An Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has warned against trivializing crimes committed by bandits and herders.
Professor Ishaq Akintola, the director of the organisation, gave the warning in a statement issued over the weekend.
According to Akintola, “Nothing can extenuate the crimes committed by bandits. We should not look for excuses for them. Rather we should educate the Nigerian public on the position of the Shariah regarding banditry. We should also let the bandits know the gravity of their crimes and the ‘kabiirah’ status of their sins.
“Banditry is categorised as ‘hiraabah’ in Islam. ‘Hiraabah’ is a technical term in Shariah which means waging unprovoked war against the people. The Glorious Qur’an even ranked it as waging war against Allah and His messenger (i.e. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him).
“It says, ‘The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger by spreading evil and committing atrocities in the land is either execution, or crucifiction or cutting off their hands and legs from opposite sides or sending them into exile. That is their disgrace in this world and a heavy punishment awaits them in the Hereafter’ (Qur’an 5:33).
“Thus we see that the Qur’an does not treat banditry with kid gloves. Note should be taken of the promise of ‘heavy punishment’ for bandits even after death. It is for this reason that we are calling on all Islamic scholars in the country to boldly rise to the task and interprete the Shariah in a befitting manner. Banditry has become a hydraheaded monster threatening to swallow up the social order. It must therefore be met with every necessary force to nip its threat in the bud.
“MURIC calls on all bandits to surrender to the state governments wherever they are operating. There can be no talks or any form of negotiation with bandits before surrendering. State governments should monitor the situation thereafter for a period no less than twelve months. The authorities can only start considering how to engage them in some productive ventures if no violent attack is reported within the period.
“Apart from the long arm of the law which will eventually catch up with them no matter how long, the eschatological implication of everlasting and ‘heavy punishment’ in Al-Akhirah (the Hereafter) is enough to dissuade them against continuing their negarious activities. We therefore reiterate our call on all bandits and herdsmen who are traumatising Nigerians in Zamfara, Ondo, Ekiti, Enugu, Yobe, etc, to surrender without delay.
“The atrocities committed by bandits and criminal herdsmen in all parts of the country should be fiercely confronted by state governments. That is why state governors must ensure that they spend their security vote on equipping their states’ security outfits in such a way that they can adequately and sufficiently meet the current security challenges of their states. State governors should stop abdicating their responsibilities.
“To this end, state governments should register all cow owners within their jurisdiction. State security outfits should get details of owners of cows that destroy farm crops with a view to holding them accountable. We frown upon a situation whereby farmers are left to cry over their crops after working laboriously to feed the citizenry. We are all in danger if there are no consequences for impunity and criminality.
“Nigeria today is being slowly strangulated by two extremists, namely, those who idolise bandits and those who demonise ethnicities. Both groups are two extremes that must be deradicalised as quickly as possible. Those who hold life as sacred and appreciate the dignity of labour will never spoonfeed bandits, kidnappers and rapists.
“But at the same time, they will never criminalise any ethnicity. That is the mistake being made in this matter. The new state security apparatus should therefore focus on trouble makers, not their tribes. Non-violent herders should not be attacked. Efforts should be made towards the establishment of ranches. This should be the responsibility of cow owners who may be assisted with repayable loans from state governments. Cattles which destroy crops should be held until compensation is paid by the cow owners.”