Senate Amends Terrorism Act, in Bid to Stave Off Sanctions

•Prohibits payment of ransom to kidnappers 

•Amendment aims to prevent terrorist groups from laundering money through the banking system and other financial networks   

•To align with the required standard as obtainable in other jurisdictions  

•NDLEA wants political parties to include drug test in screening process for aspirants   

•Umar urges FG to ensure immediate release of kidnapped victims of Kaduna-bound train attack

Michael Olugbode, Sunday Aborisade in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna

As part of efforts to avert the imminent placement of Nigeria in the International Cooperation and Review Group Process of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and its looming sanctions on the economy, the Senate yesterday passed a bill seeking to amend the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2013, as well as prohibit payment of ransom to kidnappers in the country.

That was as former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), appealed to the federal government to do more to secure the release of passengers abducted by terrorists during the Kaduna train attack. Umar made the appeal in a statement yesterday in Kaduna.

The passage of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, followed the consideration of a report by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti Central), explained, “The need to comprehensively review the Terrorism Prevention Act arose from the unfavourable ratings of FATF recommendations of Nigeria’s Mutual Evaluation Report and consequent placement of Nigeria in FATF’s International Cooperation and Review Group Process with its impending sanctions on Nigeria’s economy.”

He stated that the National Task Force on improving Nigeria’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime in Nigeria had proposed improvement on the Act in order to address the deficiencies noted in its provisions and align it with the required standard obtainable in other jurisdictions.

Two months ago, the federal government disclosed that it had uncovered 123 companies and 96 other entities linked to terrorism financing. Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the companies included 33 Bureaux De Change (BDC). Mohammed also stated that the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit uncovered the suspected companies and individuals.

The companies, which were alleged to be conduit for movement of money by terrorists, are yet to be tried by the federal government.

In the past few days, there have been increasing attacks by different terrorist groups across the country, with several lives lost, scores injured, and many kidnapped or missing and unaccounted for.

Curbing terrorism financing has remained a hard nut to crack for the Nigerian government either due to lack of political will or gaps in legislation. This has exacerbated insecurity and fear, what with the attempted attack on the Kaduna airport, attack on a Kaduna-bound train, and attack on security personnel and formations, all recently, as well as other nefarious activities by terrorist groups.

A recent report by the Financial Derivatives Company Limited revealed that in the past decade, an estimated 87,903 persons had died through assaults by Boko Haram, sectarian actors, and other armed bandits in the country, with a lot of Nigerians now living in fear.

Bamidele, in his presentation, said the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013 (Amendment) Bill, 2022, sought to outlaw the payment of ransom to abductors, kidnappers, and terrorists for release of any person who had been wrongfully confined, imprisoned or kidnapped. 

According to the lawmaker, “The overall import of this bill is to discourage the rising spate of kidnapping and abduction for ransom in Nigeria, which is fast spreading across the country.”

He disclosed that in the memoranda presented to the committee, a plethora of issues relating to terrorism and terrorism financing, in line with global best practices, were raised. He assured that the amendment to the terrorism law would set standards and the regulatory system intended to prevent terrorist groups from laundering money through the banking system and other financial networks.

Bamidele added, “Having policies in place to combat financing of terrorism will surely reduce or eliminate privacy and anonymity in financial and other sundry transactions as it relates to the subject in our society.” 

Furthermore, he emphasised that the proposed repeal and enactment bill was geared towards improving the effectiveness of countermeasures against terrorism, terrorism financing, and proliferation financing.

The senator noted that the repeal was aimed at providing adequate framework for improved international collaboration, inter-agency cooperation, and freezing of terrorist funds/assets. 

Bamidele stated, “The passage of this bill will save Nigeria from being included among countries in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Grey List with its attendant negative consequences, which might ultimately result to international sanctions that would affect the image of the country in the comity of nations.”

Senate President Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks after the passage of the bill, said it would complement the federal government’s efforts in the fight against insecurity, when signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari. 

Lawan said, “It is our belief here in the Senate that this bill, by the time signed into an Act by Mr. President, will enhance the efforts of this government in the fight against terrorism, kidnapping, and other associated and related vices.

“This is one piece of legislation that can turn around not only the security situation in Nigeria, but even the economic fortunes of our country.

“We have done so much as a government, in terms of infrastructural development across all parts of this country, but because the security situation is not the kind of situation that we all want, this tends to overshadow all the tremendous and massive developments in our country. 

“I believe that the executive will waste no time in signing this bill into law, and it is our hope that this additional piece of legislation will achieve the purpose for which it has been worked upon by the Senate, and, indeed, the National Assembly, and for which it would also be signed by Mr. President. 

“Let me make it very clear here, that the fight against insecurity, whether it is kidnapping, terrorism or whatsoever, is not the sole role of a government.

“The contribution and support by citizens is essential, because our security agencies need vital and critical information against terrorism and other things that make life difficult for us.”

The upper chamber passed the bill after it scaled Third Reading on the floor.

Meanwhile, the Senate, thereafter, adjourned plenary till May 10, for the Sallah break. 

NDLEA Wants Political Parties to Include Drug Test in Screening Process for Aspirants

Also, the Chairman/Chief Executive of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa (rtd.), yesterday urged political parties to make drug integrity test part of the screening requirements for aspirants seeking to contest political offices on their platforms in the 2023 general election.

A statement quoted Marwa to have said this during the 2022 First Quarter Best Performing Commands Awards ceremony, held at the agency’s national headquarters in Abuja.

According to Marwa, “For politicians, we have long advocated and I take the opportunity again to repeat the advocacy that when they run for public office it demands a lot of responsibility from the person and we need to be certain if he’s a person that is already a drug addict/user who will spend all the money he’s given for public service to consume cocaine and his head will not be in a stable condition to handle the affairs he has been entrusted with.

“For this reason, we have advocated and will continue to advocate that drug test be conducted for politicians; some state governments, like Kano State, is already doing this.

“Not just politicians, but government appointees, and I’ve just sent a letter this morning to the National Chairman of APC, who will be the first of the National Working Committee (members) I wish to pay an advocacy visit on this issue.

“I recommended that drug tests be incorporated in the screening process for all those interested in running for public office; we will do the same to the PDP and other important parties.”

While addressing officers and men of the agency present at the event, Marwa said the ceremony “has become part and parcel of our corporate culture. Recognising and rewarding hard work and excellence has always been a pragmatic way of stimulating productivity and enhancing the attainment of organisational goals; making it a tradition for the agency is our way of enshrining meritocracy in the system.”

He pointed out that statistics from the first quarter (Q1) report indicated, “our performance level has not dropped off.”

Marwa said, “Indeed, achieving 3, 539 arrests, 677 convictions, and seizures of 65, 916 kilogrammes of drugs in three months is no mean feat. Little wonder our performance continually earns the agency deserved accolades from the right quarters within the country as well as from abroad, especially from international partners and peers. While we have not yet achieved the utopia of a drug-free society, the results showed that we are getting it right.” 

He told the officers that the awards and commendations were expected to spur them to surpass their current feats at the next ceremony.

He stated, “The ceremony should be a poignant reminder for us not to forget where we are coming from. And there is no better way to say it other than for us to be mindful of the saying that success has a hundred fathers, but failure is always an orphan. No organisation would understand this adage better than NDLEA in the light of our past rock bottom experience.

“Therefore, we should all be mindful that we hold the fate of NDLEA in our hands, and that fate will be determined by our patriotism and dedication to duty, as well as our collective resolve to work towards the attainment of the agency’s mandate.”

Marwa told the officers and men to continue to propagate the agency’s War Against Drug Abuse (WADA) programme in their various commands.

“There is much we can achieve when our communities are working hand-in-hand with us,” he said.

Highlighting the strong emphasis on collaboration with all stakeholders, in the agency’s roadmap, the NDCMP 2021-2025, the NDLEA chief executve stated, “We have to woo members of society to work with us on this very important assignment. Therefore, I charge you to ensure that WADA is correctly and deeply entrenched in the spheres of operation of your respective commands.”

Umar Urges FG to Ensure Immediate Release of Kidnapped Victims of Kaduna Train Attack

Former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar (rtd), appealed to the federal government to do more to secure the release of victims of the Kaduna train abduction. In a statement issued in Kaduna, yesterday, Umar said the pictures of the victims, which trended on the social media, remained disturbing.

Umar also appealed to the international community, especially the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to assist in the negotiations with the terrorists to secure the release of the victims. He prayed God to touch the hearts of the kidnappers to show mercy on their innocent and vulnerable victims.

Umar stated, “The pictures, to say the least, are most disturbing, particularly as they show exhausted and frightened women and children under the most harrowing conditions.

“I appeal to the federal government to do more to secure the immediate release of these innocent victims.

“I also appeal to the international community, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to assist in the negotiations which will be needed to effect that release.

“May God touch the hearts of the kidnappers to show mercy on these innocent and vulnerable victims. Amen.”

On March 28, terrorists attacked an Abuja-Kaduna passenger train and killed eight people, while several others were injured. Many people were abducted and are being held in captivity by the terrorists.

One of the two pregnant women among the passengers kidnapped during the attack on the Kaduna bound train had been delivered of her baby, THISDAY reported yesterday.

The terrorists, who attacked and abducted the passengers, released four different pictures of their victims, numbering 62.

The gunmen had ambushed the train heading for Kaduna from the nation’s capital after bombing its rail track.

ARISE Television, THISDAY’s broadcast arm, had quoted the terrorists as insisting that they were not after a ransom, but exchange of the abducted passengers with their commanders, who were allegedly in government custody.

The TV station further quoted a family source as confirming that one of the two pregnant women among the kidnapped victims had given birth in the terrorists’ den with the help of doctors invited by the gang.

Sources said the terrorists appeared organised and coordinated because of the way they were able to get medical supplies into the forest, a development that is still shocking to both the government and security operatives.

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