A tightened version of the 2011 federal anti-terrorism law will now target cross-border militants, and will increase government’s response to militants who flee to neighbouring countries of Niger and Cameroun, lawmakers said.
President Goodluck Jonathan requested the modifications to the existing law since July; and on Wednesday, the bill, Terrorism Prevention Amendment Bill, passed a second reading at the Senate.
A similar push is expected at the House of Representatives.
When operational, Nigerian security forces will be empowered to work with foreign nations-mainly neighbouring countries-to attempt to quash extremist threats, particularly that posed by the Boko Haram sect.
The security community has blamed part of the insurgency in parts of Northern Nigeria on fighters from neighbouring countries passing through the porous Nigerian borders to wreck havoc before fleeing.
The government has also claimed to have received intelligence locating key leaders of the Boko Haram in safe havens outside the country.
The government has not stated its clear motive for the amendment besides that its provisions will engender “extra territorial application” of the legislation. But parts of the document allow local security forces the power to seek out persons who committed acts of terrorism in Nigeria before fleeing to a neighbouring country.
Senate leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, said the motive behind the amendment was to bring the 2011 Terrorism Act in line with the “new dimension which terrorism has taken in Nigeria.”
“The highlight of the amendment sought by this bill is the territorial application of the law because terrorism can be carried out within or outside the country,” Mr. Ndoma-Egba said.
Section two of the original law will be amplified to include “a person who knowingly in or outside Nigeria directly or indirectly does, attempts or threatens any act of terrorism,” he said.
The amendments proposed by the president however retains the life jail term as the harshest penalty for terrorist offences, sidelining the capital punishment. Backers of terrorism, physically or financially, too will face stiffer penalties, the proposal states.
The Senate committee on National Security and Intelligence, chaired by Mohammed Magoro (PDP-Kebbi), is to review the bill ahead of a final reading.