Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, says the Nigerian military was reluctant to bomb bandits because of concerns about facing the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On November 25, 2021, a federal high court in Abuja declared the activities of all bandit groups in the country as acts of terrorism.
Prior to the declaration, many Nigerians had asked the federal government to initiate the process for the declaration of bandits as terrorists.
In January 2022, the federal government finally released a gazette proscribing bandits as terrorists.
Speaking on Thursday at a media briefing at the presidential villa, el-Rufai said he had advised the federal government to declare bandits as terrorists in 2017.
The Kaduna governor disclosed that he was informed that it would be difficult to declare bandits as terrorists because they do not have “single command” like Boko Haram and ISWAP.
He, however, said with the latest development, he believes the army now has the necessary legal backing to go after bandits.
“As far back as 2017, we saw the danger of this (referring to banditry). We made a presentation to the federal government to declare these bandits as terrorists,” he said.
“But based on advice, it was said that since they do not have single command and control the way Boko Haram, ISWAP and terrorists are, it is difficult to declare them insurgents.
“But I’m happy that by the ruling of the federal high court, they have now been declared as terrorists so there is a fair game.
“The military was afraid of bombing them and then facing ICC. You know the media and civil societies always rise to protect those at the receiving end of something, not looking at the victims of those people sometimes.
“No general wants to retire and then you go to the US and they arrest you and say you have bombed civilians. So, there is reluctance on the part of the military. With this declaration of the federal high court, I think we can go after them.”