Lawyers, AGF

•Say president’s impunity destroying Nigeria

You have power to take action if he doesn’t do the right thing.

Nigeria’s democracy on the reverse gear

Dayo Johnson; Samuel Oyadongha; Festus Ahon; Rotimi Ojomoyela; Shina Abubakar; Onozure Dania; Chioma Onuegbu; Ugochukwu Alaribe; Deola Badru; James Ogunnaike; Steve Oko & Sola lshola

As bandits continue to unleash their unrestrained reign of terror in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and other Northwestern states that has claimed thousands of lives including members of the armed forces, Nigerians from across the country have been calling on President Muhamadu Buhari to declare the bandits terrorists to enable the troops deal decisively with them. The call came from several quarters.

The likes of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state have pleaded with Buhari to declare bandits terrorists so that the military will be decisive and firmer in dealing with them. The Senate on Wednesday 29th September 2021 passed a resolution asking President Buhari to declare the bandits as terrorists through a Proscription Order, pursuant to section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 (As Amended). The Senate asked the president to wage a total war against the criminals, including bombing all their locations, to eliminate them, while also declaring all known leadership of the bandits wanted and track them wherever they are for arrest and prosecution.

Barely 24 hours after the Senate asked President Muhammadu Buhari to declare bandits terrorists, the House of Representatives also urged the President to do same to underline the determination of government to combat the wave of criminality and murders perpetuated by bandits all over the country.

A similar call was also made by all the 36 Speakers of State Houses of Assembly at the end of their conference last Sunday in Katsina state while asking the president to declare bandits as terrorists and enemies of the state.

But as lawmakers both at the federal and state levels were passing resolutions asking that the bandits should be labelled as terrorists and other Nigerians added their voices, a lone voice, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi who has been demanding amnesty for the bandits has warned against declaring bandits terrorists saying that would mark the end of Nigeria as a sovereign and united entity.

According to the Islamic cleric who though admitted that the bandits have over the years unleashed terror on the people, officially labelling them as terrorists will invite additional consequences that will consume the entire country. He argued that once bandits are designated as terrorists, the direct foreign Jihadist movements will come into force and give “criminality a spiritual cover” by claiming that they are fighting a ‘Jihad’.

If Nigeria is practising true democracy should President Buhari not declare bandits terrorists after the Senate and the House of Reps who are representatives of the people had asked him to do so? The Nigeria Air force says they cannot deploy the recently acquired Tucano jets on bandits but only on terrorists as agreed with US who sold them to us. They said they can only deploy them if bandits are declared terrorists, citing agreement with US. It was on this basis that the lawmakers asked the President to declare bandits terrorists so that quick action can be taken against them.

Lawyers have therefore reacted to the request made by the lawmakers and President Buhari’s reluctance to do so.

Yemi Candide-Johnson, SAN

It’s an executive decision under the constitution. The president must rise or fall on his own discretion. If his failure threatens national security and the assembly has the guts then they can remove him from office. It’s a high stakes game of chicken.

Abiodun Owonikoko, SAN

Reading the President’s take on this matter has been a hard job. The reluctance to label them appropriately as terrorists defies rationality. It may however be because the AG whose primary call it is to get the court proclaim them terrorists officially has not been enthusiastic in taking the initiative.

Sonnie Elimihe

Nigeria‘s Democracy is on paper and not practicable. The 1999 constitution as amended does not provide for workable true democracy. The failure of the Buhari administration to agree to the request of the Senate and the House of Representatives to declare bandits as terrorist shows Nigeria democracy is on life support and not working. In real democracy, the executive arm of government is separated from the legislative arm of government. In fact the legislature is to provide checks and balances to the executive arm. But in Nigeria both the executive and the legislature are interwoven. Should Nigeria be practicing true democracy, Buhari’s action and inaction become impeachable.

Yemi Omodele

It is not the sole responsibility of the president to declare a set of hoodlums or groups as bandits. With due respect, the governors who are the Chief Security Officers of their states can do so under the doctrine of necessity if the President is reluctant to do it. Look at the issue of regional security network in South west, South east, South south and a host of others. It has come to stay for now. What about the issue of open grazing, steps were taken by the bold governors and their lawmakers. The members of the National Assembly do not know their work. They should initiate a bill for an Act declaring bandits as terrorists in Nigeria and at the end if the President is not willing to sign it, the procedures are there to make it an Act of the National Assembly without an assent of the president. The problem our legislators and some governors have is that they beg for contracts, money, favour at Abuja and as such cannot confront the fingers that feed them.

Elvis Asia

This president’s reluctance to do so only confirms what many fear about this administration. The current government seems to believe it has a duty to protect criminal elements from the president’s ethnic extraction. There is no doubt that a different scenario would have played out if these terrorists were from another part of the country. The first thing this government did was to rebrand terrorism with the ‘bandit’ label. This is why they have the boldness to operate almost everywhere now. The modus operandi of these bandits is not different from Boko Haram and other terrorists. In fact, it can justifiably be said that they are the revenue generating arm of Boko Haram. This implied support for terrorism has fueled ethnic tension in the country to levels never seen before in the history of Nigeria.

Under the constitution, the primary responsibility of government is security. Rebranding terrorism in this manner is a betrayal of that duty and is dangerous for our democracy. The lawmakers must insist and utilize democratic tools available to them to call this president to order

Ige Asemudara

We have the wrong set of people in the corridors of power. If the National Assembly directed the President to do something which is of crucial national importance such as the security of lives and property of Nigerians, he must do it as a matter of urgency. If he doesn’t do it, they should know what to do. It is an impeachable offence. There’s no misconduct that can be more gross than it. The bitter truth is that members of the National Assembly are not just unserious, they are also grossly incompetent. To blame Buhari alone for something with a solution in the hands of the National Assembly is to be short-sighted. It is not as if we don’t have democracy yet but we have very weak democratic institutions. It is the same reason that checks and balances do not work. Beyond that, if Buhari refuses to declare them terrorists, a serious National Assembly would approach the court to declare these murderous elements as terrorists. You don’t have to wait for a President that will never act. There’s no difference between bandits and Boko Haram or other terrorists. Their modus operandi is the same. Everything about them is the same – they all leave behind sorrow, tears and blood.

HRM Eze Kalu Kalu Ogbu (Enachioken Abriba)

When one looks at all the elements of democracy, we may assume that Nigeria is practicing democracy on the reverse. Our major problem as depicted by the action and inaction of the President is that there is no constitutionalism in Nigeria. Someone should call him to order and probably refocus him. He is gradually destroying this nation with his impunity. Terrorism may be defined in several ways but central to the concept is violence, wanton destruction of lives and property. These are targeted at persons who did not have anything to do with the source of anger or anxiety of the perpetrators of the act of violence. They make the area ungovernable. Human blood is spilled without let or consideration.

Therefore, if the bandits fit into this description, they should immediately be declared terrorists. That is what they are. The President can only refuse to designate them accordingly if he has a special relationship with them that is not known to Nigerians.

Mr Musibau Olapade

There is nothing to say than Muhammadu Buhari is a president of the northern Nigeria. If he is a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he would have declared those bandits as terrorists.

Go and check terrorism act, go and look at the definition, you will realise that these people possess the characteristics of terrorists. They kidnap, they kill.

Mr Olayemi Alabi

There is no hard and fast rule in describing what an act of terrorism is. There is also no need for any long voyage of discovery to discover which act constitutes banditry. However, to my logical mind, terrorism is a prolonged or elongated act or series of acts of banditry and excessive pollution or disruption of public order. In essence, when acts of banditry keep recurring and tend to becoming a norm or generating into permanence, then it changes nomenclature, hence, the term terrorism.

The implication of the President or the executive arm of the Nigerian government to declare the so-called bandits as terrorists is just a nod to the fact that what the Nigerian government symbolises is but a caricature of democracy. It’s imperative to sum it up by saying that the resistance of the President or the Federal Executive Council to take this overdue decision is but an addendum that the voice of majority would not be heard by the few people who were voted to govern the majority.

Mr Bukola Onifade

By international law, any organisation or group of persons that constitute threat to the unity of a nation, is deemed a terrorist group. And the mode of operation of the so called bandits is not in anyway different from those declared as terrorists.

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Although President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to be clever by half that the operation of the group is within the country, however, when a group takes over a section of the country and invariably affect the entire country, as the case in hand, we don’t need to persuade or pressure the President to declare them as a terrorist group. Our President is trying to be the president of a section or a group, which constitutes a threat to the lives and property of a huge number of people in the country daily.

 It is unfortunate for the federal government to continue to shy away from its responsibility of protecting and preserving the lives of Nigerians. So, the right thing for the President to do is to declare the bandits, a terrorist group, which they really are, so that the military can do its job of securing the people and their property effectively. The president should stop being a Fulani President, but that of Nigeria as a whole.

Mr Adediran Kehinde Olusola

The President’s reluctance indicates that the President lacks the political will to do the will of the people who elected him into office. This shows that he is still waiting for cabals or kitchen cabinet that control his government to lend their voices before he would know what to do. Also, since the President is the Commander of the Armed Forces, all the military and other security apparatus in the country are still waiting for him to command them, because they are under him. Banditry and terrorism have become business in Nigeria and we need to do something very urgently. Members of the National Assembly should do the needful on the reluctance of the President in doing the right thing. They have the power to impeach the President if he doesn’t do the right thing.

Osom Jacob Makbere

Literally, there is nothing “legal” about Buhari’s failure to go the way the National Assembly has recommended for he might cite “presidential veto”. But the matter being a security one of utmost public concern, that veto should take a back seat in his consideration. Another probable reason behind the inertia is the oft-referred link to the bandits.

Mr Justin Gbagir

It is very unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari who is a retired military General is treating the issue of insecurity in Nigeria without the seriousness that it deserves. I think at his inauguration in 2015, the President made a commitment to deal with the issue of insecurity in the North East. He had ordered the head of the military to move their command to Maiduguri to deal with the issue of insurgency in the North East. We are also aware that the President had declared IPOB as a terrorist group. And these are the group of people that are agitating for inclusion or independence of the South East. He declared them as a terrorist group and there are other groups like the Fulani herdsmen who have been terrorizing people across the country and the bandits in the North West.

And there have been calls on the President to declare these two groups as terrorist groups also so that they will be dealt with decisively. I do not understand why the President is so reluctant to do so. And I think this has even given these groups the impetus to operate the way they are operating. This is a group that has the audacity to attack a train carrying hundreds of people; if that train had exploded, it would have resulted in the death of hundreds of persons. Still you don’t want to declare such a group a terrorist organization, I don’t know what you are waiting for. So, whatever the President might seem to be doing, whether by way of road construction, infrastructure, economic development or whatever, when the lives and property of the citizens are not secured by any government, that government has failed.

Mr Utibe Nwoko

In the rules that govern them, even the grund norm which is the Constitution include sending him a caution letter or proceed for impeachment. That is what we call checks and balances. It is a matter of will power. Are our lawmakers willing to act within the precepts of the law? The three arms of government, Legislature, Judiciary, and the Executive work independent of the other. So we are still experimenting it because people are not free, the legislature is not free to make decisions. Where the National Assembly makes a request and the president refuses to do it, they know that they can send a letter to the president, cautioning him. There is nothing wrong in sending a letter of impeachment. Even if the impeachment may not go on, it is an indication that they have powers in their hands to act. But the problem is that the lawmakers have not actually exercised their constitutional powers, and other enabling laws for political reasons.

Mr Akpulonu Leader

“The resolutions of the legislature are only advisory; it does not carry the force of law. Therefore, the president may have taken it as mere advice. The president has the right to accept or reject the resolutions of the National Assembly. He can also ignore the resolutions of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum or those of groups and professional bodies.

It is within his exclusive rights. Honestly, the president decides which resolution to obey or ignore because such resolutions are merely advisory. You can blame this on the powerful nature of the executive and the powers the constitution gave to the president. The President can even ignore the legislature on resolutions. The President may have his strategy to tackle the bandits because he has access to more quality and strategic information or intelligence than the National Assembly and other Nigerians.

Dr Akpor Mudiaga-Odje

The request by the lawmakers to declare bandits as terrorists has been long overdue in all ramifications. It is this lethargic disposition of the Federal Government to make this solemn and just declaration that has now led to a galaxy of insecurity in our despoiled nation. Nigeria is on fire as a result of the activities of known and unknown bandits operating everywhere particularly in the North and now South East of beleaguered Nigeria. We have amended the Terrorism Law, yet no enforcement nor arrest of any known bandits. I think for me, the fear of Federal Government in not so declaring bandits as terrorists is perhaps to shield the herders who have been violently invading our communities as also terrorists.  However, as the cliche accentuates, what is good for the goose should also be good for the gander.

If you have taken steps to proscribe a group you unilaterally branded as terrorists, then also declare the herdsmen as terrorists too as their onslaught is even more devastating  than the activities of  those you allegedly proscribed. Even this inaction on the part of the Federal Government is unconstitutional same being discriminatory under Section 42 of our Constitution as the proscription is now selective.

We thus support this call as the activities of these bandits have become progressively retrogressive to our corporate existence as a united nation. Terrorism anywhere is a threat everywhere! We respectfully urge Mr President to do the needful at this moment of our collective challenge as a Nation”

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