The reluctance of the Nigerian military to deploy Tucano fighter jets, procured from the United States of America, against bandits is about to change, following a Court ruling in Abuja on Thursday declaring bandits as terrorists.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had, in a ruling on Thursday, declared activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda bandit groups as acts of terrorism.
The ruling followed an ex parte motion filed by the Mohhammed Abubakar, Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, DPPF.
The DPPF told the court that the ex parte application was filed on the instructions of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the affidavit filed by the DPPF, the application stated that security reports confirmed that bandits were behind “incessant kidnappings for ransom, kidnapping for marriage, mass abductions of schoolchildren 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 commuters and wanton destruction of lives and property in Nigeria, particularly in the North-West and North-Central states in Nigeria.”
The affidavit continued, “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.”
After entertaining the ex parte application, Justice Taiwo declared the activities of the Yan Bindiga, group” and the “Yan Ta’adda groups and other similar groups in any part of the country, especially in the North-West and the North-Central as “acts of terrorism and illegality.”
The judge also made “an order restraining 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.”
The court directed the Federal Government to publish the proscription order in the official gazette and two national dailies.
Abubakar Malami, attorney general of the Nigerian Federation, AGF, in the statement, titled, ‘FG moves to crush banditry, as court grants Malami’s application to declare bandits terrorists,’ said, “The government will gazette, publish and publicize the proscription order (against bandits).”
Malami said he would be “working assiduously” in collaboration with relevant government agencies, including security operatives “to do the needful to take full advantage of this declaration.”
The Northern Youths Council of Nigeria said it received with joy, the court’s order, declaring bandits as terrorists.
The group expressed its excitement in a statement jointly signed by its President, Isah Abubakar, and Director General, Media and Publicity, Samuel Kure, on Friday.
The NYCN said, “We will welcome full military operation in northwestern and north-central parts of the country as it is happening in the North-East against Boko Haram and ISWAP elements which has drastically reduced their activities.”
“The northern youths will stand with you in your quest to stamp out terrorism from the North and Nigeria at large,” the group said.
However, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, controversial Islamic scholar, said the court order declaring bandits as terrorists wouldn’t end banditry.
In a statement, Gumi said, “I think the Federal Government has succumbed to media blackmail by a section of the country. It will not have any practical value because even before the declaration they are being fought and treated as terrorists.
“So, it’s just a nomenclature, which I believe will not change the dynamics on the ground.
“If you can remember, IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) was also declared a terrorist organization; the declaration was even backed by the order of the court but as you can see, even the international community did not recognize FG’s declaration of IPOB. So, it has failed to be effective or to achieve the desired results.
“I hope this declaration will not give the license to people to be profiling herdsmen in general as terrorists and taking laws into their hands against them. It will cause more mayhem. The declaration will not change anything; it will not change the dynamics. Already the military is engaging them. It didn’t stop them from kidnapping and killing. The declaration will not end their aggression against the society.”
Gumi maintained that, “The Fulani banditry is a socio-economic problem. We have seen it, we interacted widely with them; we told the Federal Government the way out. It can only be won through engagement, dialogue and justice. That is why today there is relative peace in the Niger Delta because government has accepted the painful reality of rehabilitating and empowering them.”