Nigeria has passed sweeping anti-terrorism legislation giving its president the power to declare any group a terrorist organization, imprison convicted members for as long as 20 years, and search without a warrant. Even so called “moral assistance” for such designated groups can mean 10 years in jail.
The trend in such African countries has been to use anti-terrorism laws as a tool for repressing dissent. Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies is reported recently as saying there’s “a growing tendency of governments to pass sweeping anti-terrorism laws and then to use them not only in legitimate efforts to arrest and prosecute terrorism suspects, but often as a weapon against regime opponents in general.”
Ethiopia, Uganda, and other neighboring governments have used post 9/11 anti-terrorism laws to jail and silence journalists and to discriminate against Muslims.
Nigeria has seen an increase in attacks carried out by a group known as Boko Haram, which U.S. officials suspect has ties to al Qaida groups already operating in Africa.
The U.S. pressured Nigeria to pass the bill giving dangerous powers to the government, despite a record of Nigerian law enforcement prone to bribery, intimidation, and extrajudicial killings.