Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Re-Jig Anti-Terrorism Law

editorial

Nigerians thought there would be a sigh of relief by the coming into force of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 on the 3rd of June, 2012 which prohibits the acts of terrorism and other ancillary offences. Specifically, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 33 of the Act aspire to bring the organised hoodlums to an abrupt end. Unfortunately, bomb blasts have been recurring in unusual places beyond the North-east of the country to hitherto secured places like the Command and Staff College, Jaji, Kaduna State and the high-profile Special Anti -Robbery Squad in the nation's capital. Is the Act a pageant that dances to an imaginary drum?

Obviously, the law, made with a curative thinking cannot address the species of insecurity in the country. Boko Haram has been unrepentant, just as the custom of hostage taking in the Niger-Delta has been on the increase again. That is a big knock on the head of the National Assembly's statute that was made to criminalise these acts. We think part of the solution lies in an amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act, 2011 to compel the trial of terror suspects, their sponsors and others suspected of aiding and abetting terror suspects under military law.

The executive bill before the National Assembly is generating furore over death sentence and trial under the military law of suspects. Some say it negates the tenets of democracy and could unjustly repress all kinds of popular protests. We hold that issues of bombings, hostage taking, assassinations and kidnapping cannot be treated as elements of protest in a democracy. People have also argued that death sentence has not quelled the spate of armed robberies or murders. But that is tenuous. A situation where people take pride in denying other people their right to life requires that they also should not be spared.

Furthermore, Sections 308 and 220 of the Criminal and Penal Codes respectively recommend death as punishment for any person who caused the death of another directly or indirectly, provided the element of Actus Reus - that is deliberately causing the death of another human being in circumstances, which are not authorised by law, is established. We support any law that prescribes death as punishment for taking another person's life unjustly. We are not impressed by the slow pace of the passage of this law, neither are we persuaded by contestations that capital punishment is widely condemned by rights groups in the Western world.

The government has to be firm and unequivocal about the war that is raging fiercer daily, especially as many of our top jurists and security officers claim that there was no clear-cut law against terrorism in the country. The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Mukhtar during her screening by the Senate was first to say this and later the Inspector General of Police Mohammed D. Abubakar re-echoed it. We think they are wrong. The existing laws only need to be strengthened to meet the present challenge.

We hold that a peculiar situation that has led to the death of over 3000 persons and maiming of more Nigerians require an equally peculiar antidote, alongside doses of good governance and strategic thinking and surveillance.

We support the proposed amendment meant to hasten the trial of suspects and prevent them from exploiting any loopholes in the existing Anti-terrorism Act and the nation's legal system to escape justice.

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