…Tell govt never to negotiate with criminals
Dayo Johnson, South West Regional Editor; Samuel Oyadongha; Umar Yusuf; Wole Mosadomi; Peter Duru; Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi; Rotimi Ojomoyela; Peter Okutu; Charly Agwam; Femi Bolaji; Ozioruva Aliu; Shina Abubakar; James Ogunnaike and Adeola Badru
Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna State recently boldly renounced negotiation as a solution to bandits’ criminality. He said negotiating with bandits would never work. He wants them arrested and dealt with squarely. They should be eliminated.
Speaking on a BBC Hausa programme few days ago, Governor El-Rufai declared that those who are trying to negotiate with the bandits are only wasting their time because the criminal herdsmen and bandits who were used to receiving about N100,000 in a year herding cows are now getting millions of naira from kidnapping will never stop. He said the only solution therefore is to get rid of them.
Nigerians have been reacting to El-Rufai’s position including his governor colleagues. While some argue that it will amount to jungle justice and taking laws into our hands, majority of the people however support killing the bandits whenever they are arrested if that will bring peace to the land.
Joseph Ambakederimo, Convener, South South Reawakening Group said: “Bandits are robbers and marauders therefore they do not deserve any special treatment from the state. Any bandit caught should either be summarily dealt with or according to law.
They cannot continue to hold the country to ransom and ride roughshod over everyone. People who kill their fellow man should be killed so that they will know that killing is bad. Therefore, the position of the governor is a welcome development and I would implore government to tow that line of action and bring peace to all trouble spots. No form of negotiations and amnesty should be considered whatsoever because what is going on right now is pure criminality and nothing more. A bandit is a bandit and should be treated as a bandit.”
Eric Omare, former President, Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) worldwide aligned himself with Nasir El-Rufai saying, “I agree that killers should also face similar punishment. There is no basis at all to negotiate with people who kill for the fun of it. Above all, people who fight for just reasons all over the world don’t kill. The basic rule of engagement is not to kill innocent people but in the case of Fulani bandits, killing is their past time. So I support that they should face the consequences of their actions according to law.”
Darlington Nwauju, Spokesperson, Niger Delta Rights Advocates said, “Sometimes the severity of the pains inflicted on the public psyche alone slams a death sentence on these marauding bandits. The high level of destruction on human lives and economy of Kaduna state must have influenced Governor El-Rufai’s position. However, I think Kaduna as a federating unit can make laws to permit capital punishment for this category of criminals. One is forced to agree with the capital punishment option canvassed by Governor El-Rufai.”
Abdulhammed Olabintan, the president of the Yoruba community in Taraba state, said past governments are partly to be blamed for not looking out for the well being of the growing young population. According to him, “the situation we have found ourselves today is a result of neglect by successive leadership in this country. Most of these outlaws that are now terrorizing the rest of us have no job to do which has made them resort to crime as a means of survival.
If past leaders have been proactive, parents would have been compelled to either enroll their children in school or make them learn a trade. However, I won’t agree with the idea of holding dialogue with the bandits because these groups of criminals are everywhere across the country; how many of them will the government sit down with and dialogue? What the government should do is to equip our security agencies to fight crime and criminality effectively. They should however go further to compel parents to compulsorily enroll their children in school to acquire formal education or rather send them to where they can acquire skills that would be useful to them in future.”
For Andeta’rang Irammae, Taraba state publicity secretary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, said, “you can only go into dialogue with an organization that is structured. Banditry connotes criminality. These are criminals who run into their hideout after wreaking havoc, so how do you dialogue with people like this? It is rather unfortunate that a country like Nigeria can be exploited by people who don’t mean well for both the political and socio-economic dynamics of the country. It pains me when people come out with solutions as callous as dialogue. I wonder why it is so difficult for our security operatives to smoke them out and make them face the wrath of the law. What I expect from every Nigerian now is to join forces with the government to preach peace and compel the government to deploy the necessary machinery to go after these bandits, arrest and prosecute them.”
Coordinator, Patriotic Volunteer League (PVL), Mikiste Ewansiha-Thomas has thrown his weight behind Governor El-Rufai’s position saying his group was ready to render any assistance needed to flush out bandits in the south. Besides, he said security agencies should involve the indigenes of the areas where they want to operate. According to him, “these are people who are exploiting religion, exploiting the vulnerability of the people to organise themselves through the forest. When Boko Haram started in Borno state, they were in localized areas such as Biu, Nguru that small area. Now they are in Fika, Damaturu, Yerwa, Michika, Hong, and many other areas.
The bandits in Zamfara state started in a small area but now they are encroaching Gwarzo, they have gone as far as to Kaduna. The bandits who are coming down south are ISWAP from outside Nigeria and they are kidnapping people to raise money not for themselves but for their lords who are buying arms and ammunition with this money to prosecute their so called caliphate goals. Governor El-Rufai is very correct, there is no other way because even if you negotiate with them and they collect huge money on negotiation, they will pause for a while and they will start again. So, there is no need to negotiate with them. We have to give them a classic military defeat.
Al-Qaeda started this way, they have not been defeated, the Taliban are still there, so El-Rufai is correct, we should attack them because these are people who are already launching rural guerrilla warfare and no modern armed forces in the history of 150 years of modern warfare have been able to defeat guerrilla warfare. The only people who succeeded in defeating them were the Israelis. We have to mobilise the masses against these people and because these criminals are operating outside their territory, makes them very vulnerable and quick to defeat. We have to mobilise the people because their locations can easily be detected since they don’t own these forests, they only use landmarks to navigate their way. There are people who can almost close their eyes and walk through these forests, they are indigenous people so we need to mobilise these indigenous people to join forces with the military and go after these bandits and they will be defeated. Even if there are collaborators, you have to start from somewhere and localizing the collaborators is not going to be difficult because under strategic intelligence gathering, these collaborators will be unmasked”.
Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state, however believed the best and only option to douse tension and bring an end to banditry in Zamfara and beyond was to dialogue them. He said “I have always been saying that the best solution and option to tackle banditry is to seek for dialogue with the bandits. I believe if really we want to end this banditry we have to sit at a round table and negotiate. So, the best way out for my colleague governors, is for them to subscribe to dialogue. We are ready to sit down and listen to any bandit or group of bandits who are prepared for dialogue, and listen to their grievances, if any but as for those who refuse to take part in dialogue, we will fight them. As a governor, my number one priority is to ensure peace and stability, and to ensure people are sleeping with two eyes closed”.
Zadok Akintoye, political analyst and former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo state, said, “the Kaduna state governor has spoken the truth. Our laws are very clear on the issue of armed robbery and banditry and it is important to state that, where the law fails to hold on to the integrity of its creation, society fails. Over time, bandits have become more emboldened to flaunt their illegal and criminal actions within the Nigerian territory because our systems; judicial, administrative, enforcement and punitive, have failed to stand up to the purposes for which they are set up. I totally agree with El-Rufai but the question is, why is he taking this position at this time considering his past statements on issues of criminality as it affects his Fulani kinsmen. I do hope he will stick up with ensuring that the law and its integrity are upheld at all times.
In his own reaction, the General Secretary of the Ekiti Council of Elders, Mr Niyi Ajibulu, said “it is rather unfortunate that the country is speedily sliding towards a state of anomie. Such statement coming from a governor and a chieftain of the ruling party at the federal level seriously depicts the level of our insecurity, fear for the survival of the nation and the inability of existing security structures including legislature to cope. Clearly, it is now imperative for us to evolve new strategies for ensuring security of all. And if urgent steps are not taken, hapless citizens would naturally resort to self help. What we have been saying all along is that there must be community policing, in which case those serving in the police would be taken from their community. It appeared the bandits or the killer herdsmen are being given some legitimacy and that is what has emboldened them now, government engage them in a talk as if they are a legitimate group. I support the extreme position being canvassed by the governor and that is on the short run. On the long run, we should make sure they are not allowed access into the community. The call from the governor, is from somebody who knows, somebody who sees the atrocities and the effect on the economy and the people. I think we have to take extreme measure, otherwise the existence of the country is in jeopardy”.
Chief Taoffek Jimoh, Co-ordinator, Yoruba World Congress, Ogun State said “ anybody that is involved in any form of criminality should face the full wrath of the law. The law of the land should take its course on such person. Law is no respecter of anybody, regardless of the age, tribe or position in the society. The herdsmen have invaded nearly every community in the southern part of the country and they are killing innocent souls indiscriminately, but unfortunately, the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari is not saying anything. It seems the federal government is shielding them. With the current situation of our security, nobody is willing to partner with Nigeria any more. I want to challenge President Buhari and all other people in the positions of authority in the country to take the ‘bull by the horn’ and address the problem of insecurity squarely.
Chief Abia Onyike, Chairman, Media and Publicity, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, said Fulani herdsmen should not be accorded any special treatment as the only solution is for them to be decimated for peace to reign in the country. He said: “it is only in Nigeria that Fulani are too important. Three months ago in Guinea, Alpha Conde defeated a Fulani opponent to win a third term in office. Before then, the Guinea military dealt a deadly blow on the Fulani bandits in that country. In 2017, a Fulani militia known as Seneka rebels were decimated in Central African Republic and they disappeared from the scene. In Niger, the Tuaregs have held the Fulani down and they did nothing. It is only in Nigeria that they claim important”.
Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello however has thrown his weight behind his Kaduna state counterpart, El-Rufai as he condemned any sort of negotiation by any individual or group of people with the bandits. He said rather than stop the crime, it will only aggravate it. The Governor who spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Sani Idris said criminals have no other name than criminals and should therefore be treated as such according to the law of the land. In Niger state, many local government areas have now been taken over by bandits who are killing, maiming, rustling of cows and setting houses ablaze and so, if such people are apprehended, they should also be killed. Niger and Kaduna states are being constantly invaded by these criminals and all steps taken to curb this situation have not been successful and so we are in full support of what the Kaduna state governor has said and that is also our stand on it. If any bandit is caught in the act, he must be made to face the full wrath of the law because they are also criminals,” the governor asserted.
Former Spokesman of All Progressives Congress,(APC) and Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr Jonathan Vatsa in his reaction said Governor El-Rufai’s stand was in order.
“World over, you don’t spare criminals. How do you negotiate with bandits or armed robbers? Anybody negotiating with bandits is questionable. For us to put to rest these criminal activities, the bandits should also be killed when apprehended. The Federal Government should be able to police the movement of firearms in the country or better still, government should legalise carrying of fire arms by all Nigerians.
If government says we are not yet ripe to carry firearms, where are the bandits getting their own arms,?. Vatsa then declared,”I am in full support of Governor El-Rufai that any Fulani bandit should be killed because they are also criminals.
Chief Abia Onyike also said any bandit caught should be killed. These bandits are also killing innocent people who are contributing to the progress of the society but these criminals are not contributing to the development of the country but they are killing and being spared. Since government at all levels have failed to protect us, we should be able to protect ourselves and property and that is what Governor El-Rufai has indirectly said,” the Youth Leader declared.
Chairman of Benue tribal leaders, Chief Iorbee Ihagh said, “though I don’t believe in jungle justice, but in order to stop what is going on in this country as regards the herdsmen crisis that is pushing us to the brink, and because Fulani herdsmen are our problem, if the position of Governor El-Rufai is the solution, I support it. I believe that anyone that commits a crime should be tried and convicted but the way they are unleashing mayhem on the people I think I should support Governor El-Rufai’s position.
“I recall that when the killings started in Benue state nobody knew it would go round the country and now the entire country is feeling the heat unfortunately the federal government is not doing anything to stop it. So if the suggestion by Gov El-Rufai will help us ensure peace in the country and also help us live together as a united people we will support it.”
A legal practitioner and former lawmaker in the Oyo State House of Assembly, Barr. Fatai Adesina, contended that the killing of bandits without passing through the legal process, might lead to a case of jungle justice, as many innocent people might be mistakenly killed. He said: “it depends on the context in which El-Rufai looks at it. If he says, once they are arrested, they should be taken to court and if the count finds them guilty, then that is acceptable. But if he is saying we should resort to jungle justice, I am not in support of that, because, if we are not careful, innocent people will be killed. I think the government should look into other ways to end banditry like, provision of employment opportunities, looking into the source of getting the sophisticated weapons being used by the bandits and bringing those found culpable to justice. Once a bandit is caught, take him to court, let the court perform its functions, not that anybody will be shielding them getting punished. What I did not support is negotiating with the bandits.