by Senator Ihenyen
If recent developments in the National Assembly in relation to the amendment of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 is anything to go by, literally we are about to have the Coordinating Minister for National Security, who also is the National Security Adviser. Ingenious, right? Wrong!
Now without mincing words, this is how to make the NSA a Terrorist.
Make the NSA the custodian of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, while the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Nigeria Police rally round him for direction as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces against Terrorism. And if you are the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, you are strongly advised to ensure that the NSA is a loyal member of your political party, otherwise you will sooner or later become a mere ceremonial head of the country.
And since the NSA is in charge of co-ordinating other security agencies in the country, you must consider creating an office for another NSA to the NSA who will be in charge of advising the National Security Adviser on terrorism issues. If you think I’m trying to be comical, you’ve literally called President Jonathan a clown for his recommendation on who is to be the custodian of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011. By now you should know that the Presidency is an institution and should not be associated with comic relief! You can be sure that Dr. Reuben Abati would be after you sooner or later!
Lastly, to ensure he performs solidly as a terrorist without fear or favour, give the NSA powers to “do such other acts or things necessary” for the effective performance of the functions of the relevant security and enforcement agencies; and don’t forget to pass an anti-terrorism law that does not provide for human rights of suspected terrorists. If you ask me, so far, the Federal Government has been doing a good job with these, and even more!
Now what is all this talk about, you must now be wondering?
There has been delay by the National Assembly in passing into law the amendments to the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011. I understand that this is caused by serious lobbying by security agencies battling to be the custodian of the law. Well, one cannot be too surprised as the agency vested with the responsibility of coordinating the fight against terrorism would be in charge of huge funds as budgetary allocation to the security sector has remained very high in recent times. I remember that in 2012, as much as N1 trillion was allocated for national security.
The Conference Committee Report of the National Assembly on the amendment showed that the two chambers concurred that the Office of the National Security Adviser should be the custodian of the law. In the report of the Committee, it recommended that the office of the NSA should provide support to all security agencies, including intelligence and law enforcement agencies and military services to prevent and combat any act of terrorism.
The report did not stop at making the NSA the coordinating body. It made a blanket provision conferring on the NSA the powers to “do such other acts or things necessary” for the effective performance of the functions of the security and enforcement agencies involved. Of course, Nigerians have been asking questions over the legality of conferring on the National Security Adviser the coordinating powers on all security agencies in the country.
If I am to cast my mind back to the reports on the public hearing, I remember that most of the agencies had strongly canvassed to be made custodian of the law. One by one they had presented their case.
The State Security Service (SSS) said they should be the custodian because to effectively curb terrorism in Nigeria, what was required was intelligence, not necessarily force. The Nigeria Police, on its part saw terrorism as a criminal matter and submitted that it was the primary responsibility of the Police to tackle crime. From the Army, the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), and the National Security etc, the patriotic zeal to be the custodian of the law against terrorism was not missed. But seriously, which security agency or military service’s patriotic spirit would not have been reignited, when being a custodian of the law comes with its own largesse!
The powers conferred which is the bone of contention are provided for in section 1(a) of the amendment to the Act. It states that “The Office of the National Security Adviser (in this Act referred to as ‘ONSA’) shall be the co-ordinating body for all security and enforcement agencies under this Act.”
But how did the Committee agree in the first place to make the NSA the custodian of the law? The answer to this question by the head the House Committee, Barrister Ali Ahmad, is curious. He was reported to have said that it was based on the wish of the Presidency.
“It’s an Executive Bill. We didn’t want to tamper with what the Presidency recommended,” he said. Can you beat that?
The NSA is one of the president’s aides. Conferring upon him the responsibility of such magnitude as fighting against terrorism is not the best move. The Office of the NSA should not be the custodian of the law. As one of the President’s advisers in a sensitive area such as security, particularly at this time, we cannot afford to put the fight against terrorism in the hands of a mere Special Adviser to the President. One of our security agencies in a strategic position to ensure efficient and effective coordination of all the relevant security agencies can be made the custodian of the law; or alternatively, a new agency should be established to specifically be in charge of the fight against terrorism by coordinating the activities of the other security agencies in relation to same.
The purpose of having the NSA would become defeated once his office become the melting pot for the fight against terrorism. Who will be in charge of advising the NSA on national security in respect of terrorism? Is it the I-do-not-give-a-damn President Goodluck Jonathan? The smoothen-the-rough-edges Media and Publicity Adviser to the President, Dr. Reuben Abati or the carrot-or-stick former President, Olusegun Obasanjo? As a matter of fact, the NSA is the person in the best position to advise the Presidency on which of the security agencies should be the custodian of the anti-terrorism law. In Nigeria, things fall apart!