By Tordue Salem
The National Assembly is expected to resume consideration of “A Bill for An Act to Provide for Measures to Combat Terrorism and for Matters Related” .
The preamble of the piece of legislation: Prohibition of Acts of Terrorism, states that: “A person who knowingly, does attempts or threatens to do an act prepatory to or in furtherance of an act of terrorism or commits to do anything that is reasonably necessary to prevent an act of terrorism or assists or facilitates the activities of persons engaged in an act of terrorism, commits an offence”.
The Bill defines terror in its section 2 as “as an act that may seriously damage a country or an international organisation; is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; seriously intimidate a population; seriously destabilise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an an international organisation; or otherwise influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coersion; (c) inviolves or causes, as the case may be an attack upon a person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death;(ii) kidnapping of a person; (ie) destruction to a public facility, a transport system, an infrastructure facility, including an information system, a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, a public place or private property, likely to endanger human life or result in major economic loss”
The penalty as proposed by the law, covers the “seizure of an aircraft, a ship or other means of public or goods transport and the use of such means of transportation for any of the purposes in sub-paragraph (b) (iv) of this subsection; (v) the manufacture, possesion, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons, explosives, or of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, as well as research into, and development of biological and chemical weapons without lawful authority; (vi) and the release of dangerous substance or causing of fires, explosions or floods, the effect of which is to endanger life”.
The penalty also covers “(iiv) interference with or disruption of the supply of water, power or any other fundamental natural resource, the effect of which is to endanger human life; or (viii) propagation and dissemination of information or information materials in any form or mode whether true or false calculated to cause panic, evoke violence or intimidate a government, person or group of persons; (d) an act or ommission in or outside Nigeria which constitutes an offence within the scope of a counter terrorism protocols and conventions duly ratified by Nigeria.
But section 3 of the Bill, draws a line: It warns that civil disobedience, civil protests no matter how extreme must not be misconstrued as acts of terror, as long as they are not targeted at harming anybody.
(3) An act which disrupts a service but is committed in pursuance of a protest, demonstration or stoppage of work is not terrorist act within the meaning of this definition provided that the act is not intended to result in any harm referred to in subsection (2) (b) (i), (ii), (iv), (v) or (vi) of this section”, the bill states, among several other clauses.
Several arrests, accusations and counter-accusations already emanating from official quarters and public quarters, however remain to be defined against the back-drop of this proposed law.
The Bill also seeks in section 14 to have terror suspects to forfeit property. “A person who enters into, or is involved in, an arrangement which facilitates the retention or control by, or on behalf of, another person, of terrorist property in any manner, including by (a) concealment; (b) removal from the jurisdiction; or (c) transfer to any other person, commits an offence”, it states.
The Bill also seeks in section 15 (1) that: Where a person is charged or about to be charged with an offence under this Act, the Director-General or any of his officers not below the rank of a Principal Security Intelligence Officer may apply to a Judge in Chambers for a provisional order to attach all monies and other property belonging to, or held on behalf of the suspect”.
Debates are already polarising the polity on the phenomenon, as “tertiary” terrorism takes the front burner in Nigerian politics.
The bill, despite threats from organised anti-terror agencies, is still going through the wire at the hallowed chambers where lawmakers, most of whom have not read the Bill might imperil it.
During the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjpo, the Bill was opposed by the National Assembly, but it was re-jigged and returned to the parliament as the United States and her partners against terror mounted firece pressure on the country.
President Jonathan had reminded the parliament of his government’s commitment to the passage of the bill to let Nigeria off the hook of an imminent label as a terror-prone country.
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 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.
Section 3 of the Bill states that anybody who “(a) arranges, manages, or assists in ranging or managing, or participates in a meeting, or an activity, which he knows is concerned with an act of terrorism; or provides logistics, equipment or facilities for a meeting, or an activity, which he knows is concerned with an act of terrorism; or attends a meeting, which he knows is to support a proscribed organisation, commits an offence”.
A breach of the sectiond 3, according to section 4 of the Bill, “is punishable with a minimum fine of 5, 000,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years”.
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).