- No Criminal Bandit In The North-West Has Been Prosecuted/Convicted By Nigeria’s Extremely Weak Justice System Despite The Killings Going On In The Zone Unabated And Arrest Of Several Bandits By Security Agencies Over The Last Few Years.
- Jurisdiction On Prosecution Of Cases Of Kidnapping/Banditry Lies With The Federal Government Not With The State Judiciary.
- Military Tribunals Should Be Set Up To Try Cases Of Kidnapping/Banditry.
- Despite The Endless Killings By Bandits, No State Government In The North- West Zone Has Deemed It Fit To Set Up A Judicial Commission Of Inquiry To Investigate Any Killings With A View To Averting Future Occurrences.
- The Elite In The North-Weet Have Failed Their Own People By Pretending That All Is Well In The Region.
- Bandits May Take Over The North- West By 2027 If Urgent Steps Are Not Taken By Government At All Levels.
The gruesome massacre of 68 local vigilantes, 18 soldiers and some policemen in Daringi, Zuru emirate Kebbi state has yet again raised the question: When is kidnapping and killings in Nigeria going to stop? Just when?
Indeed, the Daringi massacre has once again raised questions about the seriousness of government at ALL levels to tackle the scourge of modern day kidnapping and banditry in the North-West and other parts of Nigeria. Yes, some measures, mostly military have been taking thus far to crush these bandits cum terrorists but clearly, more needs to be done to compliment the efforts of our gallant military and other security agencies.
The dreaded billionaire kidnapper
Chukwudi Dumee Onuamadike popularly called Evans was convicted last month in Lagos and sent to spend the rest of his life in jail. When are the Fulani bandits/kidnappers, their collaborators and informants terrorising the North-West going to be convicted? When is the first one?
As the 63 dead bodies of the vigilante are being laid in line as you watch the gory viral video online, you could easily feel the failure of government to crush these bandits cum terrorists and the urgent need to compliment the military option with other tools such as ICT and justice reforms.
It is very disturbing that to date, Nigeria’s extremely weak justice system has not convicted or prosecuted even ONE bandit. This is despite the several alarming figures of people killed by the rampaging bandits in the North-West of Nigeria amid several arrested bandits. Nigeria’s feeble justice system is yet to respond to the carnage in the North West.
Clearly, the non-prosecution of bandits in the North- West by the courts can only send one signal to them: What they are doing doesn’t contravene the law. They should as well carry on.
This is the scenario that played out in Sabon – Birni local government area Sokoto State sometimes end of last year when some bandits went to a village to collect the usual ‘bandits tax’ from residents. When the residents started complaining on a ‘hush-hush’ about the non-stop monetary extortion by the bandits, the bandits in response asked them: ‘since the beginning of banditry in the area, has any government official or security agent been to the area to tell the locals that what they (bandits) are doing is illegal? The residents answered NO. The bandits then told the residents that if no government official has come to tell you that kidnapping and banditry are illegal, why are you complaining about their activities? The bandits eventually had their way and collected their tax from the helpless residents, as they always do. Sometimes as much as N70 million is extorted from residents by bandits as ‘bandits tax’.
It is utterly worrisome that the economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) boasts of 2,220 convictions in 2021 yet the justice system cannot single out just ONE conviction of a bandit in the entire North West of Nigeria even when these criminal terrorists have literally held the whole of the North West to ransom.
Election cases are dispensed off within the so-called 90 days even on paid live TV by election petition tribunals. These cases are followed on appeal by the appellate courts with dispatch and on live TV: court of appeal and Supreme Courts but cases of killings are either not heard or treated with levity or both by the courts and by extension, the justice system.
Almost everyday, the Nigeria police posts videos of ‘show trials’ of bandits who have been arrested on YouTube and other online channels including as news items on TV and other media but that’s it! Nobody gets to know of what happens to them. Nobody is updated on whether these arrested criminal bandits have been taken to court or not. We don’t hear anything about them anymore than the ‘show trials.
What makes it more astonishing and incomprehensible is that these arrested bandits often times, make confessional statements on live TV yet they are not prosecuted.
Arrested bandits usually admit to killing people, and raping women sometimes even stating the number of people they killed so far but nothing is heard about the case after that.
Extrajudicial killings or ‘neutralisation’ in security language is not an option as a proper judicial process will go public and once convicted, sentenced and prescribed penalty applied, it will send a strong signal to other wannabe bandits snd terrorists that there is a price to pay for kidnapping innocent citizens.
Some of the reported arrests of bandits and their collaborators by Nigeria’s security agencies after which nothing was heard about them are as follows:
- In February 2021, 37 bandits were paraded by the Sokoto state police command in Sokoto. They include one young man 33 year-old Musa Kamarawa, a bandit, informant and collaborator who confessed to have bought a military gun-truck for N28.5 million to perpetrate banditry activities in Sokoto and Zamfara states. This man and his collaborators have not been charged to court and no updates on what is happening in this case.
- On March 8 2022, the Kaduna state police command paraded over 200 criminals including a suspected bandit who confessed to have killed 15 innocent people. As usual, the aftermath of this arrest wiil be a prolonged silence as nobody is clear on whether or not they will be charged to court and when.
- In May 2021, a notorious and remorseless, shameless and barbarous gun runner and cross-border bandit from Niger republic Shehu Ali Kachalla who operates in Zamfara, Sokoto, Niger, Kebbi and surrounding states was nabbed by the Zamfara state police command. Literally smiling to the cameras and espousing maximum confidence, the unrepentant Ali Kachalla narrated how he sold over 450 AK-47 assault rifles to bandits operating in the Zamfara/Sokoto/Niger states Axis.
9 months on, no update on this case.
- In November 2021, a notorious female gun runner and bandits’ informant 30 year old Fatima Lawali who supplies weapons to bandits in Zamfara and Sokoto states was captured by the Zamfara state police command. No update on this case.
- In March 2021, a flagrant gun runner and bandit Ibrahim Adamu was arrested by the Zamfara state police command. No update on this case.
- In December 2021, a famous bandit operating in Zamfara/Sokoto axis 20 year old Sani Mati popularly called ‘Mai Yan Mata’ (the ladies man) was arrested in Gusau, Zamfara state. No updates yet.
- Last month February 2022, a teenage bandit, 14 year old Sani Suleiman notorious for raping female captives, was arrested in Moriki Zamfara state by the state’s police command. The public are yet to be updated on this case.
It will be recalled that in December 2021, the Zamfara state committee of elders rose from a meeting to accuse security agencies of releasing bandits without charge and urged a stop to this unwholesome act. The Zamfara state governor Bello Matawalle who entered into a so-called amnesty programme with bandits had also in January 2022, raised alarm over the indiscriminate release of arrested bandits without charge and called for an immediate stop to it.
JURISDICTION OF THE COURTS ON BANDITRY AND KIDNAPPING
It is unhelpful that the federal government is shifting the blame to the state governments in the clear laxity over the prosecution of cases of kidnapping and banditry in Nigeria. To this end, the federal government is claiming that states are in charge of the prosecution of cases of kidnapping and banditry. Information Minister Alh Lai Mohammed sought to mislead the unsuspecting members of the public and find an easy way out for the federal government when he said that state governors should be blamed for non-prosecution of cases of kidnapping because according to him ‘prosecution of suspected kidnappers falls under state laws not federal laws.
Alh Lai Mohammed’s statement is clearly fallacious and an attempt to dodge the issue because the terrorism prevention act TPA 2013 (as amended) has clearly defined hostage-taking a.k.a kidnapping or banditry as an act of terrorism and given jurisdiction to FEDERAL HIGH COURTS to try cases of kidnapping and banditry. Moreover, the killings, arson and rape that are usually associated with kidnapping are all acts of terrorism that can be tried under the terrorism prevention act TPA 2013 (as amended) by the federal high courts.
The combined effects of sections 15 and 32 of TPA 2011 (as amended) have clearly identified hostage-taking/kidnapping/banditry as an act of terrorism and given the federal high courts the powers to try such cases
- Section 15. (1) of the act (This section refers to HOSTAGE TAKING a.k.a KIDNAPPING/ABDUCTION) is clear that:
‘Any person who knowingly-
(a) seizes, detains or attempts to seize or detain,
(b) threatens to kill, injures or continues to detain another person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing any act, or
(c) gives an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the person held hostage,
commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to LIFE IMPRISONMENT.
Moreover, section 32 (1) of the TPA 2011 (as amended) is clear, explicit and unambiguous that:
‘Federal High Court located in any part of Nigeria, regardless of the location where the offence is committed, shall have jurisdiction to;
(a) try offences under this Act or any other related enactment;
(b) hear and determine proceedings arising under this Act; and
(c) whether or not the offence was commenced in Nigeria and completed outside Nigeria and the victim is;
(i) a citizen or resident of Nigeria,
(ii) not a citizen of any country but ordinarily resident in Nigeria,
(iii ) in transit or has a link with Nigeria,
(iv) dealing with or on behalf of the Government of Nigeria, or a citizen of Nigeria or an entity registered in Nigeria, or
(v) the alleged offender is in Nigeria and not extradited to any other country for prosecution.
Section 32 (2) of the TPA 2011 (as amended) has given powers to federal high courts to try cases of kidnapping and banditry (acts of terrorism) and impose penalty on such cases as follows:
32(2): The Federal High Court shall have jurisdiction to impose any penalty provided for an offence under this Act or any other related law.
DECLARATION BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA OF BANDITS AS TERRORISTS.
The federal government had declared bandits, Yan Ta’ Adda, Yan Bindiga as terrorists based on an order by the federal high court Abuja in suit number FHC/ABJ/C’S/1370/2021. This order has been gazetted and further gives official backing to the fact that the cases of kidnapping and banditry are acts of terrorism.
Obviously, the declaration and designation of bandits/kidnappers as terrorists by the federal government is all but a duplication of efforts and resources because the TPA 2011 (as amended) has already officially designated bandits, hostage-takers, kidnappers and their collaborators as terrorists.
Kidnapping and banditry should be tried by federal courts rather than states judiciary more so because these rampant cases of kidnapping cut across states’ boundaries. For example, a victim may be kidnapped in Ondo state and moved to Zamfara state in which case one asks the question ‘is it Ondo or Zamfara state’s laws that should be applied? Without doubt, the right thing to do is to prosecute these cases at the federal level.
REFORMS OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM TO STOP THE MARCH OF THE BANDITS
There is no doubting the fact that the bandits are on a mission to take over the North West in few years (5 years at the most) if urgent steps are not taking to stop them. To this end, the following reforms are proposed:
- SPECIAL TRIBUNALS TO TRY KIDNAPPING/BANDITRY AND RELATED CASES: The conventional courts are currently too weak to successfully try cases of kidnapping and banditry. This calls for SPECIAL KIDNAPPING, BANDITRY AND FIREARMS TRIBUNALS to try such cases. These tribunals should comprise MILITARY JUDGES and should be domesticated at military barracks. For the sake of argument, if Nigeria can set up ELECTION TRIBUNALS to dispense with cases of election petitions within 90 days, why not also set up MILITARY TRIBUNALS to try cases of kidnapping/banditry within such time frames? Remember that banditry/kidnapping usually involve loss of innocent lives.
The imperatives of MILITARY TRIBUNALS with MILITARY JUDGES is moreso when juxtaposed with the fact that the conventional judges may not be able to dispense justice for fear of reprisals.
- SPECIAL LAWS FOR KIDNAPPING/BANDITRY: There is the need for special laws to check the incessant cases of kidnapping in our dear country.
In July 2020, the National Assembly passed the bill stipulating life imprisonment for anyone convicted of kidnapping but there is the need to go further judging by the fast-paced manner the bandits are operating. Capital punishment such as public hanging should be the stipulated penalty for anyone convicted of kidnapping and to their informants as well.
THE ELITE IN THE NORTH – WEST HAVE FAILED THEIR OWN PEOPLE
The elite in the North – West seem to be more interested in the Russia -Ukraine war than banditry in their region and pushing the government particularly state governors to do the needful in tackling banditry and kidnapping in the zone.
Without doubt the elite in the North west have failed in their obligation to make meaningful, realistic and achievable contributions to check the incessant cases of kidnapping in the region. They seem to adopt a ‘Siddon look’ approach as bandits continue their march in the region: roasting people alive, raping women before the victim’s children, razing villages and towns, installing village heads and many more.
Obviously this is because of the tradition in the North where leaders enjoy a blank cheque: nobody asks questions as the state governor does what he likes with public resources. Federal revenue allocation, IGR, banks loans and many more, all at the disposal of the state governor to do WHATEVER he likes.
In some states in the North West, (Zamfara), renovation of the government house receives more money/funding than education. This is ridiculous.
Since banditry started, very few political leaders in the entire North West and the elite have voiced serious concern and stood their ground to inspire the people to challenge government to do the needful. Even the Arewa consultative forum (ACF) has been all but lax as it plays a measured approach to the issue of banditry in the region. If the elite were talking as they should, some state governors in the area particular Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto who have entered into one form of the so-called AMNESTY or another with bandits would have thought twice before taking such counter-productive policy. Amnesty for bandits by some state governors has further ignited the burning fire of kidnapping and worsened the cases of banditry and kidnapping in the region. Amnesty is a failure of government to do the needful. It has strengthened the bandits and resulted in more attacks on villages and towns.
Don’t read me wrongly, there are a few members of the Northern elite who have said or acted against banditry in the region just as some members of the Northern elite are looking for solution to banditry in the region through the wrong path. The North west needs more voices and actions against the rampaging bandits.
The elites in the North West: The media, advocacy/pressure groups, NGOs, scholars including university lecturers, freelance writers, political leaders and every law abiding citizen must stand up against these terrorists before they completely take over the North – West.
A stitch in time saves generations.
Dr Abubakar Alkali
Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN).