UNODC collaborates with Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee to support retreat for the validation of the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill

Abuja, 9 July, 2021- On the weekend of 12-13 June, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) invited representatives of the National Assembly’s House Intelligence Security Committee, together with senior officials of the principal national security agencies, to a retreat in Calabar, Cross River State, to review proposed amendments to the draft Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill.

The new bill has been under consideration for several years, and UNODC is supporting the National Assembly to get it passed before the end of this parliamentary session. UNODC’s engagement is part of its ongoing European Union – Nigeria – UNODC - UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) partnership project to strengthen criminal justice measures for preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism, which is funded by the European Union.

The original draft bill dates back to 2017 when the Hon. Mohammed Tahir Monguno first sponsored a House Bill to make provisions for additional offences relating to terrorism, prohibit the financing of terrorism and consolidate all acts relating to terrorism and other related matters. The Hon. Monguno’s initiative reflected a widespread belief that the existing Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013 required further improvements to effectively prevent and respond to acts of terrorism and related offences.

Through regular engagements with the Administration of Criminal Justice Monitoring Committee (ACJMC), UNODC has been actively involved in the process of developing the Bill and has advocated for the inclusion of critical provisions, that had not been captured in the Terrorism (Prevention and Prohibition) Act, 2011 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act, 2013. One of these proposed provisions specifically highlight sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) related conduct, as a stand-alone offence and an offence related to hostage taking, abduction and kidnapping, which are conducts already prohibited by the existing laws on terrorism.

The importance of denoting SGBV as an act of terrorism, and expressly criminalizing SGBV related conduct as an interwoven offence to existing terrorist offences, has been driven home by reported incidents of Boko Haram members committing acts of rape, forced marriage, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, forced religious conversions of women and girls and forced prostitution, within and outside the conduct of hostage-taking, abduction and kidnapping. The most notorious of these incidents - the mass abductions of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014 and of 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi in 2018 – occurred after the passage of the existing terrorism legislation, which simply did not anticipate such crimes.

The two-day retreat featured presentations by representatives of the ACJMC, the Complex Case Group of Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Department of State Service (DSS), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) capturing the positions of these agencies regarding procedural, operational, technical and substantive aspects of the bill. Each presentation was followed by in-depth discussions, underscoring the commitment of all stakeholders towards advancing a comprehensive and cohesive legislation, to serve as Nigeria’s governing law on terrorism.

Speaking on behalf of the House of Representatives, Hon. Adejoro Adeogun, Deputy Chair of the House Committee on National Security and Intelligence emphasized: “We are committed and determined to ensure that this Bill is passed in this 9th Assembly, by the grace of God. We came all the way to Calabar with my Senior colleagues to prove this commitment. We shall take all the necessary steps to expedite the passage and it's a promise you can take to the bank. In any case, we appreciate the motivation and contributions of the UNODC team towards the successful hosting of this event and in the usual way, generally, in the reform and strengthening the counter-terrorism regime in Nigeria”.

The Secretary of ACJMC, Mr. Sulayman Kuku Dawodu, added: “The retreat was an exceeding success story, the determination and dedication of the participating agencies especially the Honourable members, led by the Deputy Chair of the House Committee on National Security, towards the speedy passage of the TPPA 2021 was exemplary and patriotism typified. By and large, we are grateful to the UNODC team and the European Union for their support and their pace setting facilitation of the retreat and all those well-planned logistical arrangements”.

In the coming weeks, the ACJMC with the support of UNODC, will be responsible for integrating all revisions proposed during the retreat, into the draft Bill. This will be followed by a final presentation of the Bill to the full House Committee on National Security and Intelligence for its final approval, and, once this is received, onward transmission to the Senate. Lawmakers are hopeful that this process can be completed before the summer recess.