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NEF: Why We Support Designating Bandits as Terrorists – THISDAY Newspapers

•Urges northerners to vote for new, competent govt in 2023
•Says IPOB’s plan to frustrate Anambra guber must be resisted
Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has said it supports the call by a lot of Nigerians that the federal government should designate the bandits ravaging the northern part of the country as terrorists.
This, it anticipated could help improve the capacity of the federal government to address the expanding scourge.
The Forum made it position known in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed yesterday, where it also called on Northerners to register and prepare to vote for new, competent and honest leaders in the 2023 elections.
It stated: “The Forum regrets that arguments over labelling bandits as terrorists wastes attention and energy. If labeling bandits as terrorists will substantially improve the capacity of the Nigerian state to eliminate this expanding scourge, the Forum supports it without reservation.”
The Forum stressed that all lawful options in bringing this menace to an end must be pursued.
Furthermore, it stressed that measures put in place to contain the spread of banditry should be diligently monitored and evaluated, while those that merely worsen the condition of living of the law-abiding population should be removed.
It stressed that governments should be sensitive to the possibility of severe food shortage in the next few months in many northern communities, in addition to escalating cost of living which it noted could combine to confront the poor with intolerable conditions of living.
The Forum lamented that Boko Haram insurgency continues to be a major threat in the north-east, while kidnapping and large scale banditry in many other parts of the north were taking over lives of large portions of the population.
The NEF said politicians and influential persons were worsening the nation’s fault lines by the manner they seek political advantages through the exploitation of threats to the country’s unity and peaceful co-existence.
It noted that poverty and poor governance were fueling widespread alienation from mainstream social existence.
It stated: “The Forum notes that opportunities exist for Nigerians to register to vote in the 2023 elections. Apathy, anger and frustrations arising from failure of elected leaders to improve lives of citizens and insecurity are keeping many Nigerians from their rights and obligations to register and vote.
“The Forum urges especially Northerners to register and prepare to vote for new and more competent and honest leaders in the 2023 elections.”
It further expressed concern that Maiduguri, Borno State capital, has been without power from the national grid for 10 months, saying it was alarmed by signs that its population could be forced to resign to living with this additional assault on their lives and livelihood. It advised that the situation should be reversed at all costs.
The group advised that the planned closure of Internally-Dispersed Persons (IDP) camps should be carefully considered so that it does not place more victims in avoidable peril.
It further lamented that the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was threatening to eradicate the influence of legitimate authority in the south-east.
The NEF insisted that activities of IPOB represent an unacceptable threat to security and rights of fellow Nigerians in states of the south-east region, and the country as a whole.
It noted that the activities of the outlawed group was causing damage to the economy of the south-east.
NEF stated: “IPOB’s plans to frustrate the governorship election in Anambra State this weekend must be resisted.”
The Forum said the on-going trial of its leader should proceed in accordance with the laws of the land.
It warned that elites from the region who demand that he should be accorded special treatment in return for peace should know that they are merely inviting more threats on the people they should help to protect.
The Forum notes that the nation was coming to terms with a major requirement of the democratic process, which is the right of all citizens to freely participate in all political activities.
It stressed further that it was now an accepted wisdom that every Nigerian could contest for any office to which he/she is qualified, and voters would choose their next leaders in credible elections.
According to the NEF, the people of the north wants to work with other Nigerians to produce a competent and committed Nigerian leadership that would restore confidence in the country’s capacity to survive and rebuild itself for the next generations.
It said while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) dominate the political landscape, Nigerians would benefit from additional options, both to improve competition and to broaden the leadership selection process.
It therefore said it was looking forward to the emergence and consolidation of other parties in the political environment.
The Forum said the continued existence of state electoral commissions which conduct elections into local government councils was severely damaging the democratic process.
The Forum advised that the on-going constitutional amendments should include the scrapping of these commissions and the assumption of their duties by INEC.

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