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Nigerian Anti-Terrorism Bill May be Aimed at Niger Delta Militants

Nigeria is on the verge of approving new anti-terrorism legislation. But while the basic aim of the bill is to prevent the country from becoming a haven for terrorism, many people think it's really targeted at militants in the Niger Delta.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor is following the story. From the capital, Abuja, he spoke to English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the reasons for the measure.

"Government officials tell me it is to prevent terrorist acts in Nigeria. If you recall, the (US) State Department says Nigeria is prone to terrorist activity, not that al-Qaida may have some kind of base, sympathizers and support in Nigeria. So they (government officials) are saying that this is intended to stop an act from ever happening by prescribing what they call still penalties for either terrorists or supporters of terrorist groups," he says.

These include a possible 10-year prison term for supporters of terrorist groups and the death penalty for terrorists themselves. However, there's been little news of terrorist activity in Nigeria. So some say the anti-terrorism bill is actually aimed at militants in the Niger Delta who are responsible for much violence in the oil-rich region.

"A lot of people believe that to be a fact. They are saying that since no terrorist activity has happened in Nigeria, there's no need for the government to try to strengthen the terrorist laws. Actually, there's been a discussion within government and military circles of what to do with the militants in the Niger Delta. Some say there is no terrorist act bigger than blowing up oil pipelines, killing security forces, killing civilians and abductions. In general, preventing foreign businessmen from doing business in Nigeria. They say this is an economic terrorist act," he says.

Offor says since lawmakers have approved the legislation, it's likely President Umaru Yar'Adua will sign it by December.