Following their inhuman and godforsaken dastardly acts across swaths of lands in some northern states, Nigerians, unable to further stomach the patently nefarious activities of outlaws, who were more known as ‘bandits’, called on their government to declare them as terrorists.
They reasoned that the tag ‘bandits’, trivialised in every sense of the word, the unfathomable atrocities this band of cruel creatures unleashed daily on hapless fellow humans. Nigerians felt the killings, raping, kidnapping, robberies, burning, maiming, destruction of farmlands and settlements and other dehumanizing treatments these dare-devil individuals meted out on daily basis could no longer pass for anything less than acts of terrorism.
And so, the clamour for the so-called ‘bandits’ to be properly called what they are – terrorists, by the Federal Government, resonated across the country.
Curiously, the Federal Government, for months rationalized why it could not accede to the strident calls and requests to change the nomenclature from banditry to a more definitive one – terrorism. It kept foot-dragging, for months.
However, towards the ending of November 2021, a Federal High Court in Abuja declared the activities of bandits as acts of terrorism. The verdict immediately strengthened the call on the Federal Government to declare the activities of bandits ravaging the North-Western and the North-Central regions, and indeed all such activities in other parts of the country, as terrorism.
Mohammed Abubakar, the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, had filed an ex-parte application seeking to proscribe the intolerable activities of the bandits, who have been waging a relentless war against ordinary Nigerians in many states, across Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue and Sokoto.
While moving the application, Abubakar informed the court that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the proscription of bandits as terrorists. In his ruling, the judge, Taiwo Taiwo, specifically held that the activities of Yan Bindiga and Ta’adda bandit groups constitute acts of terrorism.
According to court documents, the Federal Government based its decision on security reports, which confirmed that the bandits were responsible for the “killings, abductions, rapes, kidnappings,” in northern Nigeria.
The government further blamed the groups for the growing cases of “banditry, incessant kidnappings for ransom, kidnapping for marriage, mass abductions of school children and other citizens, cattle rustling, enslavement, imprisonment, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, other forms of sexual violence, attacks and killings in communities and on commuters and wanton destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria, particularly in the North-West and North-Central states in Nigeria being carried out by Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other groups associated with or engaged in the same or similar activities as Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups in Nigeria.”
“We believe that some influential individuals and, or, organizations are behind these terrorists’ activities for economic and perhaps, political gains. They have to be unmasked and made to face the full wrath of the law
The Federal Government further averred that “The activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other similar groups constitute acts of terrorism that can lead to a breakdown of public order and safety and is a threat to national security and the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
The court in its ruling declared the activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other similar groups in any part of the country as “acts of terrorism and illegality.”
The court also proscribed the activities of the group as well as other similar groups in any part of Nigeria, “either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called.” And restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever, in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the Yan Bindiga group and the Yan Ta’adda group under any other name or platform however called or described.” Justice Taiwo equally directed the Federal Government to publish the proscription order in the official gazette and two national newspapers.
The Federal Government in its reaction to the proscription through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said, “The development is a pointer to the commitment of the Federal Government to adhere to the international standards in respecting the rules of engagement in the fight against terrorism, separatist organisations, insurgency and banditry in the country.”
It assured that “The government will gazette and publish the proscription order.” This, it has now done.
A statement by Malami’s media aide, Umar Gwandu, reads in part: “Notice is hereby given that by the Order of the Federal High Court Abuja, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1370/2021 dated November 25, 2021 as per the schedule to this notice, the activities of Yan Bindiga (Hausa word for gunmen) group, Yan Ta’adda (Hausa word for terrorists) group and other similar groups in Nigeria are declared to be terrorism and illegal in any part of Nigeria, especially in the North-West and North-Central regions and are proscribed, pursuant to sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011.
“Consequently, the general public is hereby warned that any person or group of persons participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intentions or otherwise of the groups referred to in paragraph 1 of this Notice will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and liable to prosecution.”
Much as we commend the Federal Government for declaring bandits as terrorists and making good its promise to gazette the proscription, we think that it needs to go beyond that. Concrete actions are needed to give vent to the spirit and letter of Justice Taiwo’s ruling and the proscription of the marauding groups.
We recommend that more than ever before, the Federal Government should step up actions to unravel the brains behind the groups. We believe that some influential individuals and, or, organizations are behind these terrorists’ activities for economic and perhaps, political gains. They have to be unmasked and made to face the full wrath of the law.
We also believe that kinetic operations should be stepped up to dislodge and completely incapacitate, neutralise and demobilise these demons. We recall with utter disbelieve that after the gazette, an unprecedented operation by the terrorists happened in the North-West in which more than 200 people were killed and even more displaced with their communities burnt down. These are unacceptable declarations of war on the Nigerian State and the government owes it a duty to respond decisively and firmly to these dastardly acts in a manner that will be a permanent deterrence to other would-be perpetrators. We call on the government to act now!