There has been so much controversy about what constitutes terror attack, which group should and should not be declared a terrorist and the justification for not declaring killer herdsmen as a terrorist group.
It may be surprising to many, that Boko Haram, Isis, and al-Shabab were deemed deadlier than the herdsmen on the global terrorism index, yet the Nigerian government, despite the several attacks did not pronounce killer herdsmen as a terror group.
The government had repeatedly argued that herdsmen are common criminals, since they do not operate under an identity or seek a political cum religious goal.
This argument may be succinct, giving the provisions of our anti terrorism laws. But a review of this law can also change the narrative, as different jurisdiction have defined the term terrorism to reflect different ideas.
A fresh bill before the House of Representatives may provide a different perspective to the definition of terrorism in Nigeria.
The proposed law seeks to expand definition of what constitutes acts of terrorism and the crime of hostage taking, kidnapping and hijacking.
If passed into law, illegal manufacture, possession, acquisition, transportation of weapons, explosives, biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear (BCRN) or other lethal device that is deliberately used with malice will be regarded as a terrorist act.
After September 11 attack in the USA, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution No: 1373 on September 28, 2001 calling upon all members to implement 14 legal instruments.
The UN Drug Control & Crime Prevention Secretariat was given the nodal role in monitoring compliance. For members, this meant not only ratifying the UN conventions but also passing domestic laws, creating national security doctrines, budgetary allocations and administrative and personnel support.
Interestingly, since 2000, the UN Ad Hoc Committee has been examining a draft paper on “Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism” including a common definition.
The latest report on the UN web is of 2011, but the progress is unsatisfactory. Members of various political hues are still divided over what could be the exact definition of terrorism, showing clearly that adopting a general definition for terrorism may be an herculean task.
For instance, the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior and the Council of Arab Ministers of Justice in Cairo, Egypt adopted the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism in 1998. Terrorism was defined in the convention as: “any act or threat of violence, whatever its motives or purposes, that occurs in the advancement of an individual or collective criminal agenda and seeking to sow panic among people, causing fear by harming them, or placing their lives, liberty or security in danger, or seeking to cause damage to the environment or to public or private installations or property or to occupying or seizing them, or seeking to jeopardise national resources.”
The European Union defines terrorism for legal/official purposes in Act 1 of the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002). This provides that terrorist offences are certain criminal offences set out in a list comprised largely of serious offences against persons and property which: given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.
The United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism to include an act “designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system”. An act of violence is not even necessary under this definition.
The United States has also defined terrorism under the Federal Criminal Code. Title 18 of the United States Code defines terrorism and lists the crimes associated with terrorism. In Section 2331 of Chapter 113(B), it defines terrorism as: “activities that involve violent or life-threatening acts that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”
But Nigeria’s proposed law is all encompassing, it seeks to incorporate and criminalise offences such as hijacking of aircrafts, offences against the safety of civil aviation, offences against safety at airports serving military or civil aviation, offences against the safety of ships or fixed platforms and the likes.
Since there is no globally acceptable definition for terrorism, this home grown strategy to combat insecurity deserves support and commendation from every Nigerian. I sincerely hope that stakeholders in the security system will all participate in the public hearing an add value to the proposed law.
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