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Opinions of Friday, 3 September 2021

Columnist: John Sunday Ojo

Is banditry a state-sponsored terrorism?

File photo to illustrate the story File photo to illustrate the story

State-sponsored terrorism is not a recent phenomenon. Different political regimes around the world have used it to achieve a certain goal. Although governments are usually the targets of terrorist organisations, they can also involve in sponsoring terrorism or employ the tactics of terrorism to retain power. State-sponsored terrorism can be referred to as ideologically, politically, religiously enthused violence perpetrated by the state against a targeted group or population. State-sponsored terrorism is classified into two perspectives.

The first dwells within the context of a government that has a direct link with a terror group, supports its activities against the government of other countries. The second category implies a government that is involved in a terrorist attack against its citizens. The operational tactics of a government carrying out terrorism against its citizens may require engaging in kidnapping, murdering, and sponsoring killer squads who carry out the tasks. So far, the US Department of State has profiled seven countries for state-sponsored terrorism. These include Iran, Libya, Syria, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea.

Countries that have been involved in terrorising their citizens include Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Sudan, Honduras, and Iraq under the political reign of Saddam Hussein. For instance, Iran has been a great adherent sponsor of Hezbollah, HAMAS and Palestine Islamic Jihad who have carried out the heinous attacks against the state of Israel. Sudan has also been considered a haven for terrorist organisations.

The most popular terrorist group that has sojourned in Sudan was Al-Qaida during the reign of former Al-Qaida’s leader, Osama bin Laden. Following his eviction from Saudi Arabia, he was accommodated in Sudan. Whilst terrorist leaders were allowed to operate in Cuba during the reign of Fidel Castro.

One might consider state-sponsored terrorism when the following dimensions are permitted within the territorial jurisdiction of a state, ranging from active to passive sponsorship: the state tolerates the activities of a non-state armed group within its borders by making indulgent efforts in apprehending or curtailing the deadly activities of the group.

The state, therefore, encourages them to carry out their activities without altercation; because of the incapability or inherent weakness of a leader to tame the activities of such a terrorist group, thus there is deliberate inaction by the state. Active support dwells within the continuum of substantial encouragement by the state.

This does not connote that a state has no territorial commandery of the geographical space occupied by the terrorist group. The provision of a secure enclave for the terrorist group suffices to conclude that the state supports the activities of the terrorist group. When a state can shut down the operation of a terrorist group, but failed to do so, such a state is sponsoring the terrorist group.

If the state has no interest in curtailing the monstrous killings being perpetrated by the terrorist group within its territorial jurisdiction, it can be construed that such a failure pictures state-sponsored terrorism. We can, therefore, use the above criteria as a benchmark to assess whether a terrorist group enjoyed the support of the state.

Having provided such prototypes and characters of state-sponsored terrorism, it is imperative to make a tributary to the contemporary security conundrum that beclouds the Nigerian socio-political climate, particularly to unravel what banditry represents. Banditry epitomises a new terror group emanated from North-Central Nigeria, engaging in several gruesome killings, and kidnapping of innocent Nigerians. It has become a new security threat to Nigeria.

Although some political leaders, particularly from the northern region of Nigeria, have claimed the group are not terrorists, just a mere business organisation engaging in kidnapping for ransom. However, it becomes imperative to understand that kidnapping for ransom is one of the instruments used in financing terrorism. The current security dystopia in Nigeria is being fuelled by the reign of banditry, particularly in North-Central Nigeria becomes worrisome.

The recent chutzpah attacks and killings launched on the hallowed throttlehold of Nigeria’s defence institution in Kaduna raise a fundamental question, particularly whether the state backs this group. Although several political commentators have argued that this group represents a terrorist organisation that enjoys the support of the state.

However, such views have been politically watered down by the state authorities. There are certain cross-examinations to be raised. First, where is the territorial enclave of this group? Second, to what extent does this group pose a threat to the welfare of the general citizenry? Third, what is the nature and character of its operations? What coloration has the state given to this group? Can their activities be labelled as terrorism? Who are the targets of this group? What are the ideologies and motivations behind the killings and destruction of properties? To what extent have Nigerian security forces been able to confront them?

These are salient and fundamental questions raised to ascertain and figure out the deliberate attitudinal fiasco abetted by the Nigerian state.

Now, I would like to consider the politically embedded connotation and framing of the group. Despite that the deadly activities of the bandits represent a terrorist organisation, the Nigerian government has rejected the call by many prominent Nigerians to tag the group as a terrorist organisation.

However, the Nigerian state acerbically tagged the activities of Indigenous People of Biafra as a terrorist group, while currently considering (re)christenisation of the peaceful Yoruba nation’s secessionist group as a terrorist organisation. When considering the politics of framing terrorism, I can assume that the body language of the political head of the state in tagging bandits, a terrorist organisation speechifying complaisant brotherhood.

There is no iota of doubt in my mind that the ongoing malignant mission exemplifies ownership of belonging that is being reinforced by the state for a cause best known to the government in power.