Lagos State House of Assembly is considering a new bill prescribing 21 years jail without option of fine for membership of unlawful societies and cultism.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Public Petitions and LASIEC, Mr Victor Akande, made this known during a public hearing in Lagos on Thursday.
The bill is entitled; “A Bill for a Law to Provide for the Prohibition of Unlawful Societies and Cultism in Lagos State And For Other Connected Purposes.”
Akande said the bill states that any person who by any means of intimidation, harassment, blackmail or threat of violence, compels any person to join an unlawful society, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 15 years.
The lawmaker said the bill prohibits people from forming, organising or belonging to any cult society, and states that once the activities of the society is inimical to the peace of the society, it is a secret society.
“The bill, however, states that any person who compel a person to join an unlawful society, at or immediately after communicating to the person to join the unlawful society or any other person, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 21 years.
“Any person, who being a member of a cult or unlawful society, sets fire to anything in an open or enclosed place, or uses a firearm or an offensive weapon or causes to be used any deadly object.
“Others are the acid or any potent chemical within a premises in any location within the state or causes a firearm or an offensive weapon to be used or set fire to anything in such a manner.
“Which can endanger the health or property of any other person, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of life.
“Also, any student or member of any educational institution must not belong to any group or society that is not registered with the student affairs department of a university or any educational institution in the state,” he said.
Akande said any association or society of students on campus or any other educational institution whose activities were inconsistent with the promotion of learning, social development and citizenship behaviour shall not be registered.
On principal offenders, the bill states that any person who contravenes, aids or abets, protects, covers up or condones any other person who commits an offence under this law.
The lawmaker added that the person or is an accessory before or after the fact of the contravention of any of the provisions of this law, commits an offence and will be regarded as a principal offender.
Akande said the offender will be charged with doing the act or making the commission that the person that committed the offence made, and is liable on conviction to the same punishment that the person, who committed the offence is liable to.
The lawmaker noted that on arrest, the bill states that police officer or any other person may arrest without warrant any person who commits an offence against the law.
Akande said that the Lagos parliament had institutionalised public participation on law making through public hearing.
According to him, public hearing is meant to assist the House to come up with better laws. The law is meant to criminalise cultism in our schools and guarantee peace in our society.
In his keynote address, Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Wasiu Eshinlokun-Sanni, said that the bill was important to the development of the state.
Obasa said the public hearing was to discuss how to protect the people in the state.
“We are here today to discuss how to protect ourselves and our societies. We may have noticed the alarming rate of cultism and how our children are being indoctrinated.
“The issue has now extended to our primary and secondary schools. It is incumbent on us to act now to protect our society.
“A law against drug abuse is also being considered by the House. The amendment to the criminal justice law will further increase criminal justice system by removing all the bottlenecks,” he said.
Leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, in his overview, said that the bill was very important to address cultism which has eaten deep into our society.
“The Lagos State Government has seen the need to work on the bill and review it. The bill has 19 sections and it takes cultism issue beyond the campus.
“The cultists have left the campuses due to the way they are being dealt with and cultism has extended to primary and secondary schools.
“The bill shows the serious desire of the government to keep the society safe. It defines cult, firearms and others,” he said.
NAN recalls that contributions were taken from stakeholders including Deputy Registrar of the Lagos High Court, Mrs. Ariyike Ipaye-Nwachukwu, Deputy Rector, Administration, Yaba College of Technology, Dr Titilayo Ukaba.
Other contributors were Mr Emmanuel Bello from Alimosho and the representative of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Kayode Odumosu, ACP Oketunji Sola.