By Ise Oluwa Ige & Lawani Mikairu with agency reports
ABUJA â€”Indications emerged, yesterday, that Federal Government might have parted ways with the Senate over its call on the United States of America to delete the name of Nigeria from the terror watch-list within seven days or incur a diplomatic row.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa (SAN) who gave the hint in Abuja, said the Federal Government was poised to embrace dialogue instead of confrontation. The occasion was a World Press Conference at the Conference Room of the Attorney-General’s chambers.Â Meantime, a United States grand jury has indicted Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab over a plot to blow up a plane on Christmas Day while it was also revealed that Abdulmuttallab was recruited in London by Al Qaeda.
FG makes U-turn
In revealing government’s latest decision to mellow, Chief Aondoakaa, however, said the Federal Government was working closely with the National Assembly to ensure that a bill proposing life jail term for terrorists and their sponsors is passed without further delay. He said the bill was forwarded to the National Assembly in last October.
The attorney general who noted that the country was not just waking up on the global fight against terrorism because of the Muttallab’s issue, said: “it is pertinent to note that there are about 16 United Nations, UN, and African Union, AU, instruments on counter terrorism, all dealing with related issues ranging from money laundering, drug trafficking, crime to nuclear terrorism .
It is noteworthy that Nigeria has been able to sign and ratify nine of these. Nigeria is also considered to be at a good compliance level with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1373 ofÂ 2001, 1455 of 2003, 1526 of 2004 and 1822 of 2008 on issues related to counter terrorism.â€
He said he had got the assurances of the leadership of the two chambers of the National Assembly to get the bill on terrorism passed into law as soon as they resume for the next legislative session, stressing: â€œWe are not saying we are not in support of the seven day ultimatum by the Senate but we are dialoguing with the US. We are presenting our effort.
What we are doing is the issue of global fight. If it happens to a brother, a sister country, it is not something that you should have a quarrel with. It is something you should join hands together to create measures with which you combat it.
“This is so because, everyday, terrorists are getting new advanced methods and all countries in the world must join hands to think together to get new methods to deal with the situation. Our position is to deal with the US as aÂ friendly country, with mutual relationship, cooperate fully and take emergency measures in Nigeria that will complement measures being taken by them and globally.
We have taken steps to pre-empt any future occurrence of this situation in Nigeria and elsewhere. We have proposed a bill to the National Assembly which stipulates that if you conspire to commit an act of terrorism anywhere in the world, but you did not do it on Nigerian soil but the conspiracy took place in Nigeria or aspects of the conspiracy took place in Nigeria you go in for life. The bill before the National Assembly seeks to criminalize and punish all acts of terrorism, terrorists and their associates including their sponsors.
The bill clearly defines and prohibits all acts of terrorism and its support. It makes violation of provisions of the bill an offence and prescribes penalties for such violation. The bill further makes provision for listing and delisting, freezing of funds and financial assets of terrorist groups and prevention of their entry into or transit in Nigeria.”
He said: â€œWe assure Nigerians that the issue of Nigeria being on the list of country of interest will be resolved. We will be transparent and by this mechanism, we will invite our colleagues from the United States. We are going to be very open and transparent in the investigation of this incident. I have assured my colleague, the Attorney-General of the United States that we will give full cooperation and all requests relating to investigation will be granted. We have nothing to hide.
We have visual information at the Murtala Muhammed airport which we expect our counterpart from the United States should come in and have physical inspection that our security agencies did what they were supposed to do.
â€œThe young man came in, he was screened and it is on the visual information. He removed his shoes. He first came, he walked to the right, tried to go to the right screening machine, then suddenly changed his mind and came to the left, removed his shoes and entered. It is there. Our security agencies did all that was required under the law to ensure that Nigeria complied with international standard.
We feel that the long existing relationship between us and the United States will be mutually continued. I am very hopeful that with the fact and what we are placing before the United States government, they will rescind the decision. Nigeria is not a terrorist country. Nigeria will not and cannot be on a list of countries of interest because we have a track record of peace keeper.â€
MoneyÂ Laundering Act
Aondoakaa who said that the Money Laundering Act 2004 would be amended to curtail terror financing, added that another law which, in his view, would check the incidence of terrorism was the Maritime Security Agency Bill which was also pending before the National Assembly.
He described the Bill as one of the President Umaru Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s commitment to meeting Nigeria’s international obligations as it relates to the war against terrorism. He also disclosed that henceforth, any person or group of persons involved in religious violence would be prosecuted, stressing: â€œThe body of Attorneys-General at its meeting held in Jos, Plateau State resolved that religious based violence should no longer be tolerated in the country. Henceforth, commissioners of police have been instructed to ensure that all religious based violence are properly investigated and prosecuted.
To ensure that there are no hitches in the process, it was resolved that the AGF should give appropriate fiats to state Attorneys-General to prosecute federal offences committed within their jurisdiction. It is hoped that this will streamline the process and enable the prosecution of such offences to be conducted speedily.â€
Farouk may get life jail
Umar Farouk Abdulmuttallab, 23, was indicted, Wednesday, by a grand jury on six counts arising from a botched Christmas Day plot to blow up an airliner packed with 290 passengers and crew as it approached Detroit, Michigan. The charges included attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction aboard a US plane. Attorney General Eric Holder said a â€œglobalâ€ hunt was tracking those who helped the alleged bomber.
If convicted of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, Abdulmuttallab faces life imprisonment. According to US Attorney General, Eric Holder in a statement, “This investigation is fast-paced, global and ongoing, and it has already yielded valuable intelligence that we will follow wherever it leads. Anyone we find responsible for this alleged attack will be brought to justice using every tool – military or judicial – available to our government.â€
Al Qaeda â€˜recruited Farouk in Londonâ€™
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab charged with attempted murder over the alleged Christmas Day plot was recruited by al Qaeda in London, according to reports. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, has been charged with attempted murder and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction after allegedly trying to blow up a plane. Yemen deputy prime minister had acknowledged that Muttallab had been in his country.
But he said Muttallab had been recruited by al Qaeda in London, adding that he had been equipped and trained in Nigeria. On Thursday, Yemenâ€™s deputy prime minister for defence and security affairs, Rashad al-Aleemi, revealed that Abdulmutallab had met with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi
However, senior Home Office officials have denied that Muttallab was recruited by al Qaeda in the UK, saying they think he was recruited and radicalised abroad. â€œThe Nigerian hid in Shabwa area in Wadi Rafadh (east of Sanaa) where he met Awlaqi and Mohammad Omair, who was killed in the air raid on Wadi Rafadh,â€ the minister said.