Politics

When Reps convened special session against terrorism

PHILIP NYAM reports on how the House of Representatives reconvened in a special session to pass four critical bills bordering on terrorism, money laundering and related issues

It is rare for members of the parliament to cut short their recess except when there are matters of urgent national importance. In fact, from 1999 to date, one can count the number of times members of both the Senate and House of Representatives suspended their holidays and reconvened to attend to pressing national issues.

On Wednesday, March 4, members of the House of Representatives took a day off their Easter break and sat for a day, considered and passed five executive bills, seeking to tackle corruption and terrorism in the country. The first bill was “A Bill for an Act to Repeal the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013, and Enact the Terrorism (Prohibition and Prevention) Bill, 2022 to Provide for an Effective, Unified and Comprehensive Legal, Regulatory and Institutional Framework for the Detection, Prevention, Prohibition, Prosecution and Punishment of Acts of Terrorism, Terrorism Financing, Proliferation and Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.1980)” The Senate had a week earlier passed the same bill.

The Red Chamber at its plenary session on April 27 passed for third reading, the bill to amend the Terrorism (Prohibition) Act, 2013 (SB 662). So, the House had to act fast to catch up with the Senate, considering its importance. It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in April forwarded to the National Assembly the revised versions of the Money Laundering Bill and Terrorism Prevention Bill, which were already before the lawmakers.

The anti-terrorism bill seeks to “establish legal and institutional framework to protect witnesses and related persons, with responsibilities for carrying out all administrative duties relating to witnesses and related persons, including providing temporary protection and related services; ensure that the relevant agency takes responsibility for entering into an agreement with the witness on behalf of the state.”

When passed and signed into law, the legislative framework shall apply to the investigation and prosecution of offences relating to terrorism, money laundering prevention and prohibition, economic and financial crimes, corrupt practices and other related offences, drugs and narcotics and their trafficking, trafficking in persons, criminal and penal code offences, as well as customs and excise management.

The proposed legislation would also cover any legislation dealing with proceeds of crimes,confiscation and forfeiture of assets and such other offences as may be contained in enactments enacted by the National Assembly and designated by Attorney General of the Federation by an order published in the Federal Gazette. The Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Muhammad Monguno (APC, Borno), in his synopsis, said in the law was in force but needed to be in tandem with international best practices as other countries have it as terrorism law to address the menace. According to him, the new law is meant to conform to global best practices.

Consequently, clauses 1-99 were voted on and approved. The second was “a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and Enact the Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022 to provide Comprehensive Legal and Institutional Framework for the Prevention and Prohibition of Money Laundering in Nigeria, Establish the Special Control Unit under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; and for Related Matters.” Presenting the bill for consideration in the committee of the whole, Monguno said it was an executive bill seeking to amend the Act to bring the law in tandem with what is obtainable in other jurisdictions to fight money laundering.

He said the law will also aid in fighting terrorism headlong. Clauses one to 31 were thereafter voted on and approved. The third was “a Bill for an Act to Provide Framework for the Support, Management and Protection of Witnesses who Provide Information, Evidence or any other Assistance to Law Enforcement Agencies during Inquiries, Investigations or Prosecution; and for Related Matters.” Clauses one to 63 were voted and passed.

The fourth was “a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Public Complaints Commission Act, Cap. P37, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Enact the Public Complaints Commission Bill, 2022 for Establishment of the Public Complaints Commission with wide Powers to Inquire into Complaints by Members of Public concerning the Administrative actions of any Public Authority and Companies or their Officials and provide Legal Framework for making Public Interest; and for Related Matters.” According to Monguno, the bill seeks to repeal the archaic Act to make it conform with the realities of time as the commission could not effectively perform its statutory duties.

Clauses one to 57 were voted on and approved. The fifth was “a bill for an Act to make comprehensive provision for seizure, confiscation, forfeiture and management of properties reasonable suspected to have been derived from unlawful activities and for related matters.” With the passage of these bills, it is expected that both chambers would harmonise their positions and clean up the final copies and transmit them to the President for assent. Most Nigerians are excited that with the enactment of these legislations, the fight against terrorism, which has held the nation down for over a decade will be stepped up and possibly wipe out the menace of terrorist groups threatening the existence of the country.

However, some analysts are still skeptical that if the leadership does not see to the strict implementation of the laws, the whole efforts of the parliament would amount to nothing. Similarly, following the threat by airline operators in the country to shut down operations, the leadership of the House, on May 9, resolved the issues that led the Airlines Operators Association of Nigeria (AON) to threaten to shut down flight operations across the country. At a meeting that lasted over three hours at the National Assembly, the House leadership, led by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila secured the commitment of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to, in the interim, make available six million litres of JetA1 (aviation fuel) available to aviation fuel marketers chosen by the AON.

As part of the resolutions, it was agreed that as a long-term solution, the airline operators must commence, as soon as possible, the process of securing a license for the importation of aviation fuel to avoid suspicion over the landing cost of the product and other associated logistic issues.

The Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority was also mandated to, as much as possible, grant waivers that do not touch on the security and safety of the country for importers of the products. Stakeholders present at the meeting included the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Ministry of Aviation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), NNPC, Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Airspace Management Authority (NAMA) as well as the AON, among others.

At the meeting, which took off on a rocky note, Speaker Gbajabiamila had warned that it was incumbent on chief executives of agencies of government and the private sector to honour the invitation of the House on issues of national importance. This happened after the representative of the governor of CBN was asked to excuse himself from the meeting by the Speaker, who emphasised that the importance and sensitivity of the meeting required the presence of the CBN governor due to the importance of the issues at stake.

The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, who eventually walked into the meeting about 15 minutes later, gave reasons why he had to be represented before his eventual arrival. In his remarks, Gbajabiamila said the nation was at a crucial moment as the shutdown by the airline operators amounts to a potential shutting down of the country. “We cannot sit here and watch this happen. That is why the presence of the CBN governor is very important because his role is very critical to the resolution of this issue,” he said.

The Speaker recalled that certain resolutions that included the sale of aviation fuel at N500 per litre and the granting of aviation fuel import license to the operators was arrived at during the last meeting with the stakeholders while requesting an update on the implementation of the resolution.

The leadership of the House also inquired from the NNPC about the status of the 25,000 tons of ATK approved for the airlines as a palliative in addition to the availability of the product to the airlines for about three months. Also, the leadership opined that functional refineries should be able to address some of the challenges being faced while asking for the status of the refineries undergoing renovation. Responding, NNPC GMD, Mele Kyari assured that the three months supply of Jet A1 to the chosen marketers by the AOAN is assured while emphasizing that the price of the product cannot be guaranteed because it is globally market-driven. “We will make appropriate allocations to the three marketers chosen by the operators and the other,” Kyari said.

The CBN governor, on his part, noted that though the apex bank has no control over the flow of the dollar, he however assured that no operator would be denied facilities by the banks as long as they are credit worthy. While appreciating all the stakeholders for the efforts put in at resolving the issue at stake, the speaker said: “I appreciate the airline operators for being nationalistic in calling off the strike as I hope that the outcome of this meeting will usher in a lasting solution to these challenges of Jet A1 bearing in mind that there is a laissezfaire economy of demand and supply.”

 

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