Banditry Or Terrorism? Law And The Language Of Politics (II)

Banditry Or Terrorism? Law And The Language Of Politics (II)
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Jerry ‘Obans’ Obanyero

The Act, particularly Section 1(2)(a)-(h), defines a terrorist as a person or body corporate who knowingly within and outside Nigeria directly and indirectly does, attempts, threatens acts of terrorism, participates or facilitates, assists, incites or promises act of terrorism. Penalty for the offences referred to in the Act carries a maximum death sentence upon conviction. Section 1(3) of the Act further defines, explains or describes ‘acts of terrorism’, inter alia, as to unduly compel a government or international organization to do or abstain from doing an act, to seriously intimidate a population, to destabilize or destroy political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country, an attack on person’s life which may cause serious bodily harm or death, kidnapping of a person, destruction to a Government or public facility likely to endanger life or result in major economic loss, seizure of aircraft, ship or other means of transportation, manufacture, possession, supply and use of weapons and explosives without lawful authority, and causing of fire and explosion the effect of which to endanger human life.

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Thus, applying the literal interpretation rule, a community reading of Sections 1(2) and (3) of the Act above with a lens and mind cast on the actions and activities of armed bandit/kidnapping group in the past years in the north will leave no one in doubts that the group is indeed a terrorist organization and is lawful for the government to designate and declare it so.

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Now, is declaration by the government necessary for the group to be designated or accorded a terrorist organisation status? Section 2(1) empowers the Judge in Chambers to declare any person or organization as terrorists or terrorist organization. However, for the Judge in Chambers to make such a declaration there has to be an application made by the Attorney General, or the National Security Adviser or the Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President. The order for the declaration shall thereafter be published in the official gazette and two national newspapers.  In Section 9(1), on the other hand, the President may, on the recommendation of the National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police, declare a person suspected to be an international terrorist if the President reasonably suspects that the person participates, has link or is a member of a terrorist organisation and is a risk to national security.

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Why then is the Nigerian government reluctant to declare the armed and dreaded bandit group a terrorist organization? From the government’s body language, it is obvious that the choice and use of ‘bandits’ by the Nigerian government to address or describe the terror group attacking, kidnapping and killing innocent citizens is not a mistake. Politics is often referred to as the ‘art of the possible’. ‘Bandit’ as used by the Nigerian government to describe the terrorist organization is no other than intentional creation of semantic or vocabulary alternatives for political reasons and probably national interest. This is “Language of Politics” at play. Put differently, usually politicians or governments all over the world deploys and uses language of politics sometimes to give subtle or inexact interpretation or euphemize words, acts, activities and events. A language is constructed to give indirect meaning or meaning suitable to the government or politicians or party they belong to as in George Orwell’s famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Also, sometimes words are used to exaggerate things, events and actions so as to give the government the right to employ state power to crack down on opponents or internal or external enemies either real or potential. For example, the US hinged their invasion on Iraq in 2003 on the unproven claims that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which the country intended to use against the US.  The claims of ‘weapon of mass destruction’ may have been well constructed to serve as a strong reason for the US army to launch an attack and topple Saddam Hussein’s government.

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Jerry Obanyero is a lawyer wrote from Lagos.

Aljazirahnews


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