It was with a seismic sigh of relief that Nigerians welcomed the declaration of bandits as terrorists by the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday, November 26, 2021. In a ruling that was a balm for many Nigerian wounds, the judge, Mr. Taiwo Taiwo, considering the ex-parte application filed by Mohammed Abubakar, the Director of Public Prosecution(DPP) of the Federation, specifically held that that the activities of the Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta`adda bandit groups constitute acts of terrorism.
Nigeria has always had it coming for the ruthless criminals who have impaled Nigerians on the pikes of terror and trauma for a long time now. Indeed, wherever one turns in Nigeria, especially in the North-west and North-central, the bandits have left grotesque foot prints.
At the beginning, Zamfara State was banditry`s base of operations. The ruthlessness of the bandits soon drew national attention especially when Nigerians discovered that the rapacity of the bandits in the state was fueled by the discovery of gold.
Sokoto State, the seat of the caliphate, has also known the elemental fury of bandits. In the state, bandits have been dissatisfied with just abducting people for ransom. They come up with taxes which they hang around the necks of impoverished communities like the sword of Damocles.
As it is with Sokoto so it is with Niger State where reports have it that the bandits have taken over no fewer than five hundred communities. The abduction of over a hundred students – some as young as four – some months ago in Tegina and the eighty-nine days they spent in captivity sent shockwaves around the country. In Zagzaga, the bandits recently showed themselves shrewd advisors when they advised terrified relations of their victims to sell their farm produce to raise ransom.
If Zamfara was the cradle of banditry in Nigeria, Kaduna State, one of Nigeria`s most iconic states has since proven its kindergarten. In mockery of Nigeria`s ‘Center of learning’ which disproportionately hosts many national institutions including premier military schools, it is in Kaduna State that bandits have refined and reinvented some of their deadliest tactics.
Of course, many schools have been raided and students abducted for ransom.When the hitherto impregnable Nigerian Defence Academy was breached in August, the whole country was steeped in shock as many feared for the fate of iron if gold could so easily rust.
Specifically, the bandits have turned the iconic Abuja-Kaduna expressway into Nigeria`s road to hell, and arguably Africa`s bloodiest road. Every day on the road, vehicles are intercepted by the criminals and commuters killed or abducted for outrageous ransom.
But what is in a name? Now that the barracudas have been named, what difference will it make? A lot, indeed.
As Nigeria has staggered under countless bludgeoning blows from master criminals,opacity has been a challenge. For one thing, the increased clarity of the bandits` new found status as terrorists will cast into stark relief the monstrous enemy Nigeria is dealing with. It will bring more transparency to the fight. Ripping apart the veil which covered the bandits for so long would permit Nigeria`s security forces to show the bandits that Nigeria can bite afterall.
Given the heinous crimes of the bandits which have gone on for far too long, it took an indefensibly long time to name them for what they are.Many people conduced to this delay. There was the Islamic cleric who chillingly warned a country of over two hundred million people that branding the bandits ‘terrorists’ would stoke their fury; there were those who argued that there was nothing in a name as long as the head of the snake was cut off; there were those who argued that the bandits could not properly be called terrorists going by the strict import of terrorism and its terminologies.
But all is fair in war – a war which the bandits themselves carry on against Nigeria and Nigerians -and it is a triumph for Nigerians that the bandits have been declared terrorists. They have embarrassed the country for far too long and it is time they got a dose of their own medicine.
Now, that the bandits have been declared terrorists,because what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they must be made to nestle in a similar nest of nettles as was prepared for Boko Haram and the IPOB. They must be made to feel the devastating force of Nigeria`s defense of its citizens.Their unfathomable folly has been tolerated for far too long.
In this, there can be neither reluctance nor deference to anything save the law. One of the thorniest issues surrounding the administration of justice in Nigeria is the propensity to ride misplaced and misguided sympathies in apportioning different strokes to different folks.It must not be the case now.
Now that brand new terrorists are in town, while Nigerians take cover, state actors, instead of deploying their furious fire to massacre innocent protesters, must now return the fire of the savage criminals.