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Foundation wants counter insurgency legislation review

Representatives of the nation’s Military, Police and other Para-military security agencies; National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other stakeholders at the Policy brief dissemination on counter-terrorism legislation in Nigeria, organised by the CLEEN Foundation, NHRC and Open Society Foundation (OSF), on Monday in Abuja. Photo: Abbas Jimoh.

The CLEEN Foundation has urged the Federal Government to review her counter-insurgency laws for the country to effectively address the decade of insurgency in the North-East.

The foundation appeal came as a result of her survey findings, titled “A Policy Brief on Counter-Terrorism Legislation in Nigeria” and also on human rights violations in countering violent extremism in Nigeria.

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Presenting the policy brief on Monday in Abuja, a lecturer at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Dr. Michael Ugwueze, said that since the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the two principal officers mentioned in the Terrorism Prevention Act (TPA) are political appointees, the fight against terrorism will always be subject to political interference, or undermined by accusations that it is.

According to the report, counter-terrorism operation in Nigeria are largely military-centric despite the soft approach provided by the National counter terrorism strategy (NACTEST) and other strategic COT and CVE documents.

“This is one of the reasons why Nigeria is notorious for human rights violation because its extent laws failed to explicitly criminalize human rights violations, even where they do, implementation was always the problem,” he said.

He regretted that the extent laws detailing the functions of the military which failed to clearly identify the parameters of military engagement in internal matters explains why the institution is almost assuming the responsibilities of the police in Nigeria.

According to the report, the manner prisoners are treated as if they are less than human beings in Nigeria explains why ex-convicts or freed prisoners end up becoming more hardened than they were before their incarceration, adding that it also explains the reasons for incessant jailbreak in the country.

The report noted that the great deal of distrust among the security agencies involved in countering terrorism in Nigeria explains the lackluster attitude of citizens in offering useful information to security agents, which could lead to arrest of criminals, including terrorists and extremist ideologues.

Noting that, Nigeria has a criminal justice system that poses serious challenge to the administration of criminal justice, it added that this account for why terrorism-related cases linger and sometimes, terrorists evade justice due to faulty prosecution on the part of the police and other agencies.

The report among others, recommended that the Federal Government must clearly articulate a working definition of terrorism that will guide counter-terrorism initiative in Nigeria.

It said, “Nigeria government should prioritise local content in counter-terrorism efforts by reorganizing its criminal justice system to permit for the creation of state police. Government should establish special courts to try terrorism related cases in all the 36 states of the federation including FCT.”

In his address, the CLEEN Executive Director, Dr. Benson Olugbuo, represented by the Assistant Programme Manager,  Chogozirim Okoro, said that the in a bid to address the violent extremism and terrorism in Nigeria, the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan enacted various counter- terrorism legislation beginning with the Terrorism Prevention Act (2011, amended 2013) and various other key policies and strategies.

According to him, in 2014, the National Counter Terrorism Strategy (NACTEST) was developed and was revised in 2016 to address some notable gaps inherent in the former document.

“Nevertheless, these laws, policies and strategies have their obvious shortcomings. For instance, aspects of the Terrorism Prevention Act (2013, as amended) directly contravene fundamental human rights standards and principles whereas Nigeria is signatory to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol that seeks to prevent torture and other cruel inhuman treatments.

“Since its ratification, the country has not domesticated the instrument, and police brutality continues to occur in the course of administering justice to perceived offenders. Section 1(2) of the amended Act explicitly states the maximum penalty of death sentence for anybody who has aided directly or indirectly acts of terrorism,” he said.

He said that the draft National Policy Framework and Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Strategy (launched in July, 2017) is complementary to the current CVE legislations in Nigeria, as it recognizes the role of various stakeholders to change violent extremism narratives and build institutional capacity on preventing and countering violent extremism.

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