This week, within 24 hours of each other, the two chambers of Nigeria’s National Assembly –the Senate and House of Representatives—urged the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, declare armed bandits operating mostly in the northern part of the country, as terrorists.
While the Senate made the call on Wednesday, the House of Representatives followed suit the next day.
Although the intervention of the National Assembly regarding the need to designate bandits as terrorists appears late, it can still be regarded as a laudable move.
Before the National Assembly’s intervention, many Nigerians have been clamoring for the federal government to designate armed Fulani bandits and herders as terrorist organizations to no avail.
Even a 2018 Global Terrorism Index’s statistics which listed Fulani herders and bandits as the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world would not cause the government to accede to the demand.
The implication of designating these deadly groups as terrorist organizations is that it would become easier to prosecute their members for their heinous crimes both nationally and internationally.
Why the federal has been adamant in its reluctance to designate them as such is what most Nigerians cannot understand.
Following a motion moved by the Chairman, House Committee on Defense, Babajimi Benson, in which he urged the executive arm of government to declare armed bandits as terrorists through a Proscription Order in line with section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (as amended), the House of Representatives unanimously voted to adopt the motion.
Benson had argued in his motion that 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.”
Just the previous day, the Senate had adopted a similar motion urging the executive to declare armed bandits and their sponsors as terrorists. It further urged the government to go after the criminals with all the military might at its disposal to eliminate and annihilate them.
The Upper Chamber equally requested the Federal Government to declare the leaders of the bandits wanted, and arrest and prosecute.
It is worth mentioning that because of the government’s apparent reluctance on the matter, the groups have advanced to the level of acquiring high-caliber army-styled weapons such as anti-aircraft guns and surface-to-air missile systems with which they resist military assaults against them. In July this year, armed bandits shot down a Nigeria Air Force aircraft.
Besides acquiring deadly weapons, the bandits have committed more than enough atrocities, wreaked more than enough havoc on the Nigerian nation and its people to warrant being declared terrorists.
It is hoped that now that the National Assembly has stepped in on the matter, the federal government would heed the call and take the necessary action.