Banditry Or Terrorism? Law And The Language Of Politics

by Aljazirah news | October 18, 2021 11:59 am

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There has been a raging debate in several fora as to the appropriate designation or labelling, so to say, for armed robbers and kidnappers who have mercilessly and with temerity been incessantly launching attacks on a number of states in Nigeria especially the North. The attacks are well organised and weapons used are dangerously sophisticated.

Everyone is a target including students, women and peasant farmers. Recently, not less than 121 students of the Bethel Baptist Secondary School were kidnapped for ransom in Kaduna, there was an attack on the well-guarded Nigerian Military Academy ,NDA, and some officers were killed while another adopted, a fighter jet belonging to the Nigerian Air Force was gunned down in Zamfara State. All this came on the heels of other reports of kidnapping of school children, killing of villagers and farmers, sacking of communities and attacks on government establishment in Niger, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau and other states. On a daily basis, we hear in the news threats of and the actual act of kidnapping and banditry with people living in fear and sometimes relocating to where they feel safe or abandoning their means of livelihood to escape from bandits and kidnappers.

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Curiously, the identity of this well-armed group perpetrating this evil is not unknown as certain persons in government and religious circles have either gone to the group’s hideouts or invited members of the AK-47 rifle dangling bandits to either government house or open-door meeting! Some have publicly canvassed for amnesty for the infamous group citing economic woes and government’s neglect as the reason the bandits took arms against the state and its citizens and should instead be empowered rather than condemned. The big questions are: do the activities and acts of this group quality as terrorism? Could these bandits be lawfully designated as terrorists?

As a lawyer and curious student of language, this writer delves into the aforementioned raging debate, albeit not to be another voice of controversy. With this in view, to advance the argument made herein, guidance is sought from the extant law, rules of legal interpretation and how political language is used for political reason and/or national interest.

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First off, Nigeria is a sovereign nation with a functional government. For time and space, we shall, therefore, restrict the authorities used herein to Nigerian laws. Another reason, for simplicity and in order to raise national consciousness and have us think inwards towards addressing a menace that is taking a hard bite on our national unity and progress. There are a number of laws in the country that directly or indirectly address banditry and terrorism, namely, the Criminal Code Act (Southern States) Cap C38 L.F.N 2004, Penal Code Federal Provisions Act, Cap. P3 L.F.N. 2004 (applicable in the North), Economic and Financial Crimes (Establishment) Act 2004, Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act Cap R11 L.F.N. 2004 and Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act 2013. Also, considering the glaring fact that the debate concerns whether the bandit group in the north could be designated as terrorist organization, we shall yet again be dealing in this article with Terrorism (Prevention) (Amendment) Act (supra) referred hereafter.

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