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Security experts explain implications of branding Nigerian bandits as terrorists

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NIGERIA will spend more to acquire military hardware and train thousands of security personnel if the country declares bandits as terrorists, security experts have said.

The country will then be contending with many terrorist organisations, including the ISWAP, Boko Haram and the bandits.

There will be a need to approve state Police and urgent recruitments into the security formations, among other measures, to bolster the nation’s security architecture.

The measures must be taken to combat the groups, even though the nation is nearing a debt trap.

Security experts namely, former Deputy Inspector-General of Police Joshak Habila; former Director of Army Legal Services Col. Yomi Dare; and Chief Executive Officer of Goldwater & Riversand Capt. Aliyu Umar stated these while featuring on Channels TV ‘Sunrise Daily’ on Thursday.

They all said that declaring the bandits, who had wielded much power in maiming, killing, abducting and kidnapping citizens at will in the North-West, as terrorists was long overdue.

They reacted to the Senate’s call on President Muhammadu Buhari to designate bandits as a terrorist group.

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Within the last 10 months, the bandits have shot down military aircraft; attacked the Nigeria Defence Academy in Kaduna; raided and whisked away residents at Kaduna Airport and kidnapped hundreds of citizens, including first-class monarchsamong others. 

The group has also kidnapped at least a thousand school children in the region within the same period. Most kidnapping cases have attracted huge ransoms, which security experts said the bandits used to fortify their arsenal.

Multiple news media have quoted the country’s military and political leaders as saying that bandits are gun-wielding, rocket-launching, and handlers of more sophisticated weapons.

Habila said the bandits had put the will of the nation’s security institutions, including the government, to test. 

He said declaring bandits as terrorists by the government required putting the security personnel on their toes. 

“What we need to do is to increase the tempo of operations by also making available the logistics and the equipment these security agencies need.”

According to him, synergy among the security institutions would disrupt the operations of the criminals.

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He said currently, the bandits’ intention might not be to overthrow the government, but “if they are declared terrorists, it means that the group would want to look at the country and change its leadership. They want to take away the government and create another one because they are united in ideology.”

He said if declared terrorists, the group would no longer believe in the government.

He also said the mode of combating them by the Police and the military would change.

“If you declare them terrorists, the implications for the Nigeria Police would be to maul the terrorists down rather than attempt to arrest them. The equipment to be used would also change.” 

He said the Police would no longer aim at demobilising them because the terrorists were on the mission to destroy and disrupt the status quo.

Sharing his view, Umar said there was no need to brand the bandits as terrorists. “If you look at this conversely, they have earned the right to be terrorists. If you want to term them as terrorists, it is an understatement.”

He said the bandits’ activities had negatively impacted the nation’s gross domestic products (GDP), adding that many people had died from their attacks.

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He said bandits were expendable as, according to him, they weren’t adding to the nation’s economic wellbeing but stagnating progress.

“There have been socio costs, there have been psychological costs, and there have been cultural costs.” 

He said when the Nigerian government attempted to use diplomacy and ‘soft force,’ the bandits saw weakness from the government. 

He said the bandits had destroyed and rubbished all avenues for dialogue and presented themselves as terrorists long ago.

On his part, Dare said the group had operated under different guises, namely bandits, kidnappers and herdsmen, adding that all the acts were acts of terrorism. 

He said anyone who engaged in banditry should be treated as a terrorist.

 “Aside from that, I also want to propose that for all these militant groups, there must be a total proscription.  Just like the IPOB has been proscribed and branded terrorists, the same thing should apply to every other group.”

He, however, said branding bandits as terrorists was the duty of the National Assembly.

He said the lawmakers had all the powers to effect it. “All they need to do is to send it to the president for assent. If he refuses to assent to it, they know what to do.”

He urged the Police to desist from calling the criminals bandits but terrorists. “The Police and other security agencies should come together and ensure that we no longer use bandits for kidnappers and people who go to school and take children out of their environment and make them trek for long.” 

Buhari has been variously accused of declining to designate the bandits as terrorists because they are mainly herders from his Fulani tribe.

The bandits have also prominent kinsmen who negotiate with the government on their behalf.

The leading negotiators are a revered Islamic cleric and a retired senior military officer Sheik Gumi and a former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme Usman Yusuf, a professor of haematology-oncology and bone marrow transplantation.

 

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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