Bandits Or Terrorists: Criminal Is A Criminal- Sanusi Sama’Ila Moyi

5 min read

The recent calls by some Nigerians for the government to proscribe bandits has been given so much emphasis. While it is within the ambit of their rights to demand such request, for me I see it as a waste of energy. Why are we chasing shadows and ignoring the substance? Bandits or terrorists, the name does not matter, they are all criminals and all we want is for the government to engage them squarely, crush and eliminate them, not the so-called renaming. World over armed robbers threaten the security of lives and property, and to the best of my knowledge, I did not hear or read where such bandits who are the same as arm robbers are termed as terrorist. Hence those calling for the govt to proscribe and refer bandits as terrorists are chasing shadows while ignoring the substance. While vulnerable masses in the Northwest and Northcentral are living in apprehension and disarray due to the threats of these criminals, politicians who ought to have come to their aids are trying to politicize the whole scenario, pointing fingers at each instead of proffering  solution to the predicament. Rather than this dichotomy, I expect them to express their sympathy and mount pressure on the govt to do all it can to dissipate and combat the menace of both the two groups of criminals (bandits and terrorists) that are ravaging our land. 

Many of us did not attach much weight to the word terror or terrorism until the aftermath of  September 11, 2001 US twin bombing suspected to be carried out by Al-Qaeda radical group under the tutelage of Osama ben Laden. Since then, the US govt declared war against the group and any other group with similar motives and ideology including their supporters, collaborators, accomplices and financiers. From there onward, people were swayed to reason with US. This single act has deeply increased the salience and threat of terrorism and changed the perception and views of terrorism worldwide especially in the Western countries. While both banditry and terrorism are act of violence against the populace, still there are clear differences between them, and like I said the most important thing is for the government to face them with a full force, which is the only  language they understand. 

Let me commence with definitions of terminologies. A bandit can be described as a robber or outlaw belonging to a gang and typically operating in an isolated or lawless area. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery, and murder, either as an individual or in groups. The act by bandits is known as banditry.
Online encyclopedia (Wikipedia) describes banditry as a type of organized crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery, and murder, either as an individual or in groups. Banditry is a vague concept of criminality and in modern usage can be synonymous for gangsterism, brigandage, marauding and thievery. On the other hand, a terrorist is a person who uses unlawful violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of some ideological objectives whether religious or political aims. According to encyclopedia Britannica Terrorism means, the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.

Terrorism is a calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. Governments and non-state actors use the term to abuse or denounce opposing groups. Varied political organizations have been accused of using terrorism to achieve their objectives. These include right-wing and left-wing political organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries and ruling governments. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD), defines terrorism as “acts of violence by non-state actors, perpetrated against civilian populations, intended to cause fear, to achieve a political objective. 
Dr. E.O Eugene laments that, “Bandits and Terrorists may look similar but are not identical, their objectives are neither also the same however, they apply the same tactics, instrumentality and mode operandi to operate, they all use violence to cause fear ro public”. Therefore their silarities are centrwd on wrecking havoc, and unleashing fear and terror to citizens in order to achieve their aims however, their motives are not in anyway similar.

Scholars have categorized motivations for terrorism to include psychological, ideological, and strategic. Psychological Perspective has to do with those engage in terrorism purely for personal reasons, based on their own psychological state of mind. Their motivation may be nothing more than hate or the desire for power. For example, in 1893 Auguste Vaillant bombed the French Chamber of Deputies. Another example is the March 15, 2019 bomb attack of mosques at Christchurch, New Zealand. Ideological perspective has to do with beliefs, values, and/or principles by which a group identifies its particular aims and goals. Ideology may encompass religion or political philosophies and programs. Strategic perspective is use as a logical extension of the failure of politics. When people seek redress of their grievances through government, but fail to win government’s attention to their plight, they may resort to violence. (teaching guide on international terrorism: definitions, causes, and responses education program (202) 429-3854 Typical examples of the two scenarios thus, ideological or political philosophies which is the extension of ideological and strategic perspectives are Boko haram (BH) and the indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB).
While terrorist groups such as the BH and secessionists like the IPOB’s believe and ideology whether religious or political is to break up from the central govt and form a new govt, bandits engage in banditry for different reason. Like other organized crimes such as access device fraud, cyber crime, identity theft, healthcare fraud, real estate fraud, insurance fraud, trafficking in people, drugs, illicit goods and weapons, armed robbery, smuggling, prostitution, extortion, counterfeiting and money laundering etc., bandits’ motive is just a business to make money. To steal, kill and destroy are what armed robbers and other criminals like bandits do. 
Bandits are not fighting for political power or to enforce another form of sovereignty or new regime. They’re just armed robbers violating institutions and leveraging the shortcomings, lackadaisical approach and ineptitude of the govt to enrich themselves on the expense of innocent, handicapped and vulnerable civilians. Again, unlike terrorists’ group, bandits are faceless, they don’t have a single leader who they receive instruction and command for the operations, instead they are moving in different camps and other cluster formations to perpetrate their heinous act. Though there are indigenous people amongst the bandits, reports shown that majority of them are foreigners; and even if they are Nigerians, still they are not fighting for any agenda or on behalf of any class of people in Nigeria whether religious, ethnic or political but rather they are opportunistic like other criminals fighting for themselves.
Terrorism is also emotive both because experiences of terrorist acts arouse tremendous feelings, and because those who see terrorists as justified often have strong feelings concerning the rightness of the use of violence. International terrorists like the ISIS and ISIL have the believe that what they are doing is a holy war against US and its allies (who to them presumed are the real terrorists) because they attack and dominate their sovereign states disguising to be fighting terrorists while they are indirectly plundering and stealing their god’s given resource (the black gold or oil and expanding the imperialists’ capitalism) through wars of aggression in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Another double jeopardy is, while the devastating war is going on, the arms manufacturing industries in Europe are making huge profits out of these unending wars by selling weaponry to different class of rivals (govt and non state actors). Therefore terrorist groups like ISIS took it as a duty upon themselves to fight the aggressors out of their territories with all their hearts. And surprisingly, many of these groups have sympathizers within and amongst the citizens, unlike the bandits who have no sympathizers within the local populace, because the populace are their targets not the govt. bandits’ motive is squarely plundering, looting and extorting local civilians. Therefore, the issue at stake is not on the terminology use to describe them, the issue is on how the govt engage them. By emphasizing on the name, people and govt are even gingering and pampering these outlawed groups to feel so important, this will even encourage them to strike more. I concur with Mr. Olamide, @olamidefrancis who maintains that, “To refer to these criminals as terrorists is itself a means of glorification of their atrocities and an offering of cheap publicity to their lawlessness and irrational hostility. Bandits are not terrorists”. 
As the federal govt deployed Super Tucano which is one of the most sophisticated aircraft equipped for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and for precision air-to-ground strike missions, I think there is no better time than now for the govt to swing into action with a view to ending all violent crimes in Nigeria. With this and other firearms procured, the military would be in higher moral to squarely face and end violent crimes in our land, be it the Boko haram terrorism, the militancy and insurgency by IPOB and other splinter groups, maritime crimes such as piracy, kidnapping for ransom, arm banditry and cattle rustling etc. 

The current security situation across the country is so serious particularly in the North-west and North-central zones. Many states in the two zones have been ravaged by activities of bandits who kidnap citizens for ransom and kill at will. To curtail their excesses, recently the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had ordered telecom operators to suspend their networks in Zamfara State which is considered a strong base of the terrorists. The Nigerian military intensified its offensive on bandits’ camps and locations in various forests within the state, they are being bombarded from every angle. While Airforce are striking with aerial bombing, the military are there on ground exchanging fire, annihilating and killing them in hundreds, their hideouts and camps are also being destroyed. For sure, the military deserves accolades for these courageous tactics, they should try and sustain the momentum. My only fear is on some reports which states that, armed bandits have been fleeing into neighboring states such as Sokoto and Katsina for their safety. To curtail this, a combine action and uniform strategy needs to be adopted in all the other states thus, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna and Niger, so that the terrorists can be crushed and exterminated completely and simultaneously, not allowing them to escape to other states.

In conclusion, let this stick into our heads that, bandits or terrorists is not the issue, for they are all criminals that cause havoc to innocent civilians. The real issue is how the govt engaged them. We are therefore calling and crying loud for the government to kindly intensify its effort to dissipate the animals and criminals called bandits, they should be engaged with equal force the language they understand. May the God almighty restore peace to our land, Ameen. God bless Nigeria, 

Our Take:

Considering the incessant abductions, kidnappings, and killings Nigeria has recorded in recent years, Nigerians are beginning to clamor for the declaration of bandits as a terrorist group. While this is understandably so, what should be the crux of the matter or a major concern at the moment is efforts being made to address the security threats. It would be wrong to think that assigning names to security threats determines the kind of response such threats get. In as much as declaring bandits terrorist might seem to be a more intense way of deeming it a national threat, it is important to understand that a security threat is a threat to all no matter the group, driver or motivation behind it and as such efforts should be made to tackle them. There is thus a need for neighboring states to intensify military presence to root out these bandits completely.

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