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Bandits shun Gumi, ask Buhari to lead peace talk



  • No legal basis for dialogue with bandits – Senior lawyers

Bandits causing mayhem in many parts of the country through killings and kidnappings have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to personally lead peace talks with them.

They may have thus shunned the mediation being embarked upon by a popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, between them and the government for the release of students and other kidnapped people in their captivity.

But some senior lawyers have cautioned against the ongoing appeasement of bandits, terrorising several states through dialogue between them and some governors as well as non-state actors.

Some of the bandits who demanded this accused the President of not being serious about the ongoing peace talk or calls for amnesty for them to make them to stop their attacks.

In the past few months, bandits have carried out series of attacks and kidnappings, including secondary schools, especially in northern Nigeria.

Gumi had met with some of the bandits in the forests of Zamfara, appealing for peace.

But in an interview with Daily Trust, a masked bandit said if Buhari could travel around the country when he was campaigning, nothing should stop him from coming for peace talks.

He said an agreement was earlier reached with his group, but they were soon abandoned in the forest.

“An agreement was reached, but you left that person in the forest with a gun and nothing to substitute. What do you expect? How do you want that person to survive? All the promises made to us none of it was fulfilled,” he said.

“The president should personally come and preside over the talks. When he was campaigning, he travelled all over, why would he not do it now? He does not take these peace talks seriously and everyday people are being killed.

“There is no day that someone is not killed between Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katsina. There is no tribe that is spared, gunmen kill, soldiers kill, vigilantes kill. Whoever you see with a gun today in Nigeria, he uses it to kill people. You may not know but if I were to tell you the situation of things in this country, you will cry. Even the president will cry.

“We supported this administration and accepted dialogue because we thought Buhari will fix this country, but he won’t fix this country. From the time he praised Goodluck, Obasanjo, and Yar’Adua, these were not praiseworthy. It would have been better if he had praised Abacha, because, under Abacha, pastoralists were being educated.

“During Abacha, there was allocation in the budget for the nomadic communities. There was no such thing again since Obasanjo became president. They stopped looking after the Fulanis. Their forests and grazing areas were taken over.”

He said they took up arms because they, as herders, were not carried along by the government.

According to him, the herders had no security as they were being killed, and the government didn’t do anything.

He also accused the government of not providing education and jobs for their young ones.

But some senior lawyers described dialogue with the bandits, who had kidnapped and killed hundreds of people in Katsina, Niger, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Zamfara and Sokoto States, among others, as illegal as there is no legal framework to support it.

The lawyers such as former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN); former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu; Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) and Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN), spoke in separate interviews with THISDAY against the backdrop of negotiations with the bandits in order for them to end attacks on various communities in the affected states.

Gumi recently after visiting the camps of the bandits called on the government to grant those willing to make peace ‘blanket amnesty’ if the current security situation must be tackled.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has also reportedly expressed its readiness to enter into dialogue with the bandits to resolve the current security challenges.

Azinge said it is unacceptable to engage criminals.

“In all criminal jurisprudence, you will always see that the issue of conspiracy to commit a crime or the issue of aiding and abetting the crime has always been criminalised,” he stated.

He added that anyone who negotiates with suspected criminals, whether authorised or not, is aiding and abetting crime.

“This is not something that should be encouraged in any form. It is another way of saying that government is boldly and clearly saying that it has lost grip and is no longer in control,” he stated.

Similarly, Odinkalu condemned negotiation with bandits, saying they have committed offences against the laws of the land and must be punished, accordingly.

He said: “This is not necessarily a matter on which the constitution provides specific instructions. You have to read the tea leaves and other things. It is rather simple to do so.

“Look, the constitution guarantees a right to life for every Nigerian and makes it a crime to kill another without lawful justification.”

He added that reprisal, such as Gumi was speaking about, is not the lawful justification for killing.

“So, that is a crime. Government has a duty to ensure accountability for such crime, not to negotiate it away,” he said.

Akinlaja said there was no legal basis for negotiating with bandits or any criminals.

“Assuming without conceding that there is a legal rule that allows for negotiation with criminals, the very heinous, traumatic and pervasive nature of the banditry that has seemingly held our nation by the jugular would even make it an exception to that rule,” he stated.

Akinseye-George described negotiating with bandits as an admission of state failure.

“Those who negotiate with bandits may indirectly be encouraging banditry,” he said.

Akinseye-George distinguished between what is currently going on and amnesty, stating that amnesty involves a change of heart on the part of the wrongdoers and surrender of arms in exchange for amnesty.


Zamfara killings: Buhari says it’s time to crush bandits



President Muhammadu Buhari was aghast by the latest orgy of violence visited on innocent people in Zamfara State by bandits and issued a fresh order to security agents to crush the gunmen.

More than 25 people were killed in attacks on Gobirawa, Rini, Gora, and Madoti Dankule in Bakura and Maradun LGAs in Zamfara — the death toll has since risen.

The gunmen were said to have invaded the communities on motorcycles and shot sporadically, on Wednesday.

Reacting, Buhari said the “insane and persistent violence against innocent people must stop”, adding that “such wanton disregard for life will be brought to an end sooner than later”.

A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, on Thursday quoted Buhari to have said this, adding,“These criminals should stop pushing their luck too far by believing that the government lacks the capacity to crush them.

“The violence against poor villagers who are struggling with poverty and other severe economic challenges is not going to be tolerated by this administration.”

He directed security agencies to close all existing gaps in their operations while expressing hope that the special operation launched by security agencies will prove decisive in ridding the state of the “frequent and horrifying” bandit activities.

“Let’s not give these criminals any opportunity to succeed by taking the war to their own camps and stop them in their tracks before they even have the time to respond under our massive fire power,” the president added.

Buhari reassured residents of the state of his administration’s determination to defeat the enemies, despite the latest setback.

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MASSOB rejects UK asylum offer, says it’s plot against Biafra



The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) has turned down the United Kingdom’s offer of asylum for its members.

It said the offer was an arrangement probably taken with President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government to divert the attention of the people of Biafra.

A statement by MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, made available to journalists in Enugu, said the asylum offer was part of plans by the Buhari regime hatched with the British government against the emergence of Biafra.

The statement read in part, “The government of Britain is the sole architecture of the political, economic and religious problems of the people of Biafra in Nigeria even till today.

“It has not shown any remorse or apologise to the people of Biafra.

“Britain killed, maimed mesmerised and wounded our fathers, mothers and brethren through the Hausa Fulanis. MASSOB rejects their asylum gift.

“How can the chief persecutor of the people of Biafra suddenly turn to be our pacesetter? Britain and Nigeria can no longer deceive the world again concerning the plights of the people of Biafra.

“Our unified resilience, resolutions and unshakable spirit of no surrender will continue to hunt down this geographical expression called Nigeria.

“MASSOB demands referendum on Biafra not asylum.”

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Security: Avoid 14 Nigerian states, US warns citizens



The United States has asked its citizens to stay away from 14 Nigerian states considered as hotspots of terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

It stated this in its latest travel advisories even as it urged its citizens to “Reconsider travel to Nigeria”.

The US State Department in the updated advisory added at least 116 countries this week to its ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’ list.

The UK, Canada, France, Israel, Mexico, Germany and others are on the list, citing a “very high level of COVID-19.”

Before Tuesday, the State Department listed 34 out of about 200 countries as “Do Not Travel.” The State Department now lists 150 countries at Level Four.

Nigeria is categorised as Level 3.

Unlike countries categorised as Level 4, based on the advice of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nigeria has a good rating on COVID-19 prevalence.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 1 Travel Health Notice for Nigeria due to COVID-19, indicating a low level of COVID-19 in the country”, the State Department said.

It listed areas American visitors should avoid, while in Nigeria as Borno, Yobe, and northern Adamawa states due to terrorism and kidnapping, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara states due to kidnapping.

It also banned American citizens from going to Coastal areas of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states (with the exception of Port Harcourt) due to crime, kidnapping, and maritime crime.

In a country summary on Nigeria, the U.S. State Department wrote:

“Violent crime – such as armed robbery, assault, carjacking, kidnapping, hostage taking, banditry, and rape – is common throughout the country.

“Kidnappings for ransom occur frequently, often targeting dual national citizens who have returned to Nigeria for a visit, as well as U.S. citizens with perceived wealth. Kidnapping gangs have also stopped victims on interstate roads.

“Terrorists continue plotting and carrying out attacks in Nigeria, especially in the Northeast.

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting shopping centers, malls, markets, hotels, places of worship, restaurants, bars, schools, government installations, transportation hubs, and other places where crowds gather. Terrorists are known to work with local gangs to expand their reach.

“There is civil unrest and low-level armed militancy in parts of Southern Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region. Armed criminality, including kidnapping and maritime crime, is also pervasive in this region.”

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