There are some inadequacies in Nigeria’s counter-terrorism efforts, a new report released by the United States has shown.
The report titled Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 was presented to the press on Tuesday afternoon by the Bureau of Counterterrorism’s Ambassador-at-Large, Daniel Benjamin.
This year’s report noted that Nigeria experienced a steady increase in terrorist attacks in 2011, particularly in the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, and Kaduna, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
It also said Nigerian government worked to improve coordination, communication, and cooperation domestically and internationally on counterterrorism matters, including intensifying military operations in Northeast Nigeria to counter Boko Haram’s terrorist activities.
Noting that these military operations were “often heavy-handed”, the report said “Nigerian efforts to address northern grievances, a key catalyst of the violence, have lagged behind the military campaign against BH (Boko Haram).”
It, therefore called on the Nigerian government to accelerate implementation of its plan to address these issues.
It also said ,”The National Focal Point on terrorism – an interagency task force formed in 2007 that includes the State Security Service (SSS), Nigerian Customs Service, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Immigration – did not actively operate in 2011.”
While noting that President Goodluck Jonathan created the position of counterterrorism coordinator and replaced its first coordinator, who was an ambassador, with a well-respected army general last September, the report said, “In practice, the National Security Advisor (NSA) retained the lead as coordinator of the Nigerian government strategy to counter terrorism.”
On the issue of legislation and law enforcement, the report recalled that last May, the Nigerian National Assembly passed the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2011, which was signed into law by President Jonathan on June 3.
It however added that while the law was modeled on international standards, including UN guidelines, it did not clearly delineate which police or security agency serve as the lead agency to investigate suspected terrorist crimes.
The report, while noting the arrest of Ali Sanso Konduga (also known as Usman al-Zawahiri) – whom it described as an ex-spokesperson of Boko Haram – and his trial and sentencing to three years in prison after pleading guilty last November to charges of sending threatening text messages to government officials, also noted the arrest of Senator Ali Mohammed Ndume.
It however said that Ndume, who is also a member of the Borno State ruling People’s Democratic Party, was arraigned on a four-count charge of collaborating with Konduga, was admitted to bail and awaiting trial as at the end of last year.
The annual Congressionally mandated report also noted sections on terrorist financing in Nigeria’s Terrorism Prevention Act 2011, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, but warned that there were some outstanding concerns that the criminalization of terrorist financing may not be fully in line with international standards.
It observed that in 2011, Nigerian government did not prosecute terrorist financing crimes under either of these laws.
The report said Nigerian-US counterterrorism cooperation continued in 2011, particularly following the June attack on the Abuja headquarters of the Nigerian police force, and that the Department of State’s Anti-terrorism Assistance program and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) programs provided training to bolster the capacity of Nigeria’s law enforcement agencies to address terrorist incidents.
Fielding questions from reporters, at the presentation of the report, Amb. Benjamin said US had been working to address the issue of insecurity in northern Nigeria, adding, “this is a top priority for the Department. We’re concerned about Boko Haram’s activities.”
Noting the recent designations of three Boko Haram leaders under Executive Order 13224, Benjamin said this would allow US to “focus on those individuals who are most responsible for violence, for threats against the US and its citizens”.
Speaking further, he said, ” if there is more on that designation, you’ll certainly hear about it.”
The senior US official said Africa experienced 978 attacks in 2011- an 11.5 per cent increase over the previous year – attributing it “in large part to the more aggressive attack tempo of the Nigerian-based terrorist group Boko Haram, which conducted 136 attacks in 2011, up from 31 the previous year.”
Giving statistics of worldwide terrorist activities in 2011, he said there were more than 10,000 attacks in 70 countries, resulting in more than 12,500 deaths, with the largest number of reported attacks occurring in South Asia and the Near East – particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.
He added that more than 75 per cent of the world’s attacks and deaths occurred in these regions, with the victims being “overwhelmingly Muslim.”
Despite the huge figure, he said there was a drop of 12 per cent from 2010 statistics.
Under US law, by April 30 of each year, the Secretary of State is requested to provide Congress, with a full and complete report on terrorism with regard to countries and groups.
Five Abuja based lawyers have sued President Goodluck Jonathan before a Federal High Court in Abuja over his failure to set limit for the amounts of consolidated debt of the federal, state and local governments since he was sworn-in into office as the president of Nigeria on May 29, 2011.
The plaintiffs, namely Aja Nwani Aja, Lawrence Ogbonna Ukpai, Kingsley Osaigbovo Obue, Adaobi Chioma Peace, Best Owie and Abdulmumuni Mohammed Tahir listed the President Federal Republic of Nigeria as a defendant.
Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at a briefing on the 2012 budget in Abuja on April 11, 2012 put the nation’s total debt stock at $44 billion; giving the breakdown as $5.9 billion external and N5.6 trillion domestic.
She stated that although the nation’s external debt profile was not bad as to cause panic, the rising domestic debt portfolio was getting uncomfortable.
But the lawyers in their suit averred that by virtue of section 42 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and pursuant to the provisions of item 7 and 50 of part 1 of the 2nd Schedule to the constitution Jonathan is mandated to within 90 days from May 29, 2011 to set overall limits for the amounts of consolidated debts for the 3 tier governments.
They recalled that the House of Representatives on March 27, 2012 had passed a motion urging Jonathan to implement section 42 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Consequently, the plaintiffs asked the court to declare that Jonathan was in breach of the oath of office to discharge his duties as President in accordance with the 1999 constitution and the laws of Nigeria.
The lawyers also asked the court to hold that Jonathan is duty bound to comply with the provision of the said laws of the country and therefore be compelled by the court to comply with laws of the land in the discharge of his duties.
In a 19-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one of the plaintiffs Aja Nwani Aja said that the defendant swore to uphold the constitution of Nigeria and to discharge his duties in accordance with the constitution and the law.
That by the tenets of constitutional democracy, and rule of law, the defendant had a sacred duty to uphold the provisions of the law.
That on July 30, 2007, Jonathan’s predecessor, Umar Musa Yar’adua signed into law the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
That as at the time the Fiscal Responsibility Act was signed into law, the defendant was the vice president of Nigeria.
That the fiscal responsibility act was enacted to provide prudence and enhance probity in fiscal matter
That pursuant to the provision of the act, the president was supposed to set overall limits for the amounts of consolidated debt of the 3 tiers of government in Nigeria not later than 90 days from the commencement of the act
That late president Umaru Musa Yar’adua did not set the overall limits as provided for the law.
That the defendant had 90 days from the date of his swearing in on May 29, 2011 to set the overall limits as stipulated by law
That I know for a fact that the defendant has not complied with the provision of the act in this respect
That the House of Representatives on March 27, 2012 passed a motion urging Jonathan to implement section 42 (1) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
That the defendant ignored, refused and failed to implement the provision of the act and that as it is, there is no statutory ceiling to the amount any tier of the government in Nigeria can borrow.
That the absence of a statutory ceiling for borrowing negates one of the principal objectives of the fiscal responsibility act, which is to enhance the prudent management of the nation’s resources.
That implementing the provision of the act will engender fiscal discipline and promote a healthy economic environment in Nigeria.
He said that it was in the interest of justice, rule of law and constitutional order to grant the reliefs sought.
The suit has not yet been fixed for hearing