The Senate on Tuesday began an amendment of the Criminal Code Act, 2004, when it considered a Bill to that effect.
The bill sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central) seeks the removal of gender restrictions on rape offences as well as a proposal of stiffer penalties for kidnapping.
The proposed amendment by the upper chamber also seeks to delete the statute of limitation in cases of defilement.
Tinubu, in her lead debate on the bill, objected to the provision of Section 218 of the Criminal Code.
The Section provides that “anyone who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen or attempts same is guilty of felony and liable to life imprisonment or fourteen years imprisonment, respectively.”
According to Tinubu, prosecution of an offender under the section constitutes a limitation that should be extended as against the Act’s provision which allows for only two months after the offence is committed.
“This is untenable in a country where investigations often take longer than two months”, Tinubu stated.
“Considering the shortage of Police personnel, relative to our population as prescribed by international standards, the two months limitation is unlikely to be met at all.
“With the development and innovation in forensic technology and the accessibility or otherwise of such infrastructure in Nigeria, rushed investigations with a view to commencing prosecutions within a two month period leave a possibility of a huge margin for error,” the lawmaker posited.
The amendment bill also seeks an amendment to Section 221 of the Criminal Code which provides that “where a person has or attempts carnal knowledge of a girl being of or above the age of thirteen and under the age sixteen, an ‘idiot or imbecile’, he shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of two years provided that the prosecution is commenced within two months after the offence is committed.”
The bill proposes an amendment to Section 221, to substitute for the words ‘idiot or imbecile’, the words ‘mentally challenged’.
According to Tinubu, while words like idiot, moron, and imbecile were professionally used to measure Intelligence Quotient (IQ), they have acquired pejorative connotations, become derogatory and obsolete, and should no longer be contained in our laws.
On rape, Tinubu said the Criminal Code Act, 2004, defines rape in Section 357 as an offence against women.
While describing the definition as “grievous” because it perpetrates the socio-cultural belief that men do not need to consent to sexual acts, the lawmaker noted that “there are incidents of non-consensual sex perpetrated against the male gender.”
Additionally, Section 364 of the Criminal Code under amendment proffers punishment of imprisonment for a term of ten years where a crime of kidnap is established.
The law under the Act defines kidnap as “unlawful imprisonment of any person to prevent him from applying to a court for his release or from disclosing to any person where he is imprisoned.”
Tinubu while juxtaposing the penalties for kidnapping alongside the term of robbery provided by the Criminal Code Act, which is twenty-one years and death for armed robbery said, “why is the punishment for stealing property and replaceable things higher than what is obtainable when you steal a human being?”
“The frequency of kidnap across the federation and its resulting trauma, not to mention the number of lives lost to the crime, make it imperative to review our laws with a view to ensuring appropriate punishment for perpetrators and deterrence for would-be perpetrators,” she added.
The Senate President, after debate on the bill, referred same to the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters for further legislative work.