By OLAGOKE OLATOYE
IBADAN- A cross section of Nigerians on Tuesday urged the Federal Government to heed to demands from members of the public and unveil the sponsors of terrorism and stop further pardoning of the apprehended terrorists and bandits.
They expressed their views in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan, Akure, Osogbo, Ado-Ekiti, Abeokuta and Ilorin, warning against any form of disposition suggestive of the government’s sympathy with the terrorists and bandits.
The respondents said granting amnesty to the terrorists and shielding of alleged sponsors of terrorism were steps capable of compounding the nation’s security challenges as it would encourage more suspected criminals to join their ranks.
In Ibadan, a legal practitioner, Mr Michael Lana, condemned the act of granting pardon to suspected terrorists.
Lana said that no law empowered the government to pardon or give amnesty to anyone who had not been tried in a court of law.
He said the power of amnesty could only be exercised by the President after a person had been tried and convicted by the court.
The lawyer said that the president could, therefore, not exercise his prerogative in granting amnesty to anyone, let alone bandits or terrorists, who have neither been tried nor convicted by any court.
Lana said that such unlawful action would only give the bandits opportunity of mixing with the public to gather more information for their colleagues.
He said that such information gathered would, eventually, put the terrorists in an advantage position to attack the public and the military.
The lawyer said studies had also shown that some of the pardoned bandits went back to the same crime.
“That is why you don’t see America or any of the civilised country giving amnesty to bandits or terrorists.
“Granting amnesty to the bandits can never bring peace, because they don’t have genuine grievances against the Federal Government, unlike the Niger Delta people.
“Amnesty given to the Niger Delta brought peace, because they had genuine grievances against the government for taking their wealth from their land and giving them nothing in return.
“What can we say are the grievances of the bandits and terrorists? They are just criminals, who want to make money, as I don’t see why they should be given amnesty,” he said.
Lana further said that the act would encourage more people to be part of terrorism, thereby, exposing more innocent people to suffer the consequences.
He said if the surrendered bandits were sincerely remorseful, they ought to have returned the money collected from their innocent victims.
The Ibadan based lawyer blamed the government for concentrating on bandits, while neglecting the victims of banditry to suffer.
Lana also said that publishing the names of those alleged sponsors of the bandits was not as necessary and essential, as arresting and prosecuting them.
Similarly, a Public Affairs Analyst, Mr Daniel Adegbenro, said that pardoning the bandits and terrorists, instead of neutralising them outrightly, to serve as deterrent to others of their kinds, would further lead to insecurity.
Adegbenro said that the action would also encourage the jobless and the almajiris to tow the line of banditry, having seen it as a profitable venture.
“It will also empower others to emulate the terrorists, giving them more strength to perform evil.
“If the terrorists and bandits are neutralised and not pardoned, there wouldn’t have been many groups and regrouping of more bandits, now attacking farmers and causing food inflation,” he said.
According to a lawyer, Mr Mumin Jimoh, the consequences of pardoning terrorists include the kidnapping of students by terrorists, claiming to spite the government and thus collecting ransom running into billions of naira.
Jimoh described the kidnapping of students, leading to closure of schools to prevent a reccurrence, mostly in the North-East, as worrisome.
A farmer, Mr Bashir Ojolowo, wondered why bandits, causing national food insecurity by sacking farmers from their farms and collecting money before allowing them to harvest their crops, should be pardoned.
Meanwhile, Dr Adewumi Omoniyi of the Department of Philosophy, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, described terrorism as a great crime against humanity, deserving punishment to serve as deterrent to others.
Omoniyi said that for any criminal to receive pardon, there must be evidence of penitence and genuine repentance.
The lecturer said that banditry and terrorism had to be thoroughly and effectively checked in line with the government’s major duty of protecting lives and property of its citizens.
“When some of these criminals appear to repent, the government must reveal their identities to the public sphere, in case the repentance is not genuine.
“To release bandits and terrorists unconditionally is a crime against humanity.
“Citizens don’t use arms against other citizens without a definite cause; there must be perceived cases of injustice.
“So, government must be careful to investigate the cause. It may be as a result of economic, social, political or religious injustice.
“If the cause of terrorism is not ascertained and a lasting solution found, any act of amnesty would be a misplacement of priority,” he said.
According to him, concealing identities of terrorists and their sponsors amounts to aiding and abetting their activities.
A lawyer, Mr Femi Egunjobi, raised concerns over how stringent the government’s deradicalisation process of the bandits and terrorists had been.
Egunjobi mentioned instances where pardoned bandits reneged on the freedom granted them to return to their criminal activities.
“The morale of officers, some who suffered varying degrees of injuries or lost their colleagues on the battlefield of terrorism, may be dampened.
“While granting pardon to agitating groups, such as the Niger Delta Militia, had earlier been witnessed in Nigeria, replicating such to bandits and terrorists will only demonstrate government’s weakness in the eyes of Nigerians and internationally.
“It could also provide an unwanted encouragement for criminals or intending ones to pollute Nigeria with violence, knowing that, eventually, government’s only way out will be to grant them pardon for any of their actions committed,” he said.
On naming the sponsors of terrorism, the legal practitioner said it was not a hidden truth that different government officials had before now confirmed the knowledge of those behind “this unending crisis”.
Egunjobi said that in spite of this, government has not been able to name those found culpable.
“While it is quite understandable that throwing names of sponsors of terrorism may further jeopardise the fight against insecurity, the citizens will be more convinced about the government’s efforts toward ending insecurity, if some of those fingered are exposed,” he said.
In Osogbo, a legal practitioner, Olalekan Babatunde, urged the Federal Government to follow due process in pardoning bandits and terrorists in the country.
Babatunde said that failure to follow due process might have adverse effects on lives and property of the citizenry in the nearest future.
“If the process of pardoning bandits and terrorists are properly followed to the end, by way of deradicalising them, empowering them and giving them quality education, then, it might yield positive results.
“These steps will complete the process of taking them away from the group of enemies of the state.
“But, if the process of pardoning is not completed, it will amount to the government rewarding the criminals,” he said.
Babatunde explained that extremists, who had taken armed against the country or had committed one crime or the other, should not just be released without proper checks to validate the true state of their repentance.
“Government needs to ensure that terrorists and bandits, who had laid down their arms, must be properly screened to ensure that they are not just deceiving the society.
“Government should not just take the weapons from them and ask them to go and sin no more.
“There should be a proper process of deradicalisation for bandits and extremists, and then, there should be a way of reorientating them appropriately,” he said.
Babatunde also said that government should find means of checking on the repentant bandits to ensure that they do not go back to their old ways.
He, however, said that it might be difficult to know or identify sponsors of terrorism and banditry in the country.
Babatunde said that listing the names of persons not investigated, apprehended or confirmed to be aiding and sponsoring bandits might be an error.
According to him, until such individuals have been arrested, interrogated and found to be culpable, such a list will not be released.
In Ado-Ekiti, a community leader, Pa Olakunle Olorunleke, said that pardoning those whose hands drip with blood was, in itself, a crime against humanity.
According to a retired social worker, Mrs Mosunmola Badmus, more than half of Nigerians are vehemently opposed to treating terrorists with kid gloves.
Badmus said that the delay or the refusal of government to expose those allegedly behind the sponsorship of terrorism was making it to look like an act of connivance and culpability.
Another respondent, Mr Dele Bayowa, said the only way the authority could stop Nigerians from being suspicious was to absolve itself of culpability.
Bayowa said that this should be done by stopping further granting of pardon to terrorists and exposing their sponsors.
However, a security expert, who prefers to be anonymous, said that government has the right to grant pardon to anyone, especially if it thinks the criminal would sheath its swords by that.
The expert said that government might not want to expose the sponsors for now, so as not to jeopardise or preempt some underground investigations to unearth the whole gang-up.
The official said it was possible that time was not yet ripe for certain holistic disclosures, hence, the need for more caution.
Also, Mr Steve Brown, the Chief Executive Officer, TopGuard Security, said the National Assembly was not doing enough to probe into the nation’s insecurity situation.
Browne said the situation, whereby, the lawmakers only express their anger on the floor of the Houses, without commensurable actions to backup their outburst, was not in the best interest of Nigerians.
“They need to follow up their words with actions and ask questions from those concerned with our security system.
“A lot of things are wrong, which are being reported and backed up with facts that need to be investigated.
“There are saboteurs in the system, especially within the forces; there are those who should be shown the way out for failing in their duties.
“Until we take the bull by the horn, we will never get it right,” he said.
Commenting, Chief Moses Atolagbe, a community leader in Ado-Ekiti, faulted the government’s action for not engaging the traditional institutions in the fight against insecurity.
“Traditional rulers are the one closest to the grassroots and the custodian of our culture, traditions and heritage.
“Even, before the coming of the colonial masters, every tribe, region has the way it administered its people.
“The government is only playing lip service as far as engagement of traditional rulers is concerned; there is no backing it up with adequate and proper legislation.
“Our traditional rulers need to be accorded adequate respect and legally recognised to function effectively and efficiently too,” he said.
A legal practitioner, Adeola Omotoso, urged the Federal Government to stop further pardon of any group of terrorists or bandits, saying instead, they should be prosecuted and make them to face the wrath of their crimes.
Omotoso explained that many atrocities committed by terrorists were unforgivable and unpardonable, saying that it would, therefore, be wrong for any government to overlook their wicked acts.
He wondered what would be the fate of families of unfortunate Nigerians, whose lives were lost to terrorists’ attacks, if government continued with the pardon policy.
“Recall that as a result of wicked acts, many innocent lives of men, women, teenagers and even, children have been wasted by these evil people, and the victim’s families are crying for justice.
“For example, look at the merciless killing of innocent Nigerians in the Catholic Church in Owo, where over 40 people, including children, were killed by terrorists.
“The over 200 Chibok girls and many more, and somebody would still be talking of pardoning or hiding their identities? Where is the sense in that, I ask you?
“If and when any of these perpetrators and their sponsors are caught, the next thing should ordinarily be that they face the music and not pardon.
“The consequences of pardoning such wicked people will only instigate unemployed youths, who have tribal scores to settle or who need money to also go into the same heinous crimes of kidnapping, assassination and terrorism, with the mindset that the offences are pardonable at the end of the day.
“Take it or leave it, Nigerians will never have faith in their political leaders, if they continue in this way, because they will see them as collaborators, heartless, wicked and criminals themselves,” he said.
In Abeokuta, a lawyer, Abayomi Oguntade, said that such actions would not go down well with Nigerians, particularly victims of their ruthlessness.
Oguntade said it was necessary that the terrorists went through trials and re-orientation before government could think of granting amnesty.
“These bandits are enemies of the country; so, government should wake up and realise that the lives and property of the citizens should be its priority.
“Government should also realise the fact that the people fighting this war with the bandits, that is, the security agencies, will be demotivated in the fight against the terrorists.
“Government should rethink its decision; a criminal is a criminal and should be treated as such,” he said.
Also, Mr John Gana, a Security expert, said that pardoning bandits or terrorists would amount to the country sitting on a keg of gun powder.
Gana told NAN in Abeokuta that a confirmed criminal, trained to kill and destroy, should be treated like a criminal when arrested.
He said that they should be charged to court, while the court should be allowed to carry out justice.
Gana added that pardoning a criminal of that magnitude would encourage more people to keep committing such crimes.
“Terrorism remains a serious crime, which should be treated according to laws of the land.
“It is a known fact that these people, when released, still go back to the same crime.
“We have seen cases of armed robbers, who after serving their jail terms, still went back to the same crime,” he said.
Gana urged the government to allow terrorists to face the full wrath of the law and stop pardoning them under the guise of “negotiation or repentant terrorists”.
He also called on the government to release names of sponsors of the groups, saying it would go a long way in curbing terrorism in the country.
Commenting, c Mrs Korede Oyeronke, a civil servant, said that the Nigerian government was doing many things wrong, but failing to realise the dangers inherent in them.
Oyeronke explained that pardoning bandits and not mentioning the sponsors of terrorists were not reasonable enough.
She stated that consequences of these two acts could be likened to sitting on a keg of gun powder, saying it could explode anytime.
“Pardoned terrorists will be living amongst us, and will learn our secrets only to strike after full absorption into our system.
“This is a known fact and it is bound to happen, if not checked.
“The sponsors we fail to expose will never repent, because evil thrives in darkness.
“Rather, they will continue to wax stronger by virtue of the underserved honour the government is granting them by not stating their names,” she said.
She added that such pardon would encourage others to take to the crime, because they would expect similar treatment.
“By that, we fuel others to even join, making our woes to continue transitioning from one government to the other.
“Another consequence is that victims will never forgive any government who takes pleasure in pardoning their own tormentors.
“Enmity will linger on as far as those wronged live and realise that their tormentors are not brought to book. The story will pass from one generation to another with the likely consequence of disunity for the nation.
“This government knows the right ways to tackle its problems. If they choose to treat it with pardoning wrong doers, there is no way it will come to a good end,” she said.
In his submission, a student leader, Ahmed Ramon, stated that pardoning bandits would result in collateral damage, which would not do the country any good.
“Continuous pardon of bandits will aid many others, especially youths, to participate in this activity without a second thought.
“People can also decide to take laws into their hands and resort to jungle justice when they realise that government will pardon the criminals,” he said.
Meanwhile, a lawyer, Murtadha Animashaun, in Ilorin said the nation’s Constitution allows recommendation of amnesty for the condemned, explaining that for any condemned offender or accused person, prerogative mercy can be applied.
According to Animashaun, prerogative mercy is the power of a governor or the president to grant either conditional or total pardon to those convicted of crimes, whether they are still serving their punishments or are ex-convicts.
“This is the right and power of a sovereign state president, or other supreme authority, to commute a death sentence, to change the mode of execution, or to pardon an offender,” he said.
The legal practitioner further said that some experts would have met to consider some factors, before recommending their findings to the government.
According to him, based on the recommendations of these experts, their recommendations can be applied, as there is an existing law in Nigeria called State Pardon.
Animashaun, however, said he was sceptical about granting of amnesty to terrorists, bandits and kidnappers.
He said that the public outcry in giving amnesty to some bandits in some states was valid and should be of concern to the country.
“When it comes to politics, these issues should not be dabbled into without due consideration.
“This is not how it is done in advanced countries. They don’t toy with such a serious issue as amnesty for the criminally insane individuals who have killed and maimed many,” he said.
Animashaun said that any Nigerian could go to court and enforce disclosure of individuals accused of sponsoring terrorism in the country.
“The law allows for individuals or groups to mandate the government to release the names of sponsors of terrorism,” he said. (NAN)