The Federal Government has failed to officially designate bandits as terrorists three weeks after a Federal High Court ordered the government to do so.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that since the judgment was delivered on November 26, 2021, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has yet to gazette the order as ordered by the court, thereby failing to give life to the order.
No fewer than four states in the North-West have been battling banditry. The states are Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna. The bandits have killed hundreds of innocent persons, kidnapped several others including schoolchildren, with some still in their custody, while some are nursing injuries sustained during the attacks.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on November 26 granted an ex parte application by the Federal Government for Yan Bindiga (Hausa word for gunmen) and Yan Ta’adda (Hausa word for terrorists) to be declared as terrorists.
The court asked the AGF to publish the order in two national dailies and to also publish the order in the official gazette. Malami had in a statement promised to do so. However, this has not been done three weeks after.
Saturday PUNCH reports that in the case of the Indigenous People of Biafra, the AGF was able to gazette the designation of IPOB as terrorists on the same day that Justice Abdu Kafarati gave the order on September 20, 2017.
The document signed by the AGF was titled, ‘Terrorism (Prevention) (Proscription Order) Notice, 2017’ is contained in Volume 104 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette.
It read in part, “The gazette, with commencement date of September 20, 2017, read in part, “Notice is hereby given that by the order of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/871/2017, dated September 20, 2017 as per the schedule to this notice, the activities of the Indigenous People of Biafra are declared to be terrorism and illegal in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria as proscribed, pursuant to Section 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention)Act, 2011 (as mended).”
Saturday PUNCH also observed that in the case of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria led by Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, the AGF gazetted the proscription order four days after the court gave the order on July 26, 2019.
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH, human rights lawyer, Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN), said Malami should quickly do the needful before members of the public begin to misread his intentions.
Adegboruwa noted that without the gazette, the court order would not be as effective as it should be.
“Until there is an official gazette properly issued by the Federal Government, you cannot declare any organisation a terrorist group,” he said.
He added, “I believe the Minister of Justice would show good faith because when you compare the manner at which IPOB was declared as a terrorist group and was gazetted, it is not as cumbersome as what we are witnessing.
“He (AGF) should act so that the people would not begin to read meaning into the actions of the government. We need to treat everybody with universal and equal application of law so that we do not begin to accuse the government of having preference for one group against another.”
Adegboruwa noted that delaying the proscription of bandits would continue to embolden them, adding that they had become more vicious in their attacks in recent times.
Attacks intensify, over 800 killed within four months in Kaduna, others
Meanwhile, attacks by the bandits have intensified in recent months, with not less than 849 persons killed within the past five months, several persons kidnapped and some others injured.
In Katsina State, official figures revealed by the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Muhammed Inuwa, showed that between July and October 2021, the state witnessed 153 attacks by bandits, which resulted in 213 deaths while 115 people were injured.
Inuwa added that 234 kidnap cases were also witnessed in the same period during which 676 victims were kidnapped.
For November, the Katsina State Police Command on November 18, 2021, lost two officers, namely ASP Yakubu Joshua, attached to 27 Police Mobile Force, Katsina and Sgt Zaharadeen Yuguda attached to Safana Division. They were killed during an encounter with bandits at Baure village, Safana Local Government Area of the state.
The state Police Commissioner, Sanusi Buba, confirmed the development.
Other attacks by bandits that were officially confirmed included those of November 10 in Batsari Local Government Area where 11 people were killed and 13 others injured; November 22 attack at Banawa village, Batagarawa Local Government Area where four people were killed and November 6 attack at Gwarjo village, Matazu Local Government Area where six people were killed.
The real identities of district heads kidnapped during the period were not disclosed.
Also, the actual amount paid as ransom for kidnapped victims’ freedom during the period was not confirmed as many families kept the information to themselves.
In Zamfara State, reports showed that no fewer than 61 persons were killed by bandits in the last two months. The figure only captured those reported in the media.
On Kaura-Namoda-Shinkafi Road, seven persons were killed; in Bargaja village in Gusau LGA, six persons were killed; in Magarya village in Zurmi LGA, three persons were killed; in Magami village in Gusau LGA, seven persons were killed; in Rijiya village in Gusau LGA, six persons were killed; in Shinkafi-Kaura-Namoda Road, three persons were killed; in Yanbuki village in Zurmi LGA, seven persons were killed; in Saka-jiki village in Kaura-Namoda LGA, 12 persons were killed and in Karakkai village in Bungudu LGA, 10 persons were killed.
It was however gathered that 32 bandits were killed by the villagers within the past 60 days.
Similarly, seven soldiers, nine policemen and two members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were killed.
A district head of Magarya village in Zurmi LGA, Alhaji Muazu, died in captivity and the district head of Adabka, Alhaji Nafiu Shehu, was kidnapped and rescued after the payment of N3.5m ransom. The Emir of Bungudu, Alhaji Hassan Attahiru, was also kidnapped on Kaduna-Abuja highway.
The total amount of money collected by bandits in the state as ransom could not be immediately ascertained.
In Sokoto State, available record indicated that over 191 residents in the eastern flank of the state, comprising seven local government areas; Gada, Goronyo, Gwadabawa, Illela, Isa, Sabon Birni and Tangaza, have been killed within the last two months.
Again, more than 34 persons were kidnapped and whisked to unknown destinations by the bandits.
Confirmed reports indicated that two villages; Gangara and Makwaruwa, in Sabon Birni Local Government Area of the state were currently under the leadership of bandits/terrorists belonging to the dreaded Bello Turji faction.
A former chairman of the local government, Idris Gobir, told one of our correspondents, “While Dan Bakkwalo reigns supreme in Gangara village, Boka Tamiske holds sway over Makwaruwa village as new district heads.”
At least, 59 communities had paid levies and ransom to terrorists for them (villagers) to move freely. Our correspondent gathered that Gadawa village has paid N500,000; Tudunwada paid N1m and Nasarawa villagers paid the sum of N600,000.
Gatawa district, comprising about 85 villages, have paid close to N25m while Zango, a small village, was levied N2m. For the people of Gangara to return to their village in peace, they had to cough out N1.5m after acceding to three other conditions.
In some of the attacks, on October 17, 2021, about 42 bodies were deposited at Goronyo General Hospital, while a source put the number of security personnel on a joint patrol team killed at Burkusuma camp in Sabon Birni at 29.
Suspected bandits also attacked Gangara and Gatawa towns, all in Sabon Birni Local Government Area, where 20 persons were kidnapped and 27 persons killed.
In another attack, 52 persons lost their lives and three persons kidnapped during three different attacks on villages in Ilella, Goronyo and Sabon Birni local government areas within 72 hours.
About 23 lives were lost at Gidan Bawa village in Isa Local Government Area of the state, on December 6, under the watchful eyes of the terrorists, who opened fire on a vehicle conveying passengers on their way to the southern part of the country.
Meanwhile, in Kaduna State, the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, in his third quarter security report, said bandits killed 343 and abducted 830 persons as well as injured 210 persons, including women and minors in the state within the third quarter alone.
He added that 12,860 cattle were rustled and 220 bandits killed between January and September.
The breakdown of the killings, according to the commissioner, indicated that 193 people out of the total number killed were from the Southern Kaduna Senatorial District, saying that the figures were largely made up of victims of the violent attacks and reprisals in Zango-Kataf, Kaura and Kauri local government areas.
He noted that 114 people died in Zango-Kataf LGA, 45 in Kaura LGA and 19 in Kauru in the period under the review.
He said the Kaduna Central Senatorial District recorded 130 deaths representing 38 per cent with 125 of the deaths recorded in Birnin Gwari, Giwa, Igabi, Chikun and Kajuru LGAs of the state.
FG in talks with US to deploy Super Tucano – Source
It was also learnt that as of Friday, the military has yet to deploy the Super Tucano aircraft even as the bandits have continued to wreak havoc on the North-West.
The PUNCH had on October 20 reported that the military could not deploy the Super Tucano fighter jets procured from the United States against the bandits because the agreement signed with the Unites States Government was that the fighter jets would be used against terrorists and insurgents only.
This, according to the report, was the reason why the National Assembly asked the President to designate the bandits as terrorists. The service chiefs were said to have told the relevant committees the reason for their inability to deploy the jets against the bandits.
When Saturday PUNCH reached out to the acting Director, Defence Information, Air Commodore Wap Maigida, on why the Super Tucano aircraft had not been deployed against the bandits in the North-West, he declined comment on the matter. “I have no comment on the matter,” he said.
However, two top sources in the military told one of our correspondents that talks were ongoing with the United States Government to review the terms and conditions entered into before the fighter jets were sold to Nigeria.
One of the sources said, “The Super Tucano aircraft were procured to fight terrorism in the North-East. As a result, those aircraft could not be used in the North-West ravaged by banditry. That was why those in strategic positions were pushing for the declaration (of bandits as terrorists) which has been done.
“We can’t just deploy the fighter jets there. We signed an agreement with the United States Government before they were sold to us. We have to go back and review that agreement. I can assure you the process is ongoing, when it is concluded the Super Tucano would be deployed.”
The US State Department and the US Mission to Nigeria did not respond to enquiries sent via emails on the matter.
Meanwhile, a petition on Change.Org which is calling on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and other troubled states in the North-West, had garnered almost 34,000 signatures as of Friday evening.
Gazette on bandits out soon – AGF
In an interview with Saturday PUNCH on December 8, the media aide to the AGF, Dr Umar Gwandu, said the government was still in the process of gazetting the court order that declared bandits as terrorists.
“You will see the publication of the proscription order very soon. It is a process and the outcome will be visible and accessible to all,” he said.
When contacted on December 16 for an update, Gwandu again stated, “The gazette declaring bandits as terrorists is to be out very soon.”
Ohanaeze, NEF, SOKAPU, Afenifere react
In his reaction, the President, Southern Kaduna People’s Union, Jonathan Asake, reiterated his stance that bandits are ‘Class A terrorists’.
He said, “We should call a spade a spade and stop trying to be politically correct. What do you call people who downed a NAF jet and almost killed the pilot? These same people entered a military school manned by security operatives to kidnap and kill members of staff. They went to a community in Kaduna to kidnap over 100 worshippers and asked their people to pay ransoms? What do we call them?
“The earlier we realise these people are out to destroy the country, the better for us.”
Also reacting, the Youth President of SOKAPU, Mr Isaac John, said whether the government saw them as terrorists or not, people knew who they were.
“That goes to show how insincere this government is. They were quick to proscribe IPOB as a terrorist group, so what stops them from doing so for bandits? Can we stop playing games over this?” he added.
The spokesperson for the Northern Elders’ Forum, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, also said if labelling the bandits terrorists would take the carnage away from the north, the forum was in full support.
He added, “As we speak, there is a judicial pronouncement that they are terrorists. If there are some bureaucratic processes to be followed for proper administrative effect, it should be quickly done.
“There are people killing other citizens, taking over other territories and perpetrating other acts of horrors, we don’t need to wait for the label to know what to do to them. What we would like to see, apart from these labelling is arrest and prosecution.
“We don’t see anybody being arrested and prosecuted, so it gives us the impression that these people are untouchable and that is unacceptable. Whatever name you give them, find a solution to stop this evil.”
The spokesperson for the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, said, “They (bandits) are terrorists. I don’t know why the presidency doesn’t want to give it its real name, terrorism, after the court has ruled. This foot-dragging has consequences.”
Also, the General Secretary of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Sola Ebiseni, said, “The problem with this government is the President’s manifest incompetence to handle a complex country like Nigeria.
“The problem is worsened by the uncanny intransigence of the President in the face of patriotic counsels. It does not matter any longer what name you choose to call the mindless marauders ravaging our country. They have become so hydra-headed and arrogant in their criminal enterprise.”
FG lacks will power to fight bandits – Security experts
Also reacting, a retired officer in the United States military, Capt Bishop Johnson (retd.), said to properly tackle banditry, it must be properly designated, adding that it would help to get the required international attention to combat them like other terrorist organisations.
He added, “Bandits are armed robbers. You don’t go to an entire village, rape women, kidnap for ransom and expect to be called an armed robber. There is no difference between what they are doing and what Boko Haram and ISWAP are doing.
He urged the government to take away politics, ethnicity and religion from issues that concern serious national interests such as insecurity. “These guys have been emboldened because they are reading the language of the policymakers who ought to have taken drastic measures and it is much more difficult to deal with them now, and that is why innocent citizens are suffering,” he added.
Another security expert, Mr Jackson Lekan-Ojo, also reacting, said the delay was confusing given the speedy manner IPOB and Sunday Igboho’s matter were handled.
He added, “The activities of the bandits today are now more deadly than Boko Haram. People who have sympathy for them (bandits) are moving about freely but some of those they (DSS) met at Sunday Igboho’s house were killed and others unlawfully detained.
“A court of competent jurisdiction has declared them as terrorists, what is the Attorney General of the Federation doing that this declaration by the court has not been gazetted by the Federal Government? There is no political will to deal with the bandits.”
Oladele Fajana, also a security expert, said the bandits were terrorists, as he lamented that every situation in the country was always politically motivated.
He added, “The major problem is that most of the key players and commentators are not sincere. They are partitioned along political, religious and tribal lines, and that is why this issue has lingered for this long. If you want to fight these people, you must fight them simultaneously so they will not escape, but the government is not listening to the voice of the people.”