence, the newspaper reports have destroyed property and farmland in the mainly rural northeast and sparked a humanitarian crisis and acute food shortages. An offensive since 2015 by regional armies/troops from Nigeria and backed by others from Cameroon, Chad and Niger drove jihadists from most of the areas they had seized.

But regular bloody raids and suicide bomb attacks continue. The reporter says the mass court action for people suspected of being members of Boko Haram started in October 2017. Most were released, largely due to lack of evidence, and more than 100 were convicted for belonging to the group and taking part in attacks. But a new faction sprang up and the members are more deadly. A faction led by the son of Muhammad Yusuf, Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, broke away in 2016 in opposition to Shekau’s indiscriminate targeting of civilians.

The splinter Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group has the backing of IS. It targets the armed forces and has since July 2018 carried out numerous attacks on military bases.

Shekau’s faction is meanwhile responsible for suicide bombings targeting civilians.

Since last year Barnawi has reportedly been sidelined in ISWAP by more radical commanders. Meanwhile, over 27, 000 civilians are thought to have been gruesomely murdered by this Islamic terror group in the North East of Nigeria. The Fulani terrorists in the North West have killed nearly 6,000 in middle belt since 2015 when their kinsman came to office and refused to battle them decisively. Now let us see how drugs and terrorism are interconnected.

Writing on the theme of drug trafficking and the financing of terrorism, the United Nations agency for drugs and crimes observed that although the link between terrorism and other related crimes, such as drug trafficking, is evident and has been recognized by the United Nations Security Council, a thorough understanding is needed in order to develop solid strategies to prevent and disrupt these crimes.

Speaking at a recent conference in Istanbul, “The Role of Drug Trafficking in Promoting and Financing Today’s Global Terrorism,” jointly organized by Turkey, the United States and Colombia, UNODC Senior Terrorism Prevention Officer Irka Kuleshnyk said that “While it is difficult to establish how widely terrorist groups are involved in the illicit drug trade, or the breadth and nature of cooperation between these two criminal groups, the magnitude of the numbers involved make the relationship worrisome.”

According to the UNODC’s World Drug Report 2007, the total potential value of Afghanistan’s 2006 opium harvest accruing to farmers, laboratory owners and Afghan traffickers reached about $US3.1 billion. In addition, it is reported that in 2004, some 400 tons of cocaine were exported from one Latin American country, with an estimated domestic value of US$ 2 billion. How much of this money is used for perpetrating acts of terrorism? Estimates vary. But even a small percentage would be more than sufficient for some individuals or groups to plan, finance and carry out terrorist acts.

Indeed drug trafficking has provided funding for insurgency and those who use terrorist violence in various regions throughout the world, including in transit regions. In some cases, drugs have even been the currency used in the commission of terrorist attacks, as was the case in the Madrid bombings.

Effective tools do, however, exist which can chip away at – and eventually contribute to breaking – the links. For example, at the international level, there is a common legal framework consisting of 16 universal anti-terrorist instruments, as well as relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Included in the latter is a series of UN resolutions imposing sanctions – such as the freezing of assets, a travel ban and an arms embargo, on members of the Taliban, Al-Qaida and their associates. There are currently 124 entities and 226 individuals on this list.

Illicit drug traders and terrorists are not some mysterious entity, Kuleshnyk says. Rather they are usually groups and networks that operate in ways that can be understood, identified, tracked and ultimately disrupted. We need to integrate our work to build up more effective and efficient networks so that we may defeat these illegitimate networks that perpetuate so much destruction throughout the world.

On December 19, 2021, Mr Femi Babafemi, Director, Media and Advocacy, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) told a media House in an interview thus:

“We have ample empirical evidence: The camps of Boko Haram cleared by troops are found to be littered with psychotropic drugs. Insurgents and bandits arrested often show withdrawal symptoms after days in custody of law enforcement agents. During interrogation, arrested insurgents have confessed to regular use of drugs and a few were captured with drugs, including pharmaceutical opioids”.

With these words, Mr Femi Babafemi, Director, Media and Advocacy, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), says many of the bandits terrorizing the North-West and Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists operating in the North-East may have been acting under the influence of hard drugs, detailing what the NDLEA is doing to stem the tide. He also speaks on ‘Jihad drug’ believed to be frequently used by bandits and terrorists. Below are excerpts of that interview aforementioned:

“As of November 30, 2021, NDLEA has recorded 11, 341 arrests, including six major barons. So far, the Agency has successfully secured 1, 111 convictions within the same time, while over 3, 000 other cases are still going on in the courts and we are confident that they would also end in successful prosecution because of our high conviction rate, which is over 90 per cent.

Within the same time frame, NDLEA recorded a seizure of over 3.3 million kilograms of assorted drugs.

The street value of the drugs and cash recovered is well over N120 billion. Among the most spectacular recoveries is the shipment of cocaine that came from Brazil like the January 27 interception of a suspect with 26.85 kg of cocaine worth billions of naira and the vessel MV Sar Scorpio that came to Lagos Tin Can Port with 43.11kg of cocaine also worth billions of naira.

The link between illicit drugs and violent crime is well established from several case studies over time.

The abuse of psychoactive substances is linked to conflicts. That is how illicit drugs and psychotropic substances have come to acquire notoriety as enablers of crime, conflicts and crises.

And the pattern recurs in most civil strife around the world, like most recently, in Syria and the cycle of violence that drug cartels unleash on Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.

Generally, drugs are an enabler of crime, and where abuse, trade and trafficking of such are allowed to go on unrestrained, you can expect a descent into chaos and crisis in such society.

We have ample empirical evidence: The camps of Boko Haram cleared by troops are found to be littered with psychotropic drugs. Insurgents and bandits arrested often show withdrawal symptoms after days in custody of law enforcement agents.

During interrogation, arrested insurgents have confessed to regular use of drugs and a few were captured with drugs, including pharmaceutical opioids.

NDLEA has intercepted shipments of illicit drugs going to the camps of bandits and Boko Haram, including a shipment of Captagon, nicknamed ‘Jihad drug’, predominantly produced around Syria, which was imported into the country from Lebanon, concealed in marble polishing machines.

Between January and November, we have intercepted no less than 10 traffickers who supplied controlled drugs and other illicit substances to bandits and insurgents. We published their arrests and the various interdictions.”

Going by the above empirical evidence, our campaign for the introduction of the death penalty for hard drugs barons is reinforced. Sadly, as stated by the Anambra State governor, tightening the noose on these powerful barons through strengthening existing legislation against hard drugs may not see the light of the day in this lame-duck National Assembly whose members are desperately searching for multimillion cash to buy their nomination forms to seek re-election or other higher callings. The least they will pay attention to is to fight some of their sponsors who are ready with humongous amounts of cash in foreign-denominated currency to funnel towards the re-election campaigns if this money guzzling national legislators and even the weaklings in the houses of Assembly of the 36 States of the federation.  But to continue to raise our voice calling for iron fists to be used against hard drug trafficking barons is what we will continue to do until Nigeria elect patriots and legislators in Abuja and the 36 States of the federation.

EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and former National Commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

 

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