Senate considers law on corporate manslaughter

corporate manslaughter

The Senate is considering a new law that will make corporate organisations liable for manslaughter.

A bill pursuant to that and sponsored by Senator Pius Ewherido, scaled a second reading on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

Ewherido said the bill would make corporate bodies and agencies culpable for their negligence, dereliction of duty and or gross incompetence leading to the death of any person.

He said the provisions of the bill fell within the definition of killing in Section 308 of the Criminal Code, which provides that “except as hereinafter set forth, any person who causes the death of another directly or indirectly by any means whatever is deemed to have killed that other person”.

He argued that the provisions of Sections 316 and 317, which made the offences of murder and manslaughter relevant to Section 308 only addressed one arm of the definition of killing.

He said, “While Section 308 emphasises that killing can be brought about by either direct or indirect means, Sections 316 and 317 nevertheless, in their ingredients, fail to cover activities of persons who indirectly and or remotely cause the death of another person.”

Ewerhido added that the lacunae created by the restrictive definitions in Sections 316 and 317 when viewed against the broad definition of killing in Section 308 are what the bill seeks to fill.

He said the law was necessary to fill the gap existing in the Criminal Code, noting that the situation today was different from when the Criminal Code came into being.

Ewerihido’s submission, which attracted intense debate among his colleagues, prompted the Senate President, David Mark, to allow only senators, who are lawyers to speak on the issue.

Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, described the bill as lacking in content and was not necessary in the present time.

He said, “The bill is largely hypothetical and futuristic given that Nigeria is not as advanced as the development world where the laws are common.”

Senators Joshua Lidani and Umaru Dahiru said the bill should be withdrawn since there were already laws that catered for it.

They argued that instead of a new law, Ewerhido should seek to amend the relevant sections of the penal and criminal codes.

Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, also sought an amendment to the criminal and penal codes instead of an independent bill.

But Senator Boluwaji Omoworare, said the bill was important because it sought to fill the gaps in the criminal code.

Senator Magnus Abe, while supporting the bill, said it was necessary for corporate entities to be socially responsible and culpable when they are irresponsible.

 Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba(SAN) called for caution, saying the bill had the potential to alter many other existing laws.

He said, “The bill when passed is going to rewrite our jurisprudence. It is going to affect company law. It is going to affect the law of tort.

“These issues cannot be determined on the floor of this Senate, but at the public hearing, where all shades of opinion can be received and the opinion of the Law Reform Commission.”

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Judiciary will return the bill to the chambers in four weeks’ time.