Remarks by Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, that the Federal Government was yet to gazette the order proscribing bandits as terrorists because it was trying to ensure that it operates within the confines of international best practices, has drawn strong condemnation from the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF.
Afenifere said it was not interested in whether or not bandits were designated as terrorists but that the Federal Government should do the needful by protecting Nigerians from insurgents.
MBF on its part said the actions and utterances of Malami was a clear indication that there was no political will to end terrorism in Nigeria.
PANDEF on the other hand dismissed as baseless, the reason advanced by Malami on why the Federal Government had not declared bandits as terrorists.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on its part, accused the Federal Government of living in denial on the issue of declaring bandits as terrorists.
Also, Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, dismissed Malami as not being consistent in the way and manner he handles issues in the country.
It will be recalled that on November 25, 2021, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had declared the activities of all bandit groups in the country as acts of terrorism.
Why we’re yet to designate bandits as terrorists — Malami
Meanwhile, speaking during a Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, programme, yesterday, Malami said the Federal Government was trying to ensure that it operates within the confines of international best practices.
“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 international conventions 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 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.”
Malami, however, noted that the process of gazetting the court order will be completed within a few days.
“The gazetting of a court order or judgment is a process but what matters fundamentally within the context of the international convention is the judicial declaration and that has been obtained. The court has declared bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers as terrorists.
“So, with or without the gazette, what gives effect to such declaration is a judicial pronouncement but the gazette is a mere formality and it has been on and I believe within a matter of days, it will be concluded.”
The AGF added that the declaration of bandits as terrorists has cleared the way for the “deployment and usage” of Super Tucano fighter jets against them.
“One thing I can tell you is any international conventional demands associated with the usage of the Super Tucano has been obtained which is a judicial pronouncement and declaration of bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers as terrorists,” he added.
Malami’s utterances show no political will to end terrorism in Nigeria —MBF
National President of MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, while reacting to the comment by Malami, said: “I can never buy that line of thought. It means they have seen that their people, who are doing mischief will be protected better if they are left as bandits.
“And as far as I am concerned, court orders are court orders and Malami has to obey it. If the court has made its declaration based on the practice of the people and their actions, they have been terrorising people, they even shot down an aircraft, they have gone beyond the level of bandits and the court has declared them as terrorists and so it should be obeyed.
“Therefore, the treatment the Federal Government should give to terrorists should be given to them. They are not a special breed.
“Recall that the Boko Haram was started by mainly Kanuris and later minorities and other groups joined. Today Boko Haram is predominantly Fulani. What makes them different from the people operating in the North-West? They are one and the same.
“More importantly, the court has declared them as terrorists, so that should be what they should be called and that should be how they should be treated to enable us to have a solution to the problem we are having.
“Many of us have said that the truth about the matter is that this thing is lingering because there is no political will. And the action of Malami is an indication that there is no political will to end terrorism in Nigeria.
“And trying to give these criminals a safe haven does not solve any problem. They should be treated as terrorists and the declaration of the court should determine the name and their classification at the international level so that we can jointly rout this thing out of Nigeria and have peace.
“By so doing, all they are doing by exporting terrorism to other parts of the country will stop.”
Do the needful, not bore us with nomenclature —Afenifere
Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Jare Ajayi, while reacting, said: “Afenifere is not interested in whatever name the Federal Government wants to name those who are doing wrong or those breaking the law of the land. What we are interested in is the Federal Government taking decisive actions against those committing crimes, including terrorism, armed robbery, banditry and others. So, giving us reasons as to why it has not declared bandits as terrorists is not our concern.
What we are interested in is for the Federal Government to make provision for the welfare of the people and protection of lives and properties but the government has failed in these areas.
“We are not interested in those reasons but what we are interested in is in what the Federal Government ought to be done constitutionally.
“Whether the Federal Government wants to conform with international or local laws is not our concern. Our concern is for those in office to live up to the oath of office they swore to; they must live up to the constitutional provision which is to provide for the welfare and security of Nigerians.
“In any case, this current administration has shown that it takes actions convenient for it. Why is it that in the declaration of bandits as terrorists, the Federal Government now remembers international laws and things like that?
“For example, which law says that the government can invade somebody’s house at midnight, killing two people and detaining others without proper court procedure? I am referring to Chief Sunday Adeyemo’s home invasion.
“We want to make it clear that we in Afenifere are not interested in whatever nomenclature government is giving to kidnappers, armed robbers and others, our interest and what we keep telling the government to do is to put an end to all these evil meted out to people.
“Several communities especially in the north have been ransacked, people have fled their homes. Such a thing should come to an end. We are interested in government putting an end to these crises.”
Malami’s reasons baseless –PANDEF
PANDEF through its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson said: “Well, the comment by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on why the Federal Government has not declared the bandits as terrorists is received without surprise.
“A court of competent jurisdiction, an Abuja High Court had last year November delivered a judgment declaring that activities of bandits are acts of terrorism and they are terrorists. That is what they are.
“It is not surprising that the Attorney-General of the Federation is saying the Federal Government has not declared them as terrorists.
“Of course, the Federal Government under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari will not declare bandits as terrorists because they are agents of mass destruction.
“Now the bandits have come out to say they are people that worked for these politicians.
“They are agents of rigging elections and of course with promises not fulfilled, they have created jobs for themselves, an industry for themselves of kidnapping innocent Nigerians, especially in the North-West and so they find it difficult to designate them as terrorists. They have tolerated them to the detriment of the lives and property of innocent Nigerians.
“So, it is not surprising that Malami has presented himself more like Attorney-General of a section of the country and not an Attorney General of the Federation.
“So, the citizens of Nigeria of goodwill and well-meaning Nigerians should pray we don’t have another President like Buhari that has promoted and raised nepotism to an unimaginable level in the governance structure of Nigeria. That is what it is and it’s unfortunate that Nigeria is in this situation.”
Government of living in denial — Ohanaeze
Ohanaeze on its part said that the truth was the Federal Government does not have the willpower to treat bandits the very way they deserve to be treated as criminals.
Rather than treat them as terrorists they are, the government treats them with carrots and sticks, and they continue with their heinous activities.
Speaking through its spokesman, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, said: “We condemn that bandits have not been declared terrorists which they are. And as long as they are not called bandits and treated as such, they will continue with their killings and destructions.
“As long as the Federal Government lacks the willpower to declare them terrorists, they will continue to do what they are doing, killing the people.”
Malami not consistent — ADF
Meanwhile, Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, has dismissed Malami as not consistent in the way and manner he handles issues in the country.
“Malami is not being consistent in the way he handles issues of civil or state security.
“There is nothing like International best practices here. Why did he move quickly to declare IPOB a terrorist organization in September 2017? And why is he reluctant now to accept the declaration by another court of law which has designated the bandits in the North-West as terrorists?
“But he had used another court in 2017 to proscribe IPOB. So, who is fooling who?
“He was the same person who refused to proscribe the Fulani herdsmen despite their mass killings in Nigeria and against the fact that the United Nations had rated the Fulani herdsmen as the 4th most vicious terrorist organization in the world,” ADF said through its spokesman, Abia Onyike.