Punishment for Arson in Nigeria – Arson: Offence, Consequences, Punishment
Fire is an ancient companion of man. In many ways, it has remained critical to life. It is used for cooking, it is used for heating, it is used for industrial purposes.
The law in its infinite foresight recognizes the uses of fire. Presciently, it also recognizes the destruction that fire can wrought. Crucially, it seeks to regulate fire and its uses. It also seeks to punish its abuse . Mightily.
The law recognizes that given how potent fire can be, criminals can deploy it as a weapon of mischief and mass destruction. Thus, in many ways,the law forbids the use of fire and punishes it.
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The 7th Edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner `s Dictionary, International Student `s Edition, at page, defines “Arson” thus:
“The crime of deliberately setting fire to something, especially a building .”
The Deluxe Ninth Edition of the Black`s Law Dictionary, at page 126 defines “Arson” as:
“At common law, the malicious burning of someone else`s dwelling house or outhouse that is either appurtenant to the dwelling house or within the cartilage. The thing that is burnt must be a ‘house’ ”
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The New International Webster`s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language (Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition) at page 82 defines “Arson ” thus:
“The malicious burning of a dwelling or other structure belonging to another; also the similar burning of other property ,including one`s own when insured with the intention to defraud the insurers.”
Wikipedia defines Arson as a crime of intentionally, deliberately and maliciously setting fire to buildings, wildland areas, abandoned homes, vehicles or other property with the intent to cause damage or enjoy the act. A person who commits this crime is called an arsonist.
More often than not, arsonists use accelerants (such as gasoline or kerosene) to ignite, propel and directionalize fires.
Historically, the common law crime of arson had four elements. They were (1) the malicious (2) burning (3) of the dwelling (4) of another.
The Criminal Code Act punishes the crime of arson.
Recognizing the many deleterious and nefarious ends fire can be deployed to, the law proscribes arson in any manner.
Under the Criminal Code Act, arson is recognized as an injury to property and punishes same as such.
Section 443 of the Criminal Code Act provides thus:
“Any person who willfully sets fire to any of the following things:
1. Any building or structure whatever, whether completed or not;
2. Any vessel, whether completed or not;
3. Any stack of cultivated vegetable produce, or of mineral or vegetable fuel;
4. A mine, or the workings, fittings, or appliances of a mine, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for life.
Section 444 of the Criminal Code Act provides thus:
“Any person who:
a. Attempts unlawfully to set fire any such thing as is mentioned in section 443 of this Code; or
b. Willfully ad unlawfully sets fire to anything which is so situated that any such thing as is mentioned in section 443 of this Code is likely to catch fire from it, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
Section 445 of the Criminal Code Act criminalizes setting fire to crops and growing plants. It provides thus:
“Any person who willfully and unlawfully sets fire to any of the following things:
a. A crop of cultivated vegetable produce, whether standing or cut;
b. A crop of hay or grass under cultivation, whether the natural or indigenous products of the soil or not ,and whether standing or cut;
c. Any standing trees, saplings or shrubs, whether indigenous or not, under cultivation, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.
Section 446 of the Criminal Code Act criminalizes attempting to set fire to crops, etc. It provides thus:
“ Any person who:
a. Attempts unlawfully to set fire to any such thing as is mentioned in section 445 of this Code; or
b. Willfully and unlawfully sets fire to anything which is so situated that any such thing as is mentioned in sectioned 445 of this Code is likely to catch fire from it ,is guilty of felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
Arson and Riots
Arson is always a feature of riots which by Section 69 of the Criminal Code Act is described in the following words, “When an unlawful assembly has begun to act in so tumultuous a manner as to disturb the peace, the assembly is called a riot, and the persons assembled are said to be riotously assembled.”
When in the course of a riot, arson is perpetrated the law will punish the offence of arson with imprisonment for life or the number of years prescribed by the Criminal Code Act as well as punish the riot with the punishment prescribed by the Criminal Code Act.
Where the arson results in the death of a person, the offender or the offenders will be liable under a charge of culpable homicide.
a. A misdemeanor is a crime that is not considered to be very serious. It is usually punishable by fine, penalty, forfeiture, or confinement usually for a brief time in a place other than a prison.
b. A felony is a serious crime usually punishable by imprisonment for more than a year or by death. Examples include burglary, arson, rape, and murder.
c. An arsonist is a person who commits the crime of arson
d. By recognizing and criminalizing arson the law recognizes the dangers fire can wrought.
e. Section 443 of the Criminal Code Act declares arson committed on a building, vessel, mine or stack of cultivated vegetables a felony and punishes it with life imprisonment
f. Section 444 criminalizes any attempt at felony as an arson and punishes it with fourteen years imprisonment
g. Section 445 criminalizes arson committed on crops and trees as a felony and punishes it with fourteen years imprisonment.
a. That as a Nigerian citizen under Sections 25,26 or 27 of the 1999 Constitution, your fundamental rights are guaranteed under Sections 33 to 46 of the same Constitution.
b. That the Constitution guarantees you equal rights, obligations, opportunities and easy accessibility to court under Section 17.
c. That com works with a team of lawyers to inform you of your rights, obligations and opportunities under the law.
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