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ICC won’t charge Buhari with war crimes if he declares bandits as terrorists before executing them: El-Rufai

The Kaduna governor said he has written several letters since 2017 urging the Nigerian president to declare the violent gangs as terrorists.

• October 21, 2021
Bandits and Buhari
Bandits and President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari can easily circumvent war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court if he promptly declares bandits as terrorists before executing them, Governor Nasir El-Rufai said on Wednesday.

Mr El-Rufai’s Kaduna State has been amongst the most devastated by violent gangs terrorising Nigeria’s northwestern region in recent year, abducting citizens and plundering communities. 

The governor said he has expressed his frustration with President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime regarding its determination to finish off bandits terrorising Kaduna and other parts of the northern region.

He said that just two years after Mr Buhari assumed power, he had requested the regime to declare the bandits as terrorists. Mr El-Rufai pointed out that despite several letters urging Mr Buhari’s regime to tag bandits as terrorists, it did not pay heed.

“We in the Kaduna state government have always aligned with the declaration of bandits as insurgents and terrorists. We have written letters to the federal government since 2017, asking for this declaration because it is the declaration that will allow the Nigerian military to attack and kill these bandits without any major consequences in international law,” Mr El-Rufai said.

The governor stated this in his remarks at the presentation of the Kaduna security incidents report for the third quarter of 2021, according to a statement on his Facebook page Wednesday. 

He added, “We support the resolution by the National Assembly, and we are going to follow up with a letter of support for the federal government to declare these bandits and insurgents as terrorists so that they will be fair game for our military. This is the view of the Kaduna state government.” 

Whereas armed banditry in Nigeria has caused more damages as to human and economic toll, lawyers argued that the president cannot unilaterally execute criminals without due deference to existing laws. 

“Declaring a group as a terrorist group does not give a president absolute powers to kill without consequences,” said legal analyst Abubakar Jimeta in an interview with Peoples Gazette. “Governor El-Rufai could put the president in trouble if his advice is taken seriously as a state policy.”

Mr Buhari has rebuffed calls to designate the bandits as terrorists, and the federal cabinet insists the bandits are criminals and do not yet meet the criteria for such declaration. 

Mr El-Rufai said bandits are responsible for at least nine abductions and four deaths every day in Kaduna, part of the northwestern region now under siege.

Last Sunday, the bandits stormed the town in Goronyo Local Government Area of the state on over 100 motorcycles and opened fire on residents in the attack that lasted for hours. Witnesses told The Gazette that the attack lasted for several hours and Nigerian soldiers fled the area as the bandits were approaching

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