On Wednesday last week, May 24, Governor of Katsina State Aminu Bello Masari signed into law an amendment to the Penal Code that prescribes death sentence for anyone convicted of kidnapping or cattle rustling in Katsina State. It also provides a mandatory life sentence, fine and compensation to the victim for anyone convicted of rape in the state. The move was not surprising because in recent times insecurity in Katsina State is threatening to surpass the level in its western neighbor, Zamfara.
Speaking at the brief ceremony where he signed the Amended Penal Code and Administration of Criminal Justice bills, Masari said the state was faced with security challenges, hence the need to revisit the Penal Code and procedure laws to deal with anyone who commits these grave offences. He said, “The two laws that have been signed today, particularly the Penal Code, has been amended generally and in particular the sections dealing with kidnapping, cattle rustling, rape and other related offences. Cattle rustling and kidnapping are now capital offences which carry the mandatory death sentences.”
Katsina State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Barrister Ahmed Usman El-Marzuq said with the governor’s assent to the laws, Katsina had joined the league of states in the country that have adopted and domesticated these laws that will foster quick administration of justice and deter people inclined to test the laws. He said, “The Penal Code has been reviewed in order to capture and address the emerging crimes that are actually bedeviling this nation and this particular part of the country. We believe that with the passage of these laws, crimes will be fully addressed and criminals will be equally punished.”
El-Marzuq also said the Northern States Governors Forum had commissioned a review of the Penal Code and several member states including Katsina painstakingly went through the Penal Code. After the review, Katsina State House of Assembly passed the amendment bills into law, which the governor assented to. El-Marzuq also said Katsina State joined other Northern states to adopt and domesticate the Administration of Criminal Justice Act designed and passed by the National Assembly to take care of exigencies in the administration of justice, especially with regards to ensuring speedy trials in various courts.
These changes to the law were no doubt a response to the spike in banditry, kidnappings and mass killings that have become the lot of several local governments in western Katsina State in recent times. Many of these local governments share borders with Zamfara State, so it is easy to say that banditry in Zamfara spilled over into Katsina. The security agencies’ efforts to contain banditry and kidnapping in both states has fallen well short of the victims’’ expectations. Things were so bad that after a particularly heinous mass killing in Batsari, residents took the corpses to the Emir’s palace in Katsina.
Emir of Katsina Abdulmumini Kabir Usman also showed his frustration when he told then Agriculture Minister Audu Ogbeh, who came to launch an agricultural program, that what his people needed is security first. He made the point that agricultural activities were at a standstill in the state because many people cannot even go to their farms. A drastic response is therefore required on the part of the state government. However, an even more drastic response is required from the security agencies. Masari expressed confidence that the decision to make them serious offences would serve as deterrence to those that may be convicted and those that have the intention of committing them. It is one thing to amend the penal code and make kidnapping and banditry capital offences, but unless the bandits are stopped in their tracks and are captured and hauled before the courts, nothing will change.
Two years ago, Edo State under then Governor Adams Oshiomhole made kidnapping a capital offence in the state. It is not known if any kidnappers have been convicted and executed under that law. So, for Katsina’s tough new anti-bandit laws, enforcement is the key.