Failure to declare Bandits Terrorists: Malami’s reasons not tenable — Afenifere, MBF, Ohanaeze, PANDEF

Remarks by Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, that the Federal Government was yet to gazette the order proscribing bandits as terrorists because it was trying to ensure that it operates within the confines of international best practices, has drawn strong condemnation from the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF.

Afenifere said it was not interested in whether or not bandits were designated as terrorists but that the Federal Government should do the needful by protecting Nigerians from insurgents.

MBF on its part said the actions and utterances of Malami was a clear indication that there was no political will to end terrorism in Nigeria.

PANDEF on the other hand dismissed as baseless, the reason advanced by Malami on why the Federal Government had not declared bandits as terrorists.

Ohanaeze Ndigbo, on its part, accused the Federal Government of living in denial on the issue of declaring bandits as terrorists.

Also, Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, dismissed Malami as not being consistent in the way and manner he handles issues in the country.

On November 25, 2021, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, had declared the activities of all bandit groups in the country as acts of terrorism.

Meanwhile, speaking during a Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, programme, yesterday, Malami said the Federal Government was trying to ensure that it operates within the confines of international best practices.

“Government has a responsibility to act but within the context of acting, you’re equally expected to operate within the confines of international best practices associated with engagement, and one of such best practices is that you can only use maximum force on groups, individuals that are declared terrorists and that is where the application of the Terrorism Act comes in place.

“Whatever military hardware you acquire, there are limits within the context of international conventions as to how it can be used, when it can be used, and against who it can be used. And that is how the idea of looking at the activities of the bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers come into being.

“Our assessment took into consideration that they are causing a major threat to territorial peaceful co-existence and causing a major threat to lives with weapons. The idea then came about that indeed they (bandits) have satisfied the criteria of being declared terrorists within the context of the law so that whatever military hardware at the disposal of the Federal Government can best be used against them within the context of the international convention and within the context of the law.”

Malami, however, noted that the process of gazetting the court order will be completed within a few days.

“The gazetting of a court order or judgment is a process but what matters fundamentally within the context of the international convention is the judicial declaration and that has been obtained. The court has declared bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers as terrorists.

“So, with or without the gazette, what gives effect to such declaration is a judicial pronouncement but the gazette is a mere formality and it has been on and I believe within a matter of days, it will be concluded.”

The AGF added that the declaration of bandits as terrorists has cleared the way for the “deployment and usage” of Super Tucano fighter jets against them.

“One thing I can tell you is any international conventional demands associated with the usage of the Super Tucano has been obtained which is a judicial pronouncement and declaration of bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers as terrorists,” he added.

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