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Declaration of bandits as terrorists makes no sense – Gumi laments

 Controversial Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, has dismissed the declaration of armed bandits as terrorists as mere political expediency, saying...


 Controversial Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, has dismissed the declaration of armed bandits as terrorists as mere political expediency, saying it will come to no effect.

A federal high court in Abuja made the declaration on Friday in a case brought against two violent criminal groups.

But Mr Gumi said the declaration will have no effect as a similar pronouncement by the federal government on the Southeast secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The Islamic cleric noted that although the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation was also backed by a court order, the international community did not accord it recognition.

His response came a day after the Federal High Court in Abuja declared the activities of bandits’ groups as acts of terrorism.

The verdict strengthens the call on the federal government to declare bandits ravaging the North-western and the North-central regions of Nigeria as terrorists.

Mohammed Abubakar, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) of the Federation, had filed an ex-parte application seeking to prohibit the activities of the ‘bandits’.

While moving the application on Thursday, Mr Abubakar informed the court that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the declaration of bandits as terrorists.

In his ruling, the judge, Taiwo Taiwo, held that the activities of ‘Yan Bindiga’ (Gunmen) and ‘Yan Ta’adda’ (terrorist) bandit groups constitute acts of terrorism.

According to court documents, the federal government based its decision on security reports, which confirmed that the bandits were responsible for the “killings, abductions, rapes, kidnappings,” in northern Nigeria.

Responding to the court judgment, Mr Gumi in a statement by his media aide, Tukur Mamu, said declaring the herdsmen bandits as terrorists is a decision taken for political expediency.

“The federal government has succumbed to media blackmail by a section of the country,” he said.

Mr Gumi said “the decision by the government will not have any practical value because even before the declaration, they are being fought and treated as terrorists. So is just a nomenclature which I believe will not change the dynamics on ground.

“If you can remember, IPOB was also declared a terrorist organisation. The declaration was even backed by the order of the Court. But as you can see even the international community did not recognise FG’s declaration of IPOB.

“So it has failed to be effective or to achieve the desired results. They have not been banned from travelling to other countries while their citizenship remains intact, it has not been denounced. So what type of declaration is that?

“I sincerely hope that Nigerians will not take the herdsmen as terrorists but should regard the criminality of the few among them against innocent people as acts of terrorism just as we see IPOB and their attacks on security agencies and other northern citizens as acts of terrorism,” Mr Gumi said.

He argued that very few herdsmen are bandits.

“I hope this declaration will not give the license to people to be profiling herdsmen in general as terrorists and taking laws into their hands against them. It will cause more mayhem.

“The declaration will not change anything, it will not change the dynamics. Already the military is engaging them. It didn’t stop them from kidnappings and killings. The declaration will not end their aggression against the society.

“The Fulani banditry is a socio-economic problem. We have seen it, we interacted widely with them. We told the federal government the way out. It can only be won through engagement, dialogue, and justice.

“That is why today there is relative peace in the Niger Delta because government have accepted the painful reality of rehabilitating and empowering them. There has to be equitable distribution of wealth in Nigeria and justice for everyone.

“People don’t want to accept it, before the issue of banditry that now affects all of us, the Fulanis have suffered so much. They have lost their legitimate means of livelihood, I mean their cows through cattle rustling and extortion by security agencies.

“That has to be addressed as a means of genuine reconciliation and integration. They should have (a) sense of belonging,” Mr Gumi said.

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