The Federal Government is set to gazette the court order classifying bandits as terrorists, it was learnt yesterday.
The November 26, 2021 judgment by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has also become a critical factor in the deployment of Super Tucano aircraft in the fight against terrorists, kidnappers and bandits.
Also, the Attorney-General; and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said President Muhammadu Buhari would be guided by public interest while considering the request to release the detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.
Malami spoke on the gazette and the request for Kanu’s release on the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) ‘Good Morning Nigeria’ show.
On the process of gazetting the order declaring bandits as terrorists, he said: “The gazetting of a court order or judgement is a process, but what matters fundamentally within the context of international convention is the judicial declaration and that has been obtained; the court has declared bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers as terrorists.
“So, with or without the gazette, what gives effect to such a declaration is a judicial pronouncement but the gazette is a mere formality and it has been on and I believe within a matter of days, it will be concluded.”
The minister said government acted promptly in declaring IPOB and Boko Haram as terror groups because of the “threats to lives and properties they have caused in the nation.”
He stressed: “Government has a responsibility to act, but within the context of acting, you are equally expected to operate within the confines of international best practices associated with engagement.
“One of such best practices is that you can only use maximum force on groups or individuals that are declared terrorists and that is where the application of the Terrorism Act comes in place.
“With that in mind, Nigeria acted, first by proscribing IPOB, taking into consideration the threats to lives and properties they have caused in the nation. Boko Haram was also proscribed.”
The AGF said the outcome of IPOB and Boko Haram’s proscription encouraged government to consider the decision to deploy military hardware against bandits.
Malami said: “Now, we are confronted with another threat in the North-west associated with banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and in all these, these people are using weapons to attack Nigerians, kidnap them and created a situation of serious security challenge and fear in the system.
“Whatever military hardware you acquire, there are limits within the context of the international convention as to how it can be used, when it can be used and against who it can be used. And that is how the idea of looking at the activities of the bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers come into being.
“Our assessment, taking into consideration that they are causing a major threat to the territorial peaceful co-existence and causing a major threat to lives with weapons, the idea then came about that indeed, they (bandits) have satisfied the criteria of being declared terrorists within the context of the law so that whatever military hardware are at the disposal of the Federal Government can best be used against them within the context of the international convention and within the context of the law.”
On whether the military can now deploy the Super Tucano aircraft against the bandits, Malami said: “I can tell you that the international convention demands associated with the usage of Super Tucano has been obtained, which is a judicial pronouncement and declaration of bandits, cattle rustlers and indeed, kidnappers as terrorists, and that has been procured and the way has now been cleared for the application, deployment and usage of Super Tucano. Whether they have been put to use or not, I cannot say.”
Malami said President Buhari will consider the interest of Nigerians before considering the request to release Kanu.
Some Igbo elders, led by First Republic Minister of Aviation Chief Mbazulike Amaechi, had visited the President and requested Kanu’s unconditional release on November 19, last year.
The President told them while he would not want to interfere in the judicial process in relation to the Kanu case, he would consider their demand though it is “a heavy one.”
On November 10, 2021, Malami had hinted that the government would not rule out political solution while addressing the cases of Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho), adding that pleas by credible individuals and groups cannot be ignored.
Malami said yesterday: “By way of general statements to the two issues presented – the issue relating to Electoral Bill and the issue relating to Kanu and by extension, IPOB, what I can tell you for certain is that the decision of the President is based fundamentally and at all times on public interest consideration.”
He added: “In the art of governance and what I have come to learn about the mind and heart of the President, Muhammadu Buhari, is to consider the 200 million Nigerians as against the limited people.
“By extension, the issue of Kanu, what would as well govern the decision of the President in terms of whatever request is presented is the public interest as against limited sectional interest of it.”