Zamfara, NEF, others back ‘total war’ against terrorists disguising as bandits

The Zamfara State Government, Northern Elders Forum, and security experts, among others, have backed the National Assembly’s call on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to declare bandits terrorising the country, especially the North-West, as terrorists.

They said the designation of the hoodlums engaged in killings and mass abductions of students in parts of the North-West and Middle Belt was long overdue.

The House of Representatives had, on Thursday, asked the President to designate the bandits and their sponsors as terrorists.

The Senate had made the same demand earlier on Wednesday.

Chairman of the House Committee on Defence, Babajimi Benson, at the plenary on Thursday, moved a motion of urgent public importance to urge the chamber to back the Senate.

It was titled, ‘Declaration of Bandits and their Sponsors as Terrorists.’

The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, asked for those who were against the motion but the lawmakers chorused, “No!” The motion was unanimously adopted through a voice vote.

Moving the motion, Benson said, “The Senate, on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, adopted a motion asking President Muhammadu 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 are 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).

The Senate had in its resolution also asked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to wage a total war against the criminals, including bombing all their locations, to annihilate and eliminate them.

These were part of the resolutions of the red chamber after considering a motion sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Gobir (Sokoto East) and co-sponsored by eight other senators.

Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, the Zamfara State Commissioner of Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Dosara, said the state government was in full support of the calls for the designation of the bandits as terrorists and any action that could end the criminality in the state.

“We in Zamfara are in full support of the move. Zamfara State government will support any move that is targeted towards ending banditry and other forms of criminality,” he said.

He commended the National Assembly for their decision, adding that it was time to deal with the bandits once and for all for peace to return to the country.

The Spokesperson for the Northern Elders Forum, Dr Hakeem Ahmed-Baba, also said the body was not against the labelling of bandits as terrorists but what Nigerians wanted was an end to the killings and bloodletting going on in all parts of the country.

Speaking to Saturday PUNCH, he stated, “If labelling them as terrorists is going to help in exterminating them and ridding the nation of them, we support it entirely, but we must go beyond putting labels on people who are making our lives insecure. Bandits, kidnappers and insurgents are people who want to use violence as a political base to threaten all of us. We would like to see a lot more than just simply asking the president to attach a label to them.

“For instance, the Indigenous People of Biafra has been labelled a terrorist organisation, but look at what they are doing in the South-East. We are not against labelling terrorists or bandits. Look at what Boko Haram is doing in the North-East. We just want an end to all these killings and bloodletting. Labels or no labels, we want this government to bring an end to all our fears, pains and agonies.

“If you like, give them labels, but follow it up with real actions. Bring an end to banditry, kidnapping, activities of IPOB and any activities of anyone who is posing threats to Nigerians. “

In the same vein, the Southern Nigeria Frontier also lent its support to the National Assembly.

A spokesperson for the body, Olufemi Lawson, said this would demonstrate the government’s seriousness in tackling the security challenge.

“This is one major step that has to be taken in expressing the seriousness of the government in tackling terrorism in the country. Failure to do this has been one major factor that has emboldened the bandits in their occupation, which has made life unbearable for Nigerians,” he argued.

The National Council of Tiv Youth similarly endorsed calls for the declaration of the bandits as terrorists.

Its President, Chief John Akperashi, said, “It’s long overdue. These marauders and known terrorists nicknamed bandits and treated with kids gloves have remained the greatest challenge in our efforts at securing our nation.

“Sadly, they are well known, adequately patronised and of course, constantly used to settle political and religious scores. Today, they are referred to as bandits for convenience but Nigerians are aware these are the most dreaded terrorists with international links and awful connections.

“They are in all our places of worship and political corridors and have constituted themselves into feared monsters almost taking decisions and, in some instances, reversing some policy decisions of our country.

“To this extent, we are doomed. The decision to have them proscribed and declared officially as terrorists is the best way towards a solution even though it is coming completely late,” he submitted.

While endorsing full military action against the bandits, Southern Kaduna communities under the aegis of Southern Kaduna Peoples Union noted that designating the bandits as terrorists was redundant as it took nothing from the lukewarm stance of the government on the issue.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the SOKAPU spokesperson, Luka Binniyat, said his organisation was not excited by the agitation “because the ethnic group that the Sultan of Sokoto has accused as the major culprits in this evil has already assumed a sacred cow status under this government.”

Binniyyat noted, “It is a lame and redundant call that adds nothing to the obstinate stand of a government to take it soft with mass murderers, kidnappers and arsonists.

“It is like first of all tagging an armed robber a criminal before arresting him and taking him to justice; SOKAPU is not excited by this call.”

However, the group supported a total military onslaught on the bandits.

Declaring bandits terrorists long overdue –Security experts

Backing the NASS, security experts said the war against the criminals would be further intensified if the resolution was implemented.

A former state Director, Department of State Services, Mike Ejiofor, said the decision should have been taken before now, expressing hope that the President would heed the call.

He said, “This is long overdue but it is coming from the legislative arm. Let us hope the Executive will heed the call because the National Assembly’s declaration is not enough. But my reservation is whether the service chiefs were consulted before the decision was taken.

“However, I support the decision. It will increase the level of seriousness and commitment to deal with the bandits. Also, it would elicit support from the international community in the fight to eradicate them.”

Another security expert, Timothy Avele, agreed with Ejiofor that the resolution was overdue.

He, however, observed that it might not make any difference without the security agencies changing their approach.

He said, “This is even overdue; bandits now kill more than Boko Haram and there is no end in sight to these killings. Of course, it won’t make any difference even after declaring them terrorists without the security agencies and the military changing their reactive method of operations.

“It should be proactive and continuous. First, the methods of dealing with them will be more severe. But perhaps the judicial implications are more pronounced and any direct or indirect association with designated terrorists or terrorists’ entity has dire consequences.

“It will also give security agencies and the military more authority to deal with them in deadlier ways.”

Avele said the President had the powers to declare bandits terrorists, saying, “I think it is the President that has the authority to declare them as terrorists while the court will validate the President’s designation after reviewing the evidence supplied by the President.”

Another security expert, Jackson Lekan-Ojo, said declaring the bandits as terrorists was a step towards achieving success in the violence-ridden northern part of Nigeria.

Lekan-Ojo argued, “We have been saying this for a long time. Bandits don’t shoot down aeroplanes, bandits don’t kill, maim and abduct people. Terrorists do.

“This is a huge step. First off, in defeating the security challenges; most of the time, a country does not only rely on internal structures but foreign structures. Once you pamper terrorists and fail to call them what they are, the international community will not know the extent of the evil the perpetrators are committing.

“Now, if they are declared terrorists, things will be much easier: the international community now know that what we are dealing with is not just a child’s play but hardened criminals.

“It’s like saying someone is a petty thief but this petty thief is engaged in killings. Now you know that there is no such thing as amnesty for terrorists; terrorists are to be shot on sight.

“It will be important for the President to heed the voice of the National Assembly and declare these criminals terrorists. Let the whole world know, this will also help us get attention from the international community.”

But despite the blood-chilling activities of bandits in its rural communities, the Niger State government said there was a need for consultation before it could support the decision.

The state government described the decision as a policy matter, which needed wide consultation.

The Secretary to the Government of Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Matane, who said this in a phone interview, noted, “I cannot say anything about that for now because it is a policy matter. The state government has to consult and see the veracity of converting bandits to terrorist, Niger State has not taken a position yet.”

10 burnt alive, seven kidnapped, scores killed by bandits in Niger communities

Meanwhile, 10 people were reportedly burnt alive, several others killed while seven women were confirmed kidnapped by bandits during an attack in Kachiwe community in the Sarkin Pawa ward of Munya Local Government Area of Niger State during the week.

The bandits were said to have wiped out the entire community as they took their time to set all the houses and barns ablaze before leaving with the women they abducted.

The Secretary of Munya LGA, James Jagaba, who narrated the incident, said it happened on Thursday morning at about 2 am.

He stated, “The bandits invaded the community with motorcycles and cars because there were tyre tracks when I visited the community the next day after the council was notified of the attack.

“The bandits set all the houses ablaze, burnt 10 people alive, abducted 10 women and slaughtered the others. On their way after carrying out their heinous act, they met two people on the way whose vehicle broke down and they stopped and killed those two people and burnt down their vehicle.

“In the process, three of the abducted women escaped and the bandits went with the other seven women.

“The whole community was wiped out by the bandits, nobody survived. We got to know about how they carried out the activities from the women who escaped and are still in shock.”

The secretary added that the bandits moved to Shapè village also in Sarki Pawa ward and slaughtered nine people while others in the community took to their heels, adding that they also killed seven people in Gogope ward.

It was learnt that the bandits were able to carry out their dastardly activities uninterrupted due to the shutdown of telecom networks in the affected communities.

“We were told that all efforts to reach the security personnel proved abortive because, for some days, there has been a shutdown of mobile network in Munya local government. The people could not reach out to security agencies neither could they reach out to the council. At the council, we got the message very late and efforts to get the security agencies was not possible,” Jagaba explained.

He said that the women were currently in a state of shock and had been showing signs of trauma.

“The three people who survived are currently in shock and suffering from trauma. They need to be helped medically and otherwise because all they had had been burnt down by the bandits.”

Jagaba appealed to the state government to address the issue of mobile network shutdown in the local government area, adding that it would help to curtail future attacks.

Boko Haram now rules Shiroro council – Chairman

Over 500 communities in the entire eight wards of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State have been taken over by suspected Boko Haram insurgents and bandits.

Governor Abubakar Bello had earlier in the year raised the alarm that the Boko Haram sect had hoisted their flags in some communities in the Shiroro LGA of the state.

Confirming this, the Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area, Suleiman Chukumba, cried out for help, saying Boko Haram now rules most of the communities.

He accused them of trying to indoctrinate and incite the people against the government.

Chukumba disclosed this while speaking to journalists in Minna on the situation in the council.

“As the Chairman of Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, I can tell you that Shiroro is not only dealing with the issue of banditry; Shiroro has a lot of Boko Haram I have proof of this as the chairman,” he said.

Chukumba said the terrorists had warned the people against sending their children and wards to primary and secondary schools in the area.

“They have told the people that they do not want primary or secondary school in the communities and that they only want to see Islamic schools. They have been trying to indoctrinate and recruit the residents of the communities to become their members, telling them that they will give them arms and assist them in fighting the government,” he explained.

The council boss, who expressed worry over the development, said, “The entire wards are affected by banditry and Boko Haram insurgents; 500 communities in the eight wards are affected. The wards include Manta, Gurmana, Bassa-Kokki, Allawa, Kurebe, Kushaka, Kwati, Chukumba and Galadima Kogo.”

Chukumba appealed to the Federal Government to deploy more security personnel to dislodge the insurgents who had made Shiroro Local Government Area their home.

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