PHILIP NYAM reports on how the House of Representatives recently joined the Senate in calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare bandits as terrorists
That Nigeria is fast becoming a killing field is no longer news. This prompted the Senate to pass a resolution a week ago calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately designate the bandits, who are perpetrating this evil as terrorists, so that the military and security agencies can deal with them appropriately. Following the resolution, the House of Representatives subsequently joined the upper chamber in echoing the same advice.
The Green Chamber’s advice was consequent upon a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by Hon. Babajimi Benson (APC, Lagos), who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Defence.
The motion was seconded by Hon. Adewale Egberongbe. In the years past, the bombing of public institutions and attacks on some isolated places were the order of the day with Boko Haram reigning supreme. Although, the bombings have subsided since the government reported the degrading of Boko Haram, a more vicious and deadly group called bandits has stolen the show kidnapping, raping, killing, burning down private and public institutions and attacking military and security formations.
While the bandits have found a safe haven in the north eastern states of Borno and north western states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna as well as north central states of Niger and Kwara, killer herdsmen are also having a field day in Plateau and Benue states. The bandits have also expanded their operations to some south western states like Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo.
Indeed, the bandits are spreading by the day. In the South-East, the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) are said to be visiting mayhem on the population, and like bandits, burning down government installations such as prisons, DSS offices, police stations, INEC offices and attacking individuals, especially, those said to be opposed to the group.
But in the case of IPOB, they have long been christened a terrorist group by the Federal Government, making many analysts argue that a similar appellation be given to bandits, who are said to be engaged in similar or even worse criminalities.
According to a project of the Council on Foreign Relations Africa programme, Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), in the first quarter of 2021, at least 5,800 were killed while 2,943 people were kidnapped by bandits and other criminal groups.
The report said that “kidnappers who are bandits, Boko Haram terrorists, killer Fulani herders and ritualists averagely killed 32 persons per day, while they abducted 17 people per day between January and June this year.”
According to a data consulting firm, StatiSense, the Northern part of the country recorded 4,490 deaths, while the Southern part of the country had 1,310. The data gave a monthly breakdown of the sad occurrences, with May recording the highest number of deaths at 1,045, while April had 1,032 and June 1,011. Others are 958, 879 and 875 for January, February and March respectively.
Also, 1,344 persons were kidnapped in June, 474 in May, 406 in April, 605 in March, 709 in February and 405 in January. Looking at the six geo-political zones with total reported deaths between January and June 2021, the North-West had the highest with 1,976, the North-East had 1,424, the North Central had 1,090, the South-East had 574, the South-South had 406 and the South-West had the lowest number of 330.
In the case of kidnappings, 1,405 persons were kidnapped in the North-West, 942 in the North Central, 210 in the North-East, 169 in the South-West, 140 in the SouthSouth, while South-East recorded the lowest number of people kidnapped, 77. In total, 2,557 people were abducted in the North and 386 in the South.
This also showed that 16 people were approximately abducted per day in the country. Leading the debate on the motion at plenary presided by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, Hon. Benson urged members of the House and all well-meaning Nigerians to join the Nigerian Senate in urging the presidency to declare bandits and their sponsors as terrorists, so that they can be tried under the Anti-terrorism laws. This, he stated will be a strong deterrent to the sponsors who would want to protect their identity and business interests.
The lawmaker also called on President Buhari to implement the recommendations of the National Security Summit organised by the House of Representatives as measures from all arms of government are critical in fighting the rising trend of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria.
He said if bandits are declared terrorists, security agencies will be more energised to fight the menace, adding that the declaration may also encourage other countries to do same and help create a global consensus around dealing with transnational factors that feed the domestic activities of such proscribed organisations and individuals.
His words: “The Senate on Wednesday, September 29, adopted a motion asking President Buhari to declare bandits ravaging the northern part of the country as terrorists and wage a total war on them.
They also asked that the president declare all known leaders of bandits wanted and arrest them wherever they were found for speedy prosecution. Such declaration to be done through a Proscription Order can be done pursuant to section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (as amended).
“I will like to echo the same sentiment and ask honourable colleagues to join the Senate in urging Mr. President to declare bandits and their sponsors as terrorists. The declaration of bandits as terrorists can be done through a proscription order.
That will serve as an added impetus for our brave security personnel to redouble their efforts at dealing with this menace.
“Such declaration, when given the force of law, will renew the vigour and resolve of our gallant security personnel in dealing with the menace of banditry as the mode of operations and rules of engagement will be scaled up accordingly.
“Also, such an order will officially bring the activities of bandits and their sponsors within the purview of the Terrorism Prevention Act and any persons associated with such groups can then be legally prosecuted and sentenced to penalties specified in the Act. Insecurity in Nigeria requires an all-of-government approach.
“Hence, I also urge the President to implement the recommendations of the National Security Summit, which took place in June this year and was officially delivered to Mr. President in July. All hands have to be on deck to be able to win this battle against insecurity in all its manifestations.
“This will underline the determination of the government to combat the wave of criminality and murders conducted by bandits all over the country.”
In approving the motion, Speaker Gbajabiamila reiterated the commitment of the House of Representatives and the Senate to continue to support the fight against all forms of banditry and insecurity