The Senate has amended the Criminal Code Act which recommends life imprisonment for kidnappers and deletes the statute of limitations on cases of rape.

Section 218 of the Criminal Code Act (amended) removing the statute of limitations implies that the defilement cases can remain open for as long as possible against the earlier limitation of two months.

The Criminal Code Act Cap. C38 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (Amendment) Bill, 2019 (SB.02) was sponsored by Distinguished Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central Senatorial District) on September 24, 2019.

The Senate on Tuesday also eliminated the gender restrictions in the offence of rape as Section 357 of the Criminal Code Act defines rape as an offence against women.

It acknowledged that the male gender can also be victims.

Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matter, Opeyemi Bamidele in his presentation, explained that the aim of criminal law and criminal justice system is not only for punishment but also for deterrence, retribution, restoration and rehabilitation of offenders.

“And where the law fails to achieve any of these objectives, it becomes inherently defective, hence the need for the amendment/review of such law(s) to bring them into conformity with best practices.

“This amendment is a response to these anomalies and is also within the legislative powers of the National Assembly, to make laws that are responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people and to also amend obsolete laws that will enhance effective justice system and ensure good governance.

“Therefore, the amendment to the Criminal Code Act that is being proposed, is a welcome development to our criminal justice system”.

Senator Bamidele further noted that the proposition to delete statute of limitation on the prosecution of offences under section 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 anyone who has carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen (13) or a girl being of or above the age of thirteen (13) and under the age of sixteen (16) or attempts to commit same offences, may not be punished, as the prosecution of such offence is barred after the expiration of two (2) months from the commission of the offence by virtue of the statute of limitation.

“Finally, they submitted that the frequency of kidnapping across the Federation and the resultant trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, makes it imperative to review our laws with a view to ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators as well as serve as deterrence to would-be perpetrators.

“Thus, the passage of this Bill would proffer a life sentence for persons found guilty of kidnapping as against the provisions of section 364 of the Act, which proffer the punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten (10) years, where the offence of kidnapping is established”.

He added that Nigerians at the public hearing expressed divergent views as regards the proposed amendments in the bill.