National Security: How New Laws Will Boost Counter-Terrorism Efforts
By Zakari Usman
On Thursday, May 12, President Muhammadu Buhari signed three important bills into law. They are: the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill (2022), the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill (2022) and the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Bill (2022).
In many ways, the three pieces of bills are interwoven because the three crimes they address meet at some point. For instance, terrorists are heavily involved in money laundering, and once the noose is tightened against the flow of illicit proceeds, there has to be legislation to back the recovery and management of such funds. This is why the pieces of legislation are expected to improve the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing/proliferation financing framework in the country.
Of particular interest to this piece, however, is the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (2022). With the enactment of the new act, the Terrorism (Prevention) Act (2011) as amended in 2013 has been repealed to provide for the effective implementation of international instruments for the prevention and combating of terrorism and suppression of the financing of terrorism. Among other important details, the new law makes provision for extra-territorial application of the original act and strengthens terrorist financing offences.
Perhaps the most important provision of the new law is in Part III, wherein the establishment of, and appointment into, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre is enshrined.
In response to the challenges of violent extremism and terrorism the country faces, the old law had designated the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) as the Coordinating Office for Nigeria’s counter-terrorism efforts. The same law also gave ONSA the mandate to “ensure the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive Counter Terrorism Strategy and build capacity for the effective discharge of the functions of relevant security, intelligence, law enforcement and military services”.
In 2012, Nigeria’s counter-terrorism efforts led to the establishment of the Counter Terrorism Centre (CTC), embedded in the ONSA. Since it became operational, the CTC has been vital to Nigeria’s counter terrorism activities and has pioneered crucial initiatives in the areas of providing leadership, coordination and strategic guidance to other counter terrorism stakeholders, and building partnerships and collaboration with relevant local and international agencies and institutions.
Since inception, the CTC has designed and has been implementing strategic counter-terrorism policies and programmes, including the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) and the Preventing & Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) National Framework and Action Plan.
Through collaboration with bilateral and multilateral organisations, as well as partner-countries, the centre has embarked on significant efforts leading to appreciable achievements of the goals of Nigeria’s P/CVE programme. For instance, in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the centre has developed the Demobilisation, Disassociation, Reintegration and Reconciliation (DDRR) Action Plan for the country. An Operational Project Team (OPT) was also constituted to monitor the implementation of the DDRR. Also, in partnership with UNDP, the CTC has embarked on a series of sensitisation workshops on P/CVE targeting for the prevention of radicalization across communities.
Section 6 (1) of the new Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act (2022) has provided legislative and legal backing to the operations of the Counter Terrorism Centre. The section specifically states thus: “There is established, in the Office of the National Security Adviser, a National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) which shall be the coordinating body for counter-terrorism and terrorism financing in Nigeria, charged with the coordination of counter-terrorism policies, strategies, plans, and support in the performance of the functions of the National Security Adviser specified in section 4 of this Act.”
Section 4, from where the NCTC derives its functions, empowers ONSA to formulate and implement policies for counter-terrorism and terrorism financing efforts. The new law further mandates the NCTC to establish a Joint Terrorism and Analysis Branch; a legal team; and coordinate the implementation of various PCVE and counter-terrorism programmes; conduct public awareness; facilitate capacity building; partner with civil society and international organisations; collaborate with research centres and ensure that relevant agencies timely access to intelligence and analysis for effective discharge of their responsibilities.
The objective of the new law is to provide effective, unified and comprehensible legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the detection, prevention, prohibition, prosecution and punishment of acts of terrorism, terrorism financing, proliferation and financing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Nigeria.
The new law also gives the Attorney-General of the Federation the responsibility of strengthening and enhancing existing legal framework on combating terrorism and terrorism financing, among other roles.
As the administration of President Buhari winds down, many believe that the new Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act is one commendable attempt by the President to cement his legacy by specifically and directly addressing some of the country’s security challenges. For instance, the new law criminalises hostage taking, kidnapping and hijacking, with the penalty being life imprisonment or the death sentence, depending on the severity.
The new law also attests to the tremendous work being carried out by the National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, whose statutory responsibility of coordinating national security and advising the President on issues of national security he has so far delivered with unmatched commitment and diligent competence. Under Monguno, ONSA has understandably focused on policy and coordination, and has steered the office assuredly away from the controversies of the past. The policies and programmes being designed and implemented through the NCTC testify to the ability of those in charge to work with relevant agencies – including the National Assembly – in ensuring the emergence of a robust law capable of adequately bringing terrorists and their financiers to justice.
Zakari Usman writes from Abuja
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