New bill to outlaw ransom payments in Nigeria

May 19, 2022 by Tim Dustin in Persecution updates

On April 28, the Nigerian Senate passed a bill that would impose jail terms of at least 15 years on anyone who pays a ransom to free a hostage kidnapped by bandits and extremist groups like Boko Haram. Open Doors’ field leaders have expressed critical concern over this new bill.  

The thinking behind the bill is that kidnapping will stop when extremists realize they can’t get ransom payments. Opeyemi Bamidele, the chair of the Nigerian Senate’s Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Committee, told the Senate on Wednesday that making ransom payments punishable with lengthy jail sentences would “discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom in Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country.” 

The new bill, which remains to be debated in the House of Representatives, and is yet to be signed by Nigerian President Buhari, would also make the crime of abduction punishable by death in cases where the victims are killed or die in captivity. 

However, Open Doors field leaders have expressed concern over the bill. George Williams*, the field operations director in Africa, explained the objections: 

“We cannot imagine the difficult position of families of those who have been held hostage,” he said. “They are put in the indescribable position of trying everything to save their loved ones with limited resources. These families experience repeated trauma and are often treated like afterthoughts [by local government]. In the midst of trauma, we must rally around them.  

“We renew our recommendation that the government create a family liaison to maintain a channel of clear communication, informing and assisting families traumatized by abductions.  We encourage the government to walk closely with these families, and to explore all appropriate options to ensure the safe recovery of their loved ones.” 

Williams further called on the wider Body of Christ to continue praying for the escalating situation in Nigeria. 

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Our church family and leadership in Nigeria need our fervent prayers: Let’s boldly pray for the safe and immediate release of all individuals who remain in captivity, and that they’ll be released without further incident. Let’s pray for the families of those struggling to cope with the abduction of their loved ones, that their communities will surround them with God’s passionate love and gracious peace. And let’s pray for Nigeria’s government, that they will act accordingly and make the best decision on this bill for all their citizens. 

Lord, You are good and we ask You hear and answer our prayers for our beloved family in Nigeria.

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