As a way of checking cases of kidnapping in Edo State, Governor Adams Oshiomhole Monday announced that the state government, in conjunction with security agencies in the state were looking into the option of re-introducing checkpoints in strategic areas of the state.
He also appealed to members of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in the state over its threat not to defend the cases of suspected kidnappers standing trials due to the recent kidnap of a High Court judge and other victims in the state, adding that the NBA should have a rethink in order not to jeopardise the law on kidnapping, which he signed into law last week.
Oshiomhole, who spoke at a town hall meeting organised to discuss with stakeholders on the security situation in the state and the plan by the state government to sell Edo House in Lagos, noted: “We have to reconsider the reintroduction of road blocks in the state because we discovered that each time people are kidnapped here they are always rescued in Delta State where you have so many road blocks. Our roads here are very free and that is why these criminals get away with a lot of things.”
In doing so, he said: “The bar and the bench must also help to ensure that this law we passed succeeds by avoiding endless adjournments. If we all agree to carry out accelerated hearing, it will be better for us.”
Oshiomhole further said: "We understood the sentiments of the NBA, which led to the decision not to defend those facing trial on kidnapping," warning that such decision will work in favour of the kidnappers and not the state or victims.
According to him, “There is no doubt that we are all worried with the activities of these criminals, but if we decide that you will not defend kidnappers, we should also remember that under our law, criminals are entitled to legal representation and if any criminal cannot afford one the state will provide for the person. so if you don’t defend them it means that we will never convict any kidnapper in the state.
“The court must proof beyond reasonable doubt that a person is a kidnapper, our laws says one is innocent until proof guilty. So I want to appeal that we reconsider your decision on that so that the law on kidnapping will benefit our people."
On the planned sale of Edo House, the governor said the best that government could make on the investment in a year was N34 million and about "N1.6 billion," in 40 years time.
"My obligation is Edo State and Edo people, not Lagos State. I believe in divesting from Lagos State and investing in Edo State. After reviewing the situation, we decided that the house be sold so that we can use the proceed to develop Benin City. We decided to advertise the house because we believe in transparency.
“But there are governments in this state that sold properties of the state without people knowing about it. But we said we will not do that because we want to make a difference”.
From the various responses, participants at the meeting thanked the governor for signing the anti-kidnapping bill into law and asked him to revive the Neighbourhood Watch, a local security outfit for proper surveillance.
Similarly, they applauded government planned sale of Edo House in Lagos as according to them, "it is no longer yielding the desired profit to people of the state.”