Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Buhari, northern governors encouraging crimes by pardoning terrorists, bandits: South-East Stakeholders

John Oko, a lawyer, said pardoning bandits had done more harm than good to national security.

• September 5, 2022

Stakeholders in the South-East have called on President Muhammadu Buhari and governors to treat bandits, terrorists and their sponsors as enemies of the state and stop granting them pardons. 

The stakeholders made the call in a survey on the consequences of granting pardons to terrorists and bandits, as well as not exposing their sponsors.

They asserted that terrorists and bandits had killed many innocent citizens and destroyed private and public facilities.

In Anambra, a rights activist, Vincent Ezekwueme, said Mr Buhari and the governors should stop pardoning terrorists and bandits as they had caused many nightmares, killed innocent Nigerians and wasted property worth billions of naira.

“Government should make them and their sponsors to face the full wrath of the law. They are not supposed to be pardoned considering the enormous havoc they have caused the society,” declared Mr Ezekwueme. “People have lost their lives, maimed and some have developed high Blood Pressure due to their nefarious activities. I do not support the idea of granting them a pardon.”

Mr Ezekwueme said further, “You grant them pardon while their leaders and their sponsors are not ready to surrender to the government. If you pardon them, how are you sure that when they are joining the larger society, they will be responsible citizens? They have killed and unleashed havoc on the citizens, so the consequences of the law must take its cause upon them.”

A legal practitioner, Tagbo Anieto, insisted that there “is nothing like repentant when dealing with terrorism and banditry; government is only using that word to make the masses believe that they are working.”

“If somebody is repentant, he or she will be made to undergo a psychological test for at least two years,” Mr Anieto stressed. “Merely using the word pardon or repentant is not enough to truly know if they are fit to live among the citizens.”

Stakeholders in Ebonyi also decried the pardon granted to bandits and terrorists, describing it as an “encouragement of citizens into criminality.”

John Oko, a lawyer, said pardoning bandits had done more harm than good to national security.

Mr Oko stressed the need to overhaul the security forces, urging Mr Buhari and the governors to fish out sponsors of bandits instead of shielding them from the public.

“Pardoning means encouraging persons into criminality. Insecurity is on the increase because we have been treading softly over it. Why should a bandit be given pardon and sponsors not exposed? It is wrong,” the lawyer said. “Terrorism has become a huge threat to national development. Let me tell you, because of this pardon and ransom payment. Many young Nigerians have started to take banditry as a lucrative and attractive industry.”

He added, “National security need not be compromised by negotiation and ransom payment. Criminals should be punished according to the law of the land. As a lawyer, we are facing a serious threat on a daily basis from individuals and politicians over matters that involve their errand boys.”

Grace Nwankwo, a teacher, believed that pardoning terrorists and bandits could throw the country into anarchy.

“It also encourages more crimes, especially kidnapping and banditry. Pardoning and payment of ransom mean reward for criminality,” Ms Nwankwo said.

Michael Ogudu, a security expert, expressed worry over the pardoning of bandits and terrorists for national security.

“The problem behind this act is directly from the top. The politicians are the people behind the security threat of the country. It is high time we stopped petting them and punished them according to the law,” Mr Ogudu stated. “Imagine, terrorists are being pardoned, but protesters and critics of the government are being hunted. This is just unfortunate. We cannot have security unless the government begins to expose the sponsors of banditry and terrorism.”

Meanwhile, in Imo, a lawyer and social commentator, Chibunna Okoli-Akirika, said Mr Buhari’s regime had the right to pardon criminals but must follow due process.

“When someone commits a crime, the person is arrested and subjected to the rule of law, which is a formal arraignment and then he or she is either convicted or set free,” Mr Okoli-Akirika stated. “That person will not appreciate the enormity of his or her criminal act if not made to pass through the procedure of formal arraignment, prosecution, conviction and subsequent pardon.”

He stressed that it “s a very bad precedent” merely to grant bandits and terrorists a pardon “without regards to due process.”

Mr Okoli-Akirika further mentioned that Mr Buhari’s regime could extend an olive branch to bandits and other criminals but should not do so to achieve political ends.

“If the government pardons bandits and terrorists, it means that the government is negating a fundamental aspect of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But, if the government decides to subject them to some skill acquisition and training to let them know that crime does not pay, it is a welcome development,” he further explained.

The chairman of the National Coalition of Improving Service Delivery (NACOISED), Chris Azor, said bandits and terrorists could be likened to the perception that “someone’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”

He explained that in the Niger Delta, “people felt they were marginalised and felt aggrieved and so, took up arms.”

Mr Azor added, “Amnesty was granted to them to assuage them, but in the extreme case of terrorists, personally, I do not buy the idea of granting pardon or amnesty to bandits or terrorists. They commit crimes of killing, dislocating communities and causing so much economic sabotage.”

A chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Allinor Ugochukwu, said it was not in the nation’s best interest to pardon bandits and terrorists. However, Mr Ugochukwu noted that such pardon must follow stipulated procedures if granted.

A psychologist in Enugu, Christian Ibeaka, said it was unethical for Mr Buhari and the governors to pay ransom to free those kidnapped but adopt other means to secure their release.

“I think dialogue is the key, but it is not advisable for the government to pay money for victims of kidnap to be freed. Instead, the government should tackle what causes kidnapping,” he said. “If poverty level is high, people tend to commit different kind of crimes and in a community where there is only two or three wealthy persons while others are living in penury, they are in trouble.”


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