Northern elders have praised the National Assembly for agreeing to a death penalty for acts of terrorism.
They however noted that it may not deter suicide bombers.
The spokesman of the Northern Elders Forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that it was good for Nigerians to know that acts of terrorism have become a capital offence but that the law would only deter those who were not total terrorists.
He said, “I think the good thing with it is that anybody going into terrorism would now know that it has been upgraded to a crime that attracts death penalty. As far as Nigerians are concerned, no matter what rights you are fighting for, you have no right to cause the death of people.
At least, the ones who are not total terrorists would think twice before getting involved in such acts. The ones who are really terrorists will not be worried.”
Unongo added that the problem lies in the ability to execute the law properly.
Similarly, the spokesman of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani, said death penalty would help to mitigate the security challenges in the country.
He said, “Death sentence is the penalty for terrorism all around the world. As democratic as the US is, it views terrorism as a capital offence.”
However, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Prof. Itse Sagay, said the death penalty would only satisfy the relatives of the victims of terrorist attacks, but that it would not end terrorism.
He said, “It cannot solve the problem. The level of extremism the people who have been carrying out terrorist attacks express shows that they are not bothered about their lives. I don’t see a death penalty deterring somebody who is willing to blow himself up.
“I think the death penalty is more for the psychological satisfaction of the relatives of the victims of the terrorist attacks.”
Last Thursday, the National Assembly agreed that any terrorist act that results in the death of another Nigerian would carry a death penalty.
This was contained in the report by the conference committee of the National Assembly that harmonised the different versions of the amendment bill passed by both chambers.
The Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was passed by the House of Representatives on October 11 and by the Senate on Wednesday, October 17.
Presenting the committee’s report on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, Chairman, Senate Committee on National Security and Intelligence, Senator Mohammed Magoro, said, “The Senate version prescribes life imprisonment for offences under this clause, while the House version prescribes death penalty. After deliberations, the House version was adopted by the conference committee.”
Section 1(2) of the House’s version states that “a person or body who knowingly in or outside Nigeria directly or indirectly willingly does, attempt or threatens any act of terrorism…commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to a maximum of death sentence.”
The committee adopted the Senate’s new section 17 which provides a minimum of 20 years imprisonment for act of conspiracy, whereas the House had recommended life imprisonment.
Both chambers also agreed to a new section 18 to a life imprisonment for aiding and abetting acts of terrorism, though it was moderated by a clause which recommended 20 years where the act was not committed.