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ANTI-TERRORISM BILL MIRED IN CONTROVERSY

By NBF News

The anti-terrorism bill being debated in the National Assembly is mired in controversy over which of the security agencies should be in charge.

Daily Sun gathered that the bill which should have been passed by the Senate is enmeshed in powerplay over which agency should see to the task of combating terrorism in the country.

While major stakeholders were of the view that the special security agencies such as the State Security Service (SSS) should ordinarily be in charge as obtained in some countries of the world, a section was rooting for the anti-terrorism department to domicile within the Police command.

Daily Sun findings showed that key members of the upper chamber, Senators Nuhu Aliyu and Simeon Oduoye, both retired police chiefs were said to be favourably disposed to the idea of having the anti-terrorism department under the police command, while majority of their colleagues preferred other security agencies other than the police.

Those kicking against police handling the anti-terrorism task are of the opinion that traditionally, anti-terrorism is an intelligence task and should be handled by intelligence organisations such as the SSS and Nigeria Intelligence Agency. The police, they argued are not well-equipped to handle such crucial task. 'How can we saddle the Police with anti-terrorism, they are yet to perform their primary task of fighting crimes effectively and everybody is complaining.

The issue of Jos crisis is there, the Boko Haram etc could not be contained by the Police even when other agencies provided intelligence reports to them and we are talking of a more sensitive task of terrorism which has wider international dimension. 'If at the end of the day the Police is given the control of the task, then we have lost the battle against terrorism before we start', one of the lawmakers said.

Another Senator, who preferred anonymity expressed disappointment at the seeming loss of focus on the bill by his colleagues handling it because, according to him, 'it is uncalled for and unwarranted scheming to have the Police handle anti-terrorism. And our colleagues are handling this as if they have vested interest. From my understanding, the intention is to combat terrorism through a special agency,' he added.

It was also gathered that some diplomats were worried over the development and wondered why the Police would be saddled with additional responsibilities which were far more tasking than the traditional crime control. A top presidency source also confided in the Daily Sun that government was aware of the intrigues going on over the anti-terrorism bill and plans to have the police in charge but that the Presidency was also aware that other security agencies would be in a better position to carry out the task better than the police.

He made reference to the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) which was hitheto merged with the Police but had to be demerged when it dawned on government that the police would end up messing up the road safety task of which successes had been recorded when the corp was operating independently. However, a top Police chief, who volunteered information on the issue said though the Police could be said to be ill-equipped for the job of anti-terrorism for now, he was of the opinion that if well strengthened the Police could handle the task.