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Opinions of Monday, 15 March 2021

Columnist: Olamide Francis

Bandits are not terrorists

The call by many Nigerians for the presidency to proscribe bandits as terrorists is gratuitous. The presidency is upstanding to turn deaf ears to this reverberating call except that it has failed to treat these vicious murderers, the plunders of resources and architects of national bewilderment for what they really are — hardened criminals. To refer to these criminals as terrorists is itself a means of glorification of their atrocities and an offering of cheap publicity to their lawlessness and irrational hostility. Bandits are not terrorists.

The Oxford Dictionary defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” Besides, the Global Terrorism Database defines terrorism as “acts of violence by non-state actors, perpetrated against civilian populations, intended to cause fear, to achieve a political objective.”

Since the 20th century, the term “terrorism” has been applied most frequently to violence aimed, either directly or indirectly, at governments to influence policy or topple an existing regime. So, the presidency was right to refuse to brand bandits as terrorists because only killings perpetrated by non-state actors against civilians, motivated by a particular political, economic or social goal, are classified as terrorism.

The threefold mandate of bandits and arms-carrying herdsmen is clear: to steal, kill and destroy. It’s what armed robbers and other criminals do. And if the Presidency doesn’t treat them as such, Nigeria will be sitting on gun powder. These criminals have no objective for the wanton killings and instability that they have purveyed upon the nation.

They’re not fighting for political power or to enforce another form of sovereignty. They’re just armed robbers violating institutions and leveraging the shortcomings of a visionless nation to enrich themselves and harm innocent civilians. Maybe, that’s why a seemingly power-obsessed Buhari regime is finding it difficult to completely crush them. More of a case of “So long as they’re not after the seat of power, let’s handle them gently.”

There is no means and there will never be any to justify the killings and damage perpetrated by bandits. It’s obvious that, by all definitions, they’re not terrorists — at least from what is visible to the public — and that should make it easier for the federal government to eliminate them. We know what they are and we must give them the necessary treatment as stipulated by our laws unless some people in high places are enjoying this new business enterprise.

Section 1 of the Nigerian Robbery and Firearms Act clearly stipulates the punishment for offenders like the infamous killing machines twins popularly called bandits and killer herdsmen respectively. The remainder of Section 1 outlines all the conditions that must be met to be on the short end of the stick of that legislation. All of which these cold-blooded killers have surpassed. But what do we see? Government setting a table before them at the expense of grieving families, pampering, romancing and even portraying them as victims. Perhaps, they’re victims of bad governance that has bedevilled our political landscape. But it’s not peculiar to them.

It’s the daily experience of every Nigerian. They have no excuse to carve a source of livelihood out of kidnapping, killings and destruction in the name of a failed system. If every suffering-Nigerian resorts to carrying arms in a bid to earn some form of income, what will be left of our dear nation? Bandits are simply armed robbers with sophisticated weapons. It is a sign of weakness to dialogue or indulge them. Unless they’re serving a purpose for the narrow ruling elite, they are meant to be crushed once and for all as other armed robbers and disruptors of peace in a society.

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