They’re Terrorists, Not Bandits, Please – HURIWA To Gen. Lagbaja

They’re Terrorists, Not Bandits, Please – HURIWA To Gen. Lagbaja

Nigeria’s leading Civil society organisation- Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to plan his counter-insurgency strategies guided by legality, facts, figures and statistics and to stop misclassifying North West-based terrorists as bandits.

Besides, HURIWA has asked that the military chiefs should collectively look inwards for clinical solution to the ubiquitous presence of saboteurs embedded within the Nigerian military who work with these terrorists who perpetually leak operational routes and key information to them which is why Nigeria is recording high incidence of killings of military combatants.

The Rights group said it is embarrassing for a top Nigerian General to be telling the UN something contrary to what it is regarding the actual status of terrorists who have brought only but cocktails of deaths, destruction, sexual molestation of girls and women, kidnappings for cash ransoms and weapons trafficking.

HURIWA said it was inconceivable that till now, the top most officer leading Nigeria’s elite Nigerian Army, is finding it difficult to interprete appropriately the correct nomenclature of the armed terrorists already legally classified as terrorists and officially gazetted since middle of last year by an Abuja division of the Federal High Court in an application filed lawfully by the office of the Federal Attorney-General and minister of Justice.

The Rights group wants the Army to take serious and take action on the widespread information that the terrorist mastermind Dogo Gide who has commandeered a large portion of Territory in Niger State has declared himself the governor of his so-called conquered territory. “The earlier the military High commands embrace the reality of the destabilising threats posed to the territorial integrity of Nigeria and take the war to them, the better for the safeguarding of our national security.”

On Aug 31, 2023, the media quoted the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja as seeking the help of the United Nations Office for Counter-Terrorism, to tackle increasing threats in the country as he said bandits have morphed their methodology and now use explosive devices in their operations.

HURIWA said General. Lagbaja made this known on Thursday when he received the Under Secretary General, United Nations Office for Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov in his office in Abuja. HURIWA said the Chief of Army staff is contextually, historically, legally and factually wrong to still bandy this sort of misclassification of terrorists as bandits.”

The COAS said, “We are open to working with the UN. Combating terrorism requires both an offensive and constructive approach. The Nigerian Army has been engaged in the fight against terror in the North East and presently we are engaged in banditry who have employed some of the tactics of the terrorists such as the use of improvised explosive devices to instill fear in the minds of law-abiding citizens.

We are poised and ready to cooperate with critical partners, especially the UN office for counter-terrorism.”

HURIWA faulted the Army chief for misclassifying terrorists as bandits in clear breach of a binding ruling made around June last year but reported on 5th January 2022 in which the Federal Government has declared bandits as terrorists, just as the Rights group wondered if the Army Chief wasn’t in the Country when all these issues were put to rest regarding the exact nomenclature of the terrorists operating mostly from Zamfara and spreading their tentacles to as far as Niger, Nasarawa and even the Federal Capital Territory. 

HURIWA therefore reminded General Lagbaja that it was even after months of foot dragging and intensive advocacy campaigns by HURIWA and other stakeholders last year that the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), belatedly gazetted a court judgement that ordered the government to declare bandits as terrorists.

HURIWA recalled that states in the North-West geopolitical zone including Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kaduna have been ravaged by terrorists violence in the last year. The nefarious activities of the terror marauders have also spilt into the North Central and other zones in the country. The terrorists have killed hundreds of innocent persons, kidnapped several others including schoolchildren, with some still in their custody, while some are nursing injuries sustained during the attacks.

HURIWA recalled that Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on November 25, 2021, had granted an ex parte application by the Federal Government for Yan Bindiga (Hausa word for gunmen) and Yan Ta’adda (Hausa word for terrorists) to be declared as terrorists but the regime of the then President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), did not do so after over a month.

However, the then AGF, in an interview in June of last year, said his office was in the process of gazetting the court judgement, adding that the process would be concluded in a matter of days. Subsequently, a document released by AGF’s spokesman, Umar Gwandu, showed that the AGF office had gazetted the court order. The document titled, ‘Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice, 2021’ is contained in Volume 108 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette.

HURIWA recalled that in the document titled, ‘Terrorism (Prevention) Proscription Order Notice, 2021’ is contained in Volume 108 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette. It read in part, “Notice is hereby given that by the Order of the Federal High Court Abuja, in suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/1370/2021 dated 25th November, 2021 as per the schedule to this Notice, the Activities of Yan Bindiga Group, Yan Ta’adda Group and other similar group in Nigeria are declared to be terrorism and illegal in any part of Nigeria, especially in the North West and North-Central Regions of Nigeria and are proscribed, pursuant to sections 1 and 2 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011. “Consequently the general public is hereby warned that any person or group of persons participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intentions or otherwise of the groups referred to in paragraph 1 of this Notice will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 and liable to prosecution.”

HURIWA said: “We appeal to the Chief of Army Staff who is a reputable Infantry General, to stop giving us lame excuses for why soldiers are being killed like Christmas goats by terrorists,  but should deploy intelligence to uncover the cartel of saboteurs within the Army that are foot soldiers of the North West terrorists who leak information on military strategies and operational routes to the masterminds of terrorism who are mostly those hitherto known as armed Fulani insurgents.

HURIWA specifically also stated that the terrorist kingpins were clearly designated as terrorists wanted by the Government of Nigeria and extensively publicised in the public and private media globally with generous bounties on their heads.

HURIWA then expressed shock at the recent statement by the Army chief to the UN, thus: “Why is General Lagbaja taking us back in the fight on terrorism? HURIWA begs the military service chiefs and the National Security Adviser to wage the war on terror making use of Statistics, legality, facts, figures which are government records and are in their possession.  So, calling hardened terrorists mere bandits is very offensive and its an attempt to turn logic on its head because how can you still call terrorists who have now claimed twice to have shut down military jets and slaughtering soldiers in dozens of ambushes, as mere bandits? This is an unpardonable slip of tongue. Moreover, is it this year that these hardened and rogue terrorists have started deploying explosive devices? What kind of poverty of idea is this?”

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