By Tordue Salem
As terrorism threatens to take centre stage in Nigerian politics, it is imperative for the National Assembly to take a second look at the the bill for an Act to provide for measures to combat terrorism in the country.
The Bill which still remains in the domain of the National Assembly, despite several pleas by President Goodluck Jonathan and other global partnerships against terror, has suffered several set backs on the floor of the House of Representatives, as some members continued to see it as alien to Nigeria.
However, the 50th independence bomb blasts that killed over 10 people and injured several, should be a enough reason to hury up its passage into law.
The National Assembly which has taken the anti-terror legislation through several stages, has impugned the ‘motive’ for certain clauses therein, but has sadly failed to advance clear-headed arguments on the fact that the bill, besides United States’ and other nations in the Western Hemisphere’s interests, would serve Nigeria well.
The bill, despite threats of sanctions by organised anti-terror bodies in the world, was kept on hold by the hallowed chambers during the Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
It was however revived and sent back to the Legislature as a result of the consistent pressure from the United States and its counterparts against terror. The United States department had since issued unequivocal official statements stressing the consequences of “dumping” the piece of legislation at the time when Nigeria is desperately trying to wriggle itself out of the “terror triangle”.
On return for a two-day session to screen ministerial nominees and consider INEC budget, the National Assembly was served with a fresh executive letter ‘begging’ both chambers to pass the bill on terror.
President Jonathan had reminded the parliament of his government’s commitment to the passage of the bill to let Nigeria off the snare of being accused a black ship in the “family” of terror-free nations.
He had also reminded them of the need to pass the bill for an Act to repeal the money laundering (prohibition Act 2004) and enact the money laundering (prohibition) bill
It however appears that President Jonathan’s hope of having the counter-terrorism bills passed on time was last Thursday dashed in the House of Representatives as the second chamber postponed indefinitely the consideration of the report of its committee on drugs, narcotics and financial crimes on the bills.
The House though started considering the report of its committee on the bill, left it in limbo owing to a bickering among members on some of the provisions in the proposed law.
The Senate on its part, shelved consideration of the two bills, as soon as the Senate President read them on the floor.
The president had in a letter to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, pleaded that “Kindly consider the quick passage of the Anti-Terrorism and the Anti-Money Laundering (Prohibition) Amendment bills, which were presented to the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic in 2009, to enable Nigeria fulfill its commitment to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the international community.
“Mr. Speaker may wish to note that every provision in the draft bills presented to the National Assembly is consistent and in compliance with global instruments, which Nigeria has signed and ratified. International standards require all member-states to model their domestic legislation in consonance with global best practices.”
He had also warned that any delay in the passage of the bills “will frustrate and hamper legitimate international transactions flowing from Nigeria, some countries will not honour international financial instruments emanating from Nigeria; including letter of credit.”
But several pleas to the National Assembly, seem to have fallen on deaf ears as debates continue to linger as to what constitutes terror and the risk of Nigeria being on blacklist of a powerful coalition against acts of violence on the world stage.
The objectives of this bill is “to provide for measures for prevention of acts of terrorism, financing of terrorism in Nigeria and for the effective implementation of the convention on the prevention and combating of terrorism and the convention on the suppression of the financing of terrorism and to prescribe penalties for violating any of its provisions”.
This important bill especially tackles one of the notorious problems in the country today: kidnapping. Section 1 (c) (ii) and (iii) of the proposed law says a person who knowingly involves or causes, as the case may be an attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death; kidnapping……”
Many observers are of the view that pockets of terror, according to United Nations definition, may continue into 2011 and beyond, as there are no enabling laws to check categories of violence. As a country that prides itself with the leadership of Africa, Nigeria may do well to step up to the plate or risk being turned to another Somali by sectarian skirmishes, electoral violence, ethnic mayhems that are capable of snow-balling into full-blown terror.
Kidnapping, intimidation and political assassination commando-style, are already the order in Nigeria .
A huge pool of miscreants and idle youth await to serve the sinister intents of politicians who want to perpetuate themselves in power. Another set of politicians who want to take power by force also awaits in the wings.
But an idle wait by the President on the unwilling National Assembly, is even dangerous. To forestall another round of violence in Next years elections, President Jonathan must beef up security in all parts of the country.