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Senate okays death penalty for substance trafficking

The Senate on Thursday, prescribed death sentence as penalty for trafficking in hard drugs and other substances in Nigeria.

This followed the passage of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Amendment Bill 2024.

It also prescribed not more than 15 years imprisonment without option of fine, for conviction on consumption of hard drugs and substances.

This followed adoption of report of Senate Committees on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and Drugs and Narcotics on the NDLEA Amendment Act at plenary.

The report was presented by Chairman of the committee, Sen. Mohammmed Monguno (APC -Borno).

Monguno in his presentation said the amendment sought to strengthen operations of the NDLEA, empower its operations to establish laboratories for forensic review and update list of dangerous drugs.

He said the amendment was also designed to review penalties and enhance powers of the NDLEA to prosecute drug related offences and issue subsidiary legislation.

He said senate had on Feb.28, deliberated on the bill, which was transmitted from the House of Representatives for senate’s concurrence.

He said it was important to make a general comment on the bill, especially on classification of the offences and penalty categorisations of drug related offences.

He said the categorisations were peculiar and different from other laws because of the sentencing guideline used in determination of drug related offences.

“These guidelines in drug laws are designed to promote fairness, consistency and proportionality in the criminal justice system, while considering the broader goals of rehabilitation and public safety.

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“It is also important to note that several variables are used in determining the penalties imposed on a suspect.

“This includes type and quantity of controlled substance, defendant’s criminal history, intent behind drug-related activities, aggravating or mitigating circumstance such as organised crime, violence, use of offensive weapon.

“Others like endangerment of minors can aggravate penalties, conversely mitigating factors like cooperation with law enforcement or lack of prior criminal record may lessen the severity of punishment.”

Earlier, before passage of the bill during clause by clause consideration, Sen.Ali Ndume (APC Borno), had moved a motion for amendment to clause 11 of the bill , which initially prescribed life imprisonment to drugs and substances trafficking in Nigeria.

Ndume had called for stiffer sanctions and moved a motion for a prescribing death sentence.

The motion was seconded by Sen.Onyekachi Nwaebonyi (APC-Ebonyi) , who said that drugs and substance trafficking was doing great harm to the nation and hence, stiffer penalty should be given to offenders.

When the voice vote for adoption of the motion on death penalty was put to vote, the “Yes” had their way as the Deputy President of Senate, Barau Jubrin (APC- Kano), who was presiding ruled in favour of the “Yes.”

However, the decision did not go well for Sen.Adams Oshiomhole (APC – Edo), who objected to the ruling, saying that he was responsible to his constituents for every law passed in the senate.

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He said issues of life and death should not be passed based on “Yes or No” response, advocating for a voting by every senator.

Responding, Barau said the best approach for the Edo lawmaker was to have called for a division immediately the clause on death sentence was adopted.

Barau said the decision to rule in favour of the “yes” was not the making of the presiding officer but on the voice vote of members.(NAN)

Kingsley Okoye
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