By NBF News

Anti terrorism bill passes second reading
By Ini Ekott
March 12, 2010 03:15AM
Members of the National Assembly at a session. Photo: NEXT

The Anti Terrorism Bill was on Thursday passed into the second reading by the House of Representatives. The bill will make for tougher anti-terrorism legislation by clearly outlining and defining terrorist acts and its punishments.

'Terrorism has reached a devastating level now and we must do all we can to stem it,' said the House Leader, Tunde Akogun, who represents Edo state.

On a roll
Lawmakers gave an overwhelming support to the bill, which now awaits a third reading before being passed into law. That will only be after a similar proposal has been carried through the three readings by the Senate.

The law is expected to represent Nigeria's determination to deal with the growing menace of terrorism, particularly after being listed on the United States' list of countries of interest in its battle against terrorism.

The country is also under a lot of pressure from western countries to pass an anti-terror bill, after last December's involvement of a Nigerian in a Christmas day plot to down a US airliner over Detroit.

The bill was sent to the National Assembly by the federal government in the wake of that incident, although an earlier version sent to the assembly by the last administration was thrown out.

In the weeks ahead, the speaker, Mr. Bankole said, the House committees on Justice, Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, will hold detailed consideration of the terms of the bill through a public hearing and technical consultations.

The bill, which gained quick momentum after the failed Christmas airline bombing in the United States, will give power to the nation's first direct anti-terrorism laws.

Stepping up our game
Existing legislations which target crimes categorised globally as terrorism are presently covered mostly in the anti money laundering acts.

Members said the design of the law should be made to admit the fact that key sponsors and operators of the vice exist outside the country.

'We must expand the frontiers of its definition to show that the merchants of the terrorism include those beyond our territories,' said Halims Agoda, the House committee chairman on navy and a strong advocate of the law.

After the December 25 attempt on the Detroit-bound airplane by Nigerian Farouk AbdulMutallab, both arms of the National Assembly resumed consideration of the already existing proposal which had earlier failed in past debates.

The House carried out its first reading on January 13, 2010, merely two weeks after the deadly attempt which received global condemnation.

The Senate too has gone through a first reading and the bill awaits a second and final reading there before it is passed concurrently with the lower chamber, for the assent of the president.