John Cardinal Onaiyekan, the Archbishop Emeritus of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, has said the granting of amnesty must not become an incentive for potential bandits and other criminal elements to pick up arms against the state.
Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Onaiyekan stated that criminality would fester should such occur as criminals would know that there is a high chance for them to be forgiven by the state after perpetrating their crime.
The cardinal said he is not against bandits and other criminals been forgiven by the state but insisted that there must be a balance between the maintenance of law and order on one hand and the negotiation and granting of amnesty on the other.
“I don’t think we should reach a stage where the nation simply says we’re unable to deal with the situation. We should be able to deal with it and on one hand, we must be open to amnesty, forgiveness, and on the other hand, we need to keep law and order and not make it an incentive for others to pick up arms and wait for amnesty and rehabilitation,” Onaiyekan said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
The senior Catholic cleric also said the government to ensure there is clear evidence that the criminals have truly repented before they are given amnesty.
“I believe firmly in what the Bible says that it is not the will of God that a sinner should die but that he should repent and live. So obviously, if a criminal sincerely repents, he should be forgiven. But the question is when it comes to the real facts of whether he has repented or not, the state must have a way of making sure that this is not a joke.
“The whole idea of amnesty is not only to be applied to armed bandits, in that case it is true for everybody in jail in Nigeria. For the sake of law and order, to protect the rest of us, the few who are making life difficult have to be restrained. The armed dogs should be tied down. The armed bandits should be disarmed.
“Before we talk of amnesty, there should be clear evidence that there’s a sincere repentance and that the people concerned have decided not to pick up arms anymore, that they’re ready to go back to their normal way of life and if they’re foreigners, they’re ready to go back home. All this must be part and parcel of the process of amnesty.
“The bandits must be reconciled with society, they must change, they must decide to be really repentant and show it clearly. And not be put in a position to brag around to appear that they have actually won, and defeated the nation.”