Magnus Eze, from Enugu, Tony Osauzo, from Benin, Noah Ebije, from Kaduna, Tony John, from Port Harcourt, Sunday Ani and Chukwudi Nweje.
On November 25, a Federal High Court in Abuja had declared the activities of all bandit groups in the country as acts of terrorism.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, said during appearance on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, yesterday, said court order had not been given effect because government was yet to gazette the order declaring bandits as terrorists.
The reasons adduced by the Federal Government for not designating bandits as terrorist over one month after court’s pronouncement has drawn the ire of groups and individuals.
But he revealed that the process of gazetting the court order would be completed within a few days.
“Government has a responsibility to act but within the context of acting. You’re equally expected to operate within the confines of international best practices associated with engagement, and one of such best practices is that you can only use maximum force on groups, individuals that are declared terrorists and that is where the application of the Terrorism Act comes in place.
“Whatever military hardware you acquire, there are limits within the context of the international convention as to how it can be used, when it can be used, and against who it can be used. And that is how the idea of looking at the activities of the bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers come into being.
“Our assessment took into consideration that they are causing a major threat to the territorial peaceful co-existence and causing a major threat to lives with weapons. The idea then came about that indeed they (bandits) have satisfied the criteria of being declared terrorists within the context of the law so that whatever military hardware at the disposal of the Federal Government can best be used against them within the context of the international convention and within the context of the law.
But groups and individuals including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Afenifere, Arewa Youth Consultaive Forum (AYCF), Senator Roland Owie and Livingstone Wechie told Daily Sun last night that the explanations were bizarre and untenable.
National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Alex Ogbonnia, said appropriate measures were needed to solve the problem of insecurity.
“For example, if the bandits are declared as terrorists, it would require a higher nature of containment and it is the will power to apply this appropriate higher measure of containment that is lacking and that is why the government is still foot-dragging. The will power is not there because of the sentiments attached to it and so long as the government continues to live in denial, the problem will continue to replicate itself. So, it is advised that we call a spade a spade so that we will be able to map out the appropriate technology to contain the problem.”
National President of MBF, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, also blamed government for lacking political will to do the needful.
“Let there be the political will to rout both the terrorists and bandits who are now classified as terrorists from existence. Let the Federal Government have the political will to do the needful and declare war on them and not just to send soldiers to protect communities.”
Similarly, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, said Nigerians were not interested in gazettes or who the courts declared a terrorist and tasked the Federal Government to live up to its constitutional responsibility to ensure security and welfare of the citizens.
“Giving reasons why the judgment has not been gazetted is not what we are interested in. The Federal Government should ensure Nigerians are free to move from one point to another and their property secured. The primary essence of government is to ensure security and welfare of the citizens.”
Reacting, leader of AYCF, Yerima Shettima, said the classification of bandits as terrorists was overdue and the excuses by Malami lacked traction.
“The excuse that they want to follow international best practices is not acceptable. I don’t know what the bandits are doing that is not an act of terrorism. The Federal Government must muster the political will to do the needful before we are all consumed. I am of the view that relying on international best practices is not in our best interest. I’ve seen a situation where their interest may conflict with ours. We have our own peculiar case and we should deal with it our own way.”
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