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Nigeria -- Anti terrorism Bill: There is Cause for Concern, Mr. Senate President!


31 July 2010

By Abdu Labaran Malumfashi

I am always worried when politicians, especially the Nigerian variety, try to reassure us that there is no cause for alarm, concern, worry or whatever.  As people are wont of asking; if there is no cause for alarm, what then brings about the talk of alarm, in the first place?

Although strait talk is not a virtue easily associated with politicians the world over, the Nigerian Politian is in a class of his own when it comes to double speak, more so when the issue at stake is one that does not enhance his bank balance.

At the opening of the public hearing on the Anti terrorism Bill penultimate Tuesday in the National Assembly, Senate President David Mark tried to reassure us that the bill, which seeks the death penalty for offenders, was not targeted at any group. 

Stressing the point, he noted that “our cultures and religions forbid the taking of lives of our fellow human beings. FOR THE AVOIDANCE OF DOUBT, THIS BILL IS FOR THE GENERAL INTEREST OF ALL NIGERIANS AND NOT TARGETED AT ANY GROUP”.

According to him, the bill was first conceptualised by the fifth Senate in 2005, but could not see the light of the day “as terrorism activities were NOT manifest in the country then”. Really?

The Senate President, who was represented by Senator Kabir Gaya, referred to the alleged attempt by Umar Faruk AbdulMutallab to bomb a plane in the US on Christmas day last year, lamenting that “this unfortunate dare devil attempt earned us a misconstrued image in the US, which placed us on their terror watch list”.

It would be very easy to believe the distinguished Senate President if we did not know ourselves very well, but knowing where we are coming from, it would be the height of deceit to pretend that there is less to the Anti terrorism Bill than meets the eye. The unfair stereotyping by the West of Muslims on issues of terrorism makes it even less believable given that our leaders, who blindly obey without interrogation, seem to be in their best element only when doing the bidding of the West, regardless of its consequences on the people at home.

Mark’s reference to the Umar Faruk’s alleged attempt to bomb the US plane and the claim that in 2005 “terrorism activities were not manifest in the country” made the motive behind the bill more suspicious. Why, if one may ask, instead of locating his reference within Nigeria, Mark has to cite the bombing attempt which took place in far away US, when the bill is talking about acts of terrorism within Nigeria.

Also, how true is it that terrorism activities were not manifest in the country in 2005. Have all these kidnappings, armed robberies, “militancy” in the Niger Delta area and OPC’s murderous brigand only manifested after 2005? Or are these not acts of terrorism, Mr Senate President?

It is comforting though that some people do not see it from the same narrow perspective like the Senate President.

One Colonel Samuel Dare of the Nigerian Army was candid enough to admit that we have for long harboured all forms of terrorism on our shores.

“There is no doubt that we have long harboured all forms of terrorism in this part of the globe. IT IS HOWEVER, SAD THAT WE HAVE DOWNPLAYED THESE VARIOUS ACTS OF TERRORISM AND MADE IT SOUND FOREIGN EACH TIME THE WORD “TERRORISM” IS MENTIONED. I am specifically talking about kidnapping that started as child’s play in the Niger Delta, which has now assumed a wider dimension, spreading all over the country”

For the avoidance of doubt, Niger Delta militancy, kidnapping and armed robbery in Nigeria are definitely far older than the democracy that has so catapulted Mark to such lofty heights from where he can afford to talk with both sides of his mouth unbecoming of the holder of the office of the Senate President. Are these evils not of more local concern given the frequency of their occurrence and threat to life, limbs and property than an isolated incident in a foreign land? Do these acts make Nigeria’s image any more endearing abroad? These are seamless crimes whose victims cut across national barrier. In fact, some of the most celebrated cases of kidnapping involved foreign nationals.

If we also take into account government’s selective punishment for acts of “terrorism” that are not dissimilar, then there is every cause for some Nigerians to be worried. Before our very own eyes, the government has sent troops to crush the Boko Haram religious group resulting in the death of thousands of people, most of whom were innocent, including women, children and the disabled. The same government has also not only negotiated an amnesty with a decidedly terror group in the Niger Delta, glorified and romanticized by the media as militants, but is paying the members a monthly appeasement allowance. Different strokes for different folks.

A day after the public hearing on the on the Anti terrorism Bill, about 1,000 Niger Delta militants protesting lack of payment of their "amnesty" allowances stormed the Federal Capital in bus loads involving more than 50 vehicles, some of which bore Delta and Bayelsa state governments official number plates and blocked the major highway into Abuja. Imagine what the reaction of the law enforcement agencies would be if an equally large group were to come from the far north to Abuja to stage any protest not in praise of the administration.

But then this is Nigerian, where some of its law abiding citizens are made to feel second class without the right to conduct their affairs unapologetically.

Nigerian leaders, indeed world leaders, would do well to remember that terrorism is not a monopoly of any single religious faith, nor is it that of unconstituted authority. The German, Berder-Meinhoff and Italian /Japanese Red Brigade terror groups that held sway on the global scene from the 70s to 90s were not any less merciless than their modern day off shoot, but Christianity and the Christendom were not demonised.

 

Labaran Malumfashi wrote from No.3 Moses A. Majekodunmi Crescent, Utako, Abuja. He can be reached at abdulabaran@yahoo.com

 

 

 

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