The Senate President had earlier suggested the death penalty as a punishment for oil theft.
The Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association and the Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, on Friday opposed the Senate President’s proposal of the death penalty for oil thieves and pipeline vandals.
Both groups made this known in separate interviews in Lagos.
The Senate President, David Mark, suggested that oil theft should attract the death penalty while inaugurating the Senate Joint Committee on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) on March 27. Mr. Mark had decried the increasing pillaging of Nigeria’s crude oil, adding that the nation needed to have a law that would provide for severe sanctions to serve as deterrent.
Nigeria is estimated to lose crude worth about $6 billion to oil thieves annually.
The Ikeja Branch Chairman of the NBA, Onyekachi Ubani, said that prescribing a severe punishment like death for stealing the nation’s crude oil would not stop the scourge.
“If we are to be seen as being sincere with the Nigerian project and to Nigerians, our senators should first make corruption in public office a capital offence. Corruption is the bane of our country’s socio-economic and political development,” he said.
He said the international community was working assiduously to discourage nations from further putting felons to death for whatever crime, and “our lawmakers are aware of this global mood.”
Chino Obiagwu, the National Coordinator of LEDAP, a human rights group, said it was not justifiable to punish property crime with capital punishment.
He said the severity of the punishment for illegal deeds like pipeline vandalism was not the solution to the problem of oil theft. He noted that acts that contradicted the expectations of Nigerians from the oil sector would not abate if the death penalty was attached to them.
“Oil thieves are a reflection of our decadent economic system. Finding the cure for that decadent system is what our senate should be focusing on,” he added.