The battle against banditry and terrorism received judicial backing yesterday.
A Federal High Court in Abuja has outlawed the activities of some groups linked to banditry and declared their activities as acts of terrorism.
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari gave a fresh directive to security agencies to rekindle the anti-terror war and rid the country of terrorists.
The military has not been able to deploy the Super Tucano planes it bought from the United States (U.S.) to crush the bandits and gunmen in the Northwest and Northcentral because of the agreement between the Nigerian and U.S. governments.
According to the pact, the aircraft, acquired to boost the battle against Boko Haram insurgents and members of the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP) in the Northeast, would be deployed against terrorists and not bandits.
At an event attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer, said the terms of the agreement during the sale of the 12 fighter jets were explicit.
He was reacting to a question on whether the Tucano aircraft might be deployed to crush secessionists.
Finer said the planes were an important platform for security.
He said: “We are pleased to deepen our security cooperation with the Nigerian government. I think we made it very clear our expectations about this platform where it would be used and in the right way and we are always raising concerns when we have them and that it’s true with all our security partners around the world.
“This is an important platform for security, particularly in the North and we are pleased the transaction is finally concluded.”
In a ruling yesterday, the Abuja court specifically declared the activities of the “Yan Bindiga Group” and the “Yan Ta’adda Group” and other similar groups in any part of the country, especially in the Northwest and Northcentral geo-political zones, as “acts of terrorism and illegality”.
It equally proscribed the Yan Bindiga Group and the Yan Ta’adda Group as well as other similar groups in any part of Nigeria, especially in the Northwest and Northcentral geo-political zones, “either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called.”
The court restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever, in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the Yan Bindiga Group and the Yan Ta’adda Group under any other name or platform however called or described.”
The court ordered the Federal Government to publish the prosecution order in the Official Gazette and two national dailies.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo gave the orders in a ruling after listening to Aminu Kayode Alilu, from the Federal Ministry of Justice, who argued the motion ex-parte filed by the Federal Government to that effect.
Justice Taiwo said he was convinced that such orders were necessary in view of the nefarious activities of bandits and their effects on the people and the nation’s economy.
The judge also proscribed all other groups in the country, irrespective of their names, but whose activities and objectives are similar to those of Yan Bindiga Group and the Yan Ta’adda Group.
Justice Taiwo listed terror activities to “include, but not limited to banditry, kidnappings for ransom, kidnapping for marriage, mass abductions of school children and other citizens, cattle rustling, enslavement, imprisonment, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, other forms of sexual violence, attacks and killings in communities and commuters and wanton destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria.”
The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Abubakar, who filed the motion ex-parte, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave approval for his action, which objective is the proscription of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other terrorist groups in the country.
The Federal Government, in a supporting affidavit to ex-parte motion, explained its decision to approach the court for the orders.
It stated that security reports have confirmed that the bandit groups were responsible for the killings, abductions, rapes, kidnappings and related acts of criminality in the Northeast, Northcentral and other parts of the country.
The Federal Government attributed to the groups, the growing cases of “banditry, incessant kidnappings for ransom, kidnapping for marriage, mass abductions of school children and other citizens, cattle rustling, enslavement, imprisonment, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, other forms of sexual violence, attacks and killings in communities and commuters and wanton destruction of lives and properties in Nigeria, particularly in the Northwest and Northcentral states in Nigeria are being carried out by Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other groups associated with or engaged in the same or similar activities as Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda Groups in Nigeria.”
It added that Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other similar groups have also been involved in the killings of soldiers, police, and other security agents across the country.
The government noted that the activities of the groups have resulted in the disruption of commercial, educational, and farming activities in the Northwest and Northcentral.
It added: “The activities of Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda groups and other similar groups constitute acts of terrorism that can lead to a breakdown of public order and safety and is a threat to national security and the corporate existence of Nigeria.”