Legal Responses to the Boko Haram Challenge: An Assessment of Nigeria's Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011

Article excerpt

Introduction

The scourge of terrorism has since become a reality of our everyday existence. If some thirty years ago, the exploits of the Con Bendits, Symbionese Liberation Army, Bader Meinhofs Red Brigades, Japanese Red Army, Tupamaros and Sendero Luminoso (or the Shining Path), seemed remote, sporadic or episodic, today, the atrocities of innumerable terrorist groups all over the world especially, Islamic fundamentalists such as Al Quaeda, Talibans and El Shabbab have become commonplace and assumed an eerie permanence on the global landscape so much so that people have now become numb to the successively outrageous nature of terrorist acts perpetrated by these common enemies of humanity. The threat posed to international peace and security by these modern day crusaders of evil is such that the very survival of human civilization might well be in question except and unless decisive action is taken by the international community to arrest the growing incidence of terrorism. This explains the rationale for the adoption by the family of nations of several international anti-terrorism instruments whose signatories are obliged to implement them within their respective legal orders.

Until recently, Nigeria seemed to have been immune to terrorist activities. Indeed, this paper would have seemed grossly out of place if it had been presented say, five years ago. However, the horrendous acts of terrorism wrought in the hands of sundry local dissident forces in the recent past would seem to have effectively put an end to all that. The country has since lost its innocence as terrorist incidents masterminded by MEND, the Boko Haram and some other faceless groups have become commonplace on the nation's landscape with deleterious consequences for our reputation and our erstwhile smug satisfaction that it could not happen here.

The shibboleth of Nigerians being the world's happiest people with tremendous joie de vivre and who would, therefore, not embrace suicide missions or any ultra hazardous activities, for that matter, has since proven a great exaggeration. As terrorist incident after terrorist incident occurred in the country, the fact has now been rudely brought home to us that Nigerians are indeed part of the human race and the earlier we came to grips with that reality, the better for all of us.

It is against this backdrop that the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 needs to be appraised. Accordingly, it is intended in this presentation to examine the extant anti-terrorism law in broad outline before zeroing-in on its salient aspects, particularly the acts that are considered tantamount to terrorism and the sanctions prescribed thereto, especially in light of the upsurge in terrorist activities, especially masterminded by the Boko Haram. Besides, the effort by the law-maker to strike a balance between human rights protection and the necessity to contain terrorism would be adumbrated before assessing prospects for achieving the intentions and efficacy of the attempt to contain terrorism through the law.

The reaction of the Nigerian authorities by putting in place actions aimed at stemming the rising tide of terrorism and insecurity across the country seems quite understandable and well-intentioned but except the anti-terrorist measures envisaged are properly calibrated and wellfocused, in the final analysis, they might be tepid, insufficiently comprehensive, if not downright dysfunctional and counter-productive. However, before coming to a judgment either way, it seems apposite to grasp the essence of the phenomenon and situate terrorism properly within the matrix of internal and external dynamics of societal evolution.

Understanding Terrorism: Domestic and International Perspectives

In simple language, terrorism implies all acts aimed at compelling a person(s) to behave in a manner desired by the terrorist at the pain of threat, intimidation or even death if the victim(s) failed to behave as demanded by the terrorist(s). …