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EDITORIAL: The terrorists’ acts in Kaduna, Sokoto

A dreadful vista was opened by “bandits”, terrorising the North-west of the country with the destruction of the Abuja-Kaduna railway line and gun attack on a train last week.

Passengers in the two trains involved in the arson luckily escaped unhurt. However, videos and pictures, which went viral on social media showed blown up rail tracks and a locomotive engine riddled with gunshots.

The incidents, which happened on Wednesday and Thursday, forced the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) to suspend services on the Abuja-Kaduna route.

It was, however, concerning that some reports sought to downplay the attacks, saying they were not caused by “bandits” but arsonists.

Of course, there had been reports in the past about rail tracks and accessories being removed by vandals, scavenging for iron rods but the Abuja-Kaduna incidents were, without doubt, perpetrated by criminal gangs with a huge animosity against the government and fellow citizens.

We are aware of the substantial efforts the Federal Government has committed to fighting the “bandits” scourge. It will make better sense to classify the criminals properly as terrorists, rather than mere thieves or armed robbers. It is ridiculous that the Buhari administration has so far not declared the “bandits” as terrorists.

Government officials have offered weak excuses that Boko Haram and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which were declared terrorist groups, have been undermining the unity of the country while the “bandits” are mere kidnappers and robbers being treated with kids’ gloves.

The “bandits” whose criminal acts include but are not limited to cattle rustling, kidnapping, mass abduction, arson and armed robbery have sabotaged the unity of the country and well-being of the citizenry more than any others in recent times.

The so-called “bandits” had shot down a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet.

The NAF spokesperson, Edward Gabkwet, was explicit in the statement issued in the aftermath of the attack thus:

“On 18 July 2021, at about 12.45 pm, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) Alpha Jet aircraft, returning from a successful air interdiction mission between the boundaries of Zamfara and Kaduna State, came under intense enemy fire, which led to its crash in Zamfara State.”

Only a terror group, not “bandits”, can shoot down a military jet.

The “bandits” attacking national security and economic infrastructure are terrorists. In addition to destroying facilities, costing millions in foreign currency, they are scaring away investors and tourists and putting the economy in jeopardy.

The “bandits” are also undermining farming and industrial activities across the country, with negative consequences on employment.

Worse still, they have made many highways across the country and markets unsafe.

Only last Monday, the “bandits” committed a most horrible act of shooting dead more than 30 people and injuring many others in an attack on Goronyo market in Sokoto State.

A quarterly report on Kaduna State, presented by the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, stated that 343 persons lost their lives, 830 others were kidnapped while 210 residents suffered various forms of injury due to activities of “bandits” in the state in the third quarter of this year.

The second quarter security report, covering April, May and June 2021, showed that 222 persons were killed and about 774 people kidnapped by the “bandits”.

The Kaduna governor, while receiving the report, said his government had been asking the Federal Government to declare the “bandits” as terrorists since 2017.

He contended that declaring the “bandits” as terrorists would allow the military to “kill” them without worrying about international laws.

The National Assembly has similarly passed a resolution, calling for the declaration of the “bandits” as terrorists.

We believe that the recent incidents in Sokoto and Kaduna states reinforce the call for a reappraisal of the war against the “bandits” and their proper classification as terrorists. This country has different laws for bandits and terrorists