Nigerians expected to heave a sigh of relief with the signing into law of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 on the 3rd of June, 2012. The law set out to prohibit all acts of terrorism and other ancillary offences. Specifically, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 33 of the Act intends to bring the activities of the hoodlums to an end. Unfortunately, this has not happened.
In our opinion, the law made with a curative thinking, have not addressed the specifics of insecurity in the country. The issue is vexingly unbaiting, and this is a big knock on the statute that was made to criminalise these acts.
We think that part of the solution lay in an amendment to the Anti-terrorism Act, 2011 to compel the trial of the agents of terror their sponsors and others suspected of aiding and abetting terror 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 argue that it negates the principles of democracy and is capable of unjustly repressing 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 require 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 daily, especially as many of our top jurists and security officers claim that there is 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 MD 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 situation that has led to the death of over 3000 persons and maiming of more Nigerians require an equally drastic antidote, alongside doses of good governance and strategic thinking and surveillance. Terrorist activities in the country cannot be handled like a civil matter in regular courts. 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.