Now Branded Terrorists, will Bandits Get the Boot?

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IN THE ARENA

Initially unencumbered by any deterrence, rewarded with ransom for kidnapping, raping, robbing and murdering both the rich and poor, will the court-sanctioned rebranding of bandits as terrorists become their waterloo, Louis Achi asks

Saint Augustine, the Algerian-Roman philosopher-theologian who lighted the candle of Christianity in pagan Roman Empire moved the poser: “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.

What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits. Saint …

Saint Augustine “What are kingdoms without justice? They’re just gangs of bandits.”

This irksome, criminal social malady, which has evolved from the old fashioned robbery, kidnap-for-ransom, among others, to swatting fighter aircraft from the skies like flies, has finally forced a definitive, offensive stance from the federal government.

Ruling on an ex parte motion filed by the federal government, Justice Taiwo Taiwo a the Federal High Court in Abuja had declared bandits anywhere in the country as terrorists, stating that such groups as Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda are nothing other than terrorists.

In his reaction to the court’s verdict, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami (SAN), announced that the federal government would now deal ruthlessly with all terrorists groups and their sponsors with a view to bringing a lasting solution to the nation’s dire security challenges.

“The development is a pointer to the commitment of the federal government to adhere to international standards in respecting the rules of engagement in the fight against terrorism, separatist organisations, insurgency and banditry in the country,” the AGF said in a statement through his media aide, Dr. Umar Gwandu.

Also speaking in an interview, he recalled that a court order had been sought and obtained and would soon be gazetted.

He further clarified that as a challenge that kept evolving, contrary to the assertion that it took too long to declare them terrorists, the government needed to address the issues as they arose, stating that terrorists should be described as “terrorists within the context of the order granted by the court.”

For emphasis, the AGF added that the appellation is now in force even when the court order has not yet been gazetted.

According to him, the gazette is a formal process, adding that it doesn’t take away the legality and effectiveness or the legality of an order of the court.

He also noted that all the security agencies have the information on the new status.

The federal government decided to approach the court for the order following a directive by President Muhammed Buhari upon receiving a legal opinion from Malami on the issue.

The AGF had, in an October 29, 2021 letter to the President, advised him to move against the various bandit groups in the country, particularly the likes of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda because their activities were threatening national security and existence.

The president gave his approval on November 3, 2021 following which Malami directed the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation (DPPF), Mohammed Abubakar, to lodge an application before the Federal High Court, Abuja to that effect. The application, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1370/2021 was filed on November 9, 2021 by the Assistant Director, Public Prosecution of the Federation and Head, Complex Case Group (CCP), Federal Ministry of Justice, Aminu Alilu.

It could be recalled that when the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) hosted northern political and traditional leaders a year ago, including the Senate President, ministers and the chairmen of Northern State Traditional Rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto, they largely focused on condemning the #EndSARS protests and expressing support for censorship of social media.

It was Matawalle who declared that dialogue with bandits was still relevant, stressing that he would not abandon it because fire power alone cannot solve the problem of banditry in the state.

Hundreds of people have been kidnapped, mainly for ransom, by bandits in Zamfara and neighbouring states in the past few years.

More, during a visit to his counterpart in Zamfara, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State suggested that governors in the North-West region should consider reconciliation with bandits to end the security challenges facing the region.

Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State had also tried a policy of rapprochement with the bandits and kidnappers but the results have been mixed. Killings and kidnapping have continued in the state.

But perhaps the stoutest and most articulate backer of bandits and advocate of negotiating with them is the Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi.

Incidentally, in the wake of their court-sanctioned declaration as terrorists, Gumi dismissed the development as political. The court decision, he said, would change nothing, the same way government’s previous declaration of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has not stopped the separatist organisation from its activities.

According to Gumi, “So, it’s just a nomenclature which I believe will not change the dynamics on ground. If you can remember IPOB was also declared a terrorist organisation, the declaration was even backed by the order of the court but as you can see even the international community did not recognise federal government’s declaration of IPOB. So it has failed to be effective or to achieve the desired results.

“I sincerely hope that Nigerians will not take the herdsmen as terrorists but should regard the criminality of the few among them against innocent people as act of terrorism just as we see IPOB and their attacks on security agencies.”

Significantly the emerging consensus is that the declaration of bandits as terrorist is overdue and that the federal government, which has the constitutional monopoly of force, should crack down massively on bandits who are almost overrunning the both country’s governed and ungoverned spaces.

Now finally branded terrorists, will bandits get the boot? Big question!