By Musa Ilallah
Recent judgement of a Federal High Court in Abuja declaring bandit groups in the country as terrorists did not come to well-meaning Nigerians and even non-Nigerians resident in the country as a surprise. Rather, people see it as a big relief that the bandits will finally and legally be spoken to “in the language they understand.”
Infact the declaration was long expected because of the disturbing increasing cases of kidnappings across the length and breadth of the country particularly in the northern part of the country.
The court had specifically, in a ruling delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, held that activities of ‘Yan Bindiga’ and ‘Yan Ta’adda’ bandit groups whose main occupation is kidnapping for ransom, constitute acts of terrorism.
The ruling declaring bandits/kidnappers as terrorists followed an ex parte motion the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government filed at the court through its Ministry of Justice out of concern for the degenerating security situation in the North.
The motion moved at the court by government’s Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, in an affidavit in support, told the court that “intelligence reports affirmed that the bandit groups masterminded several killings, abductions, rapes, kidnappings and related acts of criminality in the North-East, North-Central and other parts of the country.”
Government’s affidavit further alleged that the groups were equally responsible for the growing cases of banditry, incessant kidnappings for ransom, kidnappings for forceful marriage, mass abductions of school children and other citizens, cattle rustling, enslavement and imprisonment.
Other crimes were severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, other forms of sexual violence, attacks and killings in communities and wanton destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria, particularly in the Northwest and North Central States of Nigeria.
It is therefore not in doubt that the activities of ‘Yan Bindiga’ and ‘Yan Ta’adda’ and other similar groups constitute acts of terrorism that had led to a breakdown of public order and safety and is a threat to national security and the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Their activities, despite government’s onslaught against them militarily, and refusing to succumb to appeals by governments and individuals to renounce their actions and embrace peace, have held the country hostage.
Having listened to the government’s chief prosecutor, Justice Taiwo, accordingly granted the motions as prayed by declaring the activities of the ‘Yan Bindiga’, ‘Yan Ta’adda’ and other similar groups in any part of the country, especially ravaging the North-West and the North-Central as acts of terrorism and illegality.
To further underscore the importance of his ruling on the matter, Justice Taiwo ordered the Federal Government to immediately publish the proscription order in the official gazette as well as in two national dailies.
The biggest challenge for government in dealing with bandits and banditry with full military might is now rested as it will now move in full swing to crush banditry without any fear of its action being challenged in court for ‘human rights violations’.
One can vividly recall that the Nigerian Senate had recently passed a resolution asking the government to declare bandits as terrorists. Since then, other Nigerians across the divides of region, religion or tribe have joined in calls for the proscription of banditry and thus tagging it as terrorism.
The resort to court to proscribe banditry by the Buhari administration must be seen by all and sundry as a government of logic, democracy and an ardent believer and respecter of due process and rule of law. It is also a further testimony that PMB respects and acknowledges the resolutions of NASS and calls by other members of the Nigerian society in high esteem.
PMB’s approach in this context must be seen as an attempt to give ‘Ceasar what is Ceasar’s’ in the context of separation of powers between the three Arms of government- Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
The National Assembly has done its bit by passing a Resolution urging the Executive to do the needful on proscribing banditry in the country.
Indeed all arms of government must be commended for doing the needful in the spirit of democracy and good governance. They deserve a pat on the back for jointly showing commitment and patriotism to give banditry which has been a cog in the wheel of the progress of the country, a deadly blow.
Another government would have succumbed to impulse, sentiment, emotions and pressure to unilaterally and illegally rush into declaring banditry as terrorism without recourse to due process and rule of law.
Disturbed by the upsurge in crimes, particularly banditry, President Muhammadu Buhari summoned a meeting of the country’s National Security Council and consequently directed the nation’s security chiefs to eliminate the threats of bandits and kidnappers along Abuja-Kaduna road in particular, and other places across the country.
The President further ordered the armed forces and other security agencies, intelligence organisations, not to rest on their oars, notwithstanding the progress and efforts being made to eliminate insurgency, banditry, kidnapping for ransom, and all the other criminalities.
The President consequently directed all agencies constitutionally empowered to providing security for Nigeria and the maintenance of law and order, regardless of successes recorded so far, to improve on their activities, intensify surveillance and minimize, if not eliminate totally any threat to law and order anywhere in Nigeria.
Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammad Buhari on Media and Publicity, while reacting to erroneous and malicious assertions that the PMB administration is doing nothing to address the current security threats said: “it is incorrect. The President deserves credit for tackling insecurity, especially Boko Haram and farmer/herder crisis”.
Presenting a paper titled ‘Fake news: Challenges of Information Management’, at the 10th anniversary of the Federal University Dutsin-Ma, FUDMA, in Katsina State, Shehu added:
“It is a fact that the Buhari administration is the only government of Nigeria that has put forward a workable solution to the herder-farmer challenge in all the years since independence.
“The threat to civilians and peaceful co-existence between different ethnic and religious groups from farmer-herders clashes, banditry and land disputes are of serious concern to the Buhari government.”
He acknowledged ongoing efforts for the establishment of cattle ranches to prevent or curtail open grazing, the practice that brings herders and farmers into conflict.
It is very true that when PMB government came to power in 2015, the terrorist group held and administered an area the size of Belgium. Now they hold none. The terrorists are hiding out amongst remote forests and across borders.
“This makes it difficult to extinguish the final flames of the insurgency, and the government has no illusions of the potent threat still posed.
Recent statistics have shown that over 14,500 Boko Haram members have voluntarily surrendered to security agencies.
In the words of Shehu, “However, the progress made cannot be denied. In the face of rising crime and insecurity, the government’s new community policing initiative was launched. Some 10,000 new constables were recruited and the process is on for another 10,000 to be recruited from the areas they will safeguard as opposed to past practice.
“The government hopes this will bring policing closer to local communities. N13 billion was earmarked for the initiative. Going by the plan, every year will see an additional 10,000 policemen recruited.”
All said and done, Nigeria is set to enter a new lease of life of peace and security at home and on the roads. What government required from the citizenry is for us to be supportive of government actions by providing intelligence information to our security agencies to be able to nip challenges in the bud.