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When will FG Declare Bandits as Terrorists? – THISDAY Newspapers

BRIEFINGNOTES
Having downed Nigerian Air Force fighter jet, bombed train track, invaded military facilities, killed security agents and engaged in Boko Haram-styled mass abduction of students, Ejiofor Alike wonders why bandits have not been declared as terrorists by the federal governent as demanded by the National Assembly; Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and other stakeholders
Before they embarked on invading schools to carry out mass abductions of students, the bandits terrorising the North-west and some parts of the North-central had restricted their activities to kidnapping villagers, travellers and rustling cattle.But after acquiring more sophisticated weapons, they became more daring, carrying out Boko Haram-like raids on schools, abducting students, collecting millions of naira in ransom and killing some of the students in the process.
Zamfara, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Niger states suffered the worst humiliation in the group’s mass abduction of students.
On August 24, 2021, the daring bandits also attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) in Kaduna where they killed two officers – Lieutenant Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Okoronkwo, and abducted Major Christopher Datong, who regained his freedom after 24 days in his captors’ den.
The bandits were also known to have killed scores of policemen and sacked military outposts in Zamfara, Niger, Kebbi and Sokoto states, inflicting collateral damage on soldiers.
The Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) on Thursday last week stopped services on the Abuja-Kaduna route following the suspected bombing of the train track by bandits.
On Sunday, July 18, 2021, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet, returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna states, came under intense fire by the bandits, which led to its crash in Zamfara State.
However, the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Abayomi Dairo, demonstrated an unprecedented exemplary heroism and successfully ejected from the downed fighter jet.
Worried by the criminal activities of bandits in many parts of the country, many Nigerians, including governors, have called on the federal government to declare bandits as terrorists.
The Senate had also at a recent plenary called on Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, declare them as terrorists and order the military to eliminate them by bombing their hideouts.
The Senate also told the president to immediately declare all known leaders of the bandits wanted, and track them wherever they are for arrest and prosecution.
The resolutions followed the consideration of a motion on banditry in Sokoto State, sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Gobir.
Presenting the motion on the floor of the Senate, Gobir lamented that Sokoto East Senatorial District had become a safe haven for bandits following a crackdown on them by the military in Zamfara State.
He lamented that on Saturday, September 25, about 21 security men were killed in Dama and Gangara villages by rampaging bandits.
According to the senator, out of those killed, 15 were soldiers, three mobile policemen, and three members of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), in addition to yet to be ascertained number of civilians from the neighbouring villages.
Gobir called on the military to carry out a holistic operation on frontline states, such as Sokoto, Katsina, Niger, and Kaduna, in order to produce effective and desired results.
Speaking after the adoption of the motion, Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, charged relevant committees of the National Assembly to ensure that funds appropriated for the armed forces were judiciously applied to the purposes they were budgeted.
Barely 12 hours after the Senate passed the resolution, the House of Representatives, also asked Buhari to designate bandits, and their sponsors as terrorists.
Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Senator Babajimi Benson, had at the plenary moved a motion of urgent public importance, urging the chamber to back the Senate.
It was titled, ‘Declaration of Bandits and their Sponsors as Terrorists.’
The Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, asked for those who were against the motion but the lawmakers chorused, “No!”
The motion was unanimously adopted through voice vote.
Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, had also last week disclosed that he had since 2017 written to the federal government to designate bandits as terrorists, because it was the only way to change the game against the criminals.
The state government had revealed that a total of 343 people had been so far killed, while 830 others were abducted by bandits between July and September 2021.
El-Rufai, who spoke on the situation report in his state, however, said his government frowned at the actions of individuals, groups and political actors, who incited citizens to arm themselves.
“The rhetoric of self-help is dangerously misunderstood. It is a recipe for descent into anarchy. Individuals, who perpetrate violent attacks are very often not around, when retributive actions are taken by the victims, and so citizens, who are perceived to share ethnicity or religion with the attackers are then targeted in reprisal,” he said.
He disclosed that in 2017, his state government wrote letters to the federal government, requesting that bandits be declared as terrorists.
El-Rufai however aligned with a recent resolution of the National Assembly on bandits, noting that it was only when they were declared as terrorists that it would allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill the bandits without any major consequences in international law.
“We, in the Kaduna State Government, have always aligned with the declaration of bandits as insurgents and terrorists. We have written letters to the federal government since 2017, asking for this declaration, because it is the declaration that will allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill these bandits without any major consequences in international law.
“So, we support the resolution by the National Assembly and we are going to follow up with a letter of support, for the federal government to declare these bandits and insurgents as terrorists, so that they will be fair game for our military. This is the view of the Kaduna State Government,” he said.
Without the declaration of bandits as terrorists, the Armed Forces cannot deploy their full arsenal against bandits terrorising the North-west and parts of the North-central geopolitical zones, as it is against international law to attack and kill bandits with such maximum force.
It was in line with this international treaty that the agreement signed between the Nigerian government and the United States stipulated that the A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets procured from the US would be deployed against terrorists and insurgents, and not bandits.
In view of the Boko Haram-like atrocities committed by bandits, one wonders why Buhari has not declared the group as a terrorist group when the federal government was very swift in declaring the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist group even when the agitation of the group was still very peaceful.

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