By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Disturbed by the worrying dimension that armed kidnappings for ransoms have taken, a Democracy friendly Non-Governmental Organization-HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA [HURIWA] has charged President Good Luck Jonathan, leadership of the National Assembly and State governors especially in Southern Nigeria to immediately adopt swift, decisive and intelligence-driven mechanisms to break this vicious crime circle and to put effective deterrent legal frameworks aimed at imposing stiff sanctions on kidnappers that would serve as deterrent measures.

The Rights group spoke against the backdrop of the weekend kidnapping by unknown gunmen of the immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] Mr Okey Wali which it condemned as outrageous and a serious affront on the law enforcement agencies of both the Rivers state and the Federal Government of Nigeria even as it appealed to the kidnappers of the erstwhile President of the Nigerian Bar to set him free unconditionally going by the pro-democracy and pro-poor tendencies of Mr Okey Wali who used his two years spell as the national leader of the over 400,000 strong membership platform to champion the interest of the deprived and the oppressed in the society.

HURIWA warned that should armed kidnappings be consistently tackled with kid globes as is currently happening then the coming general election which is sure to become the most hotly contested in the political annals of Nigeria, could see a ballooning and phenomenal growth in armed and violent kidnappings since rival, deeply divided and power hungry politicians can now have their ways to hire armed kidnappers to hijack their opponents and deprive them of their fundamental freedoms while the elections last. ''Nigerian Government must tackle this menace now before it becomes one giant crime phenomenon that would jeopardise the sanctity and security of the coming general elections in Nigeria.''

In a statement to the media and signed jointly by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA upbraided the governors of the Southern States whereby kidnappings have assumed epidemic proportion for failing to put in place effective and efficient proactive crime preventive measures in partnership with the hierarchies of the armed security agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria to check the menace but have rather concentrated all their effort towards playing divisive partisan politics associated with the scramble for elective positions in the forthcoming general elections next year.

The Rights group particularly queried the rationale for allowing armed kidnappings to fester in most parts of Southern Nigeria over the last two years with the possible exception of Anambra state whereby the previous and current administrations have adopted demonstrably qualitative measures to confront frontally the men of the underworld perpetrating the evil acts of kidnappings. The Rights group has therefore charged the governors and state houses of assemblies of the Southern States to borrow a leaf from the current administration of Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra State who recently acquired state of the arts crime fighting facilities to tackle the challenges posed by kidnappers and other underworld kingpins. ''Kidnappings are extraordinary crimes that demand extraordinary measures to check and minimise.''

Turning to the hierarchy of the National and state assemblies, HURIWA blamed them for abandoning their people by not effectively passing strong deterrent legislations against the grave crime of armed kidnappings which should include making armed kidnappings a capital offence punishable by the death penalty just as the Rights group stated that the criminal code and other statutes in operations in all parts of the country needed to be fundamentally amended to classify kidnappings as a grave crime against humanity just like terrorism.

HURIWA lamented that the National Assembly in the last four years has failed to amend the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 [as amended] to reflect new provisions concerning the establishment of state, local and municipal police structures all across Nigeria.

HURIWA stated thus; ''We urge the kidnappers of the former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association Mr Okey Wali to set him free because he is not even among the ten top richest lawyers some of whom have bought choice exotic private jets with the proceeds of their legitimate representation of political litigants since 1999 till date. Okey Wali is simply a struggling Senior Lawyer with conscience who has conscientiously fought on the side of the oppressed and the deprived in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Those who kidnapped him have misfired because they went for the wrong person and indeed nobody is the right person to be so kidnapped since kidnapping is a very grave crime. We urge the Federal Government and the Rivers State government to do everything within their powers to rescue this gentleman from the den of the men of the underworld and to also implement measures to check the proliferation of small arms and weapons which fuel kidnappings.''