By ABDULLAHI SALIHU
KADUNA- Some residents of Northwest have rejected the idea of granting amnesty to bandits and terrorist, saying such action was akin to ‘robbing Peter to favour Paul’.
In their responses to a survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), most of them said such ‘gesture’ to bandits, most of whom had killed innocent souls, was a grave injustice to their victims.
Besides, they argued that there was no guarantee that the beneficiaries of the amnesty, most of whom are hardened criminals, would repent genuinely and shun their evil acts.
The respondents cited some cases in Northwest states where hardened ‘repentant’ criminals returned to the jungle after their signing an agreement with the authorities.
Other respondents also argued that pardoning the criminals was a violation of the law,which had spelt out clearly that heinous acts must be punished to ensure that justice was done to the victims of such crime.
However, few respondents were of the opinion that granting amnesty had its advantage as it would give bandits willing to repent ‘genuinely’ , a ‘soft-landing’ option.
According to those arguing along that line, some of the criminals may be ‘victims of circumstances’ and therefore need opportunity to turn a new leaf and become good citizens.
In Sokoto, Malam Abdullahi El-Kurebe, a resident, said there was no justification pardoning bandits and terrorists.
“There is no justification in pardoning someone who has taken life and destroyed properties of innocent citizens.
“Pardoning such people is like giving license to others to do same,” he said.
Another resident, Emanuel Joseph, said pardoning terrorists is creating room for more criminals.
“Government should treat criminals as criminals, and always remember the trauma and pain those criminals inflicted on others,” he said.
Also in Kano, Prof. Sani Malumfashi, of the Department of Sociology, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), cautioned governments against pardoning bandits and terrorists, saying such move would only increase criminal acts in the country.
He advised the Federal Government to hasten the release of names of sponsors of bandits and make them face full wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to others.
“It is going to be counter-productive to pardon bandits and fail to expose their sponsors.
“That never happened anywhere in the world, and if it happens here, it means there will be more banditry and allied criminalities.
“Pardoning is acceptable only when the perpetrators face their victims and beg for forgiveness in the presence of government officials and general public, and take an oath that they will never repeat the crime,” he said
On his part, Musa Nafiu, a security expert in Kano, said that before the government pardons bandits, they must be disarmed or else, the exercise would be fruitless.
He explained that in the past, some state governments in the Northwest had initiated such exercise but in the end, nothing was achieved because the bandits refused to lay down their arms, or brought very little weapons, and later continued their acts.
“If at all governments will pardon these people, they should first of all be disarmed so that they will not go back to their heinous activities,” he said.
In his contribution, a Lawyer in Kano, Barr. Abdulrazak Ahmad, called on government to punish the criminals and publish names of their sponsors, warning that failure to do so would hurt the society and encourage criminal acts.
Also speaking, another lawyer in Kano, Moses Edema, said pardoning bandits and terrorists is unthinkable and did not appeal to common sense of justice and fairness.
“They kill and kidnap human beings; they cannot change because it is already in their blood; by the time you pardon them, they will come back to the society and start recruiting youth into that criminal act.
“Bandits and terrorists always look at their acts as a way of making quick money,” he said.
Other residents of Kano who spoke to NAN were of the opinion that pardoning terrorists would not only dampen the morale of security agents, but also discourage people from providing information to security agents for fear of repraisal.
Also in Kaduna, concerned Nigerians said pardoning terrorists would amount to injustice to their victims and a clear path to breeding more unscrupulous elements.
Mr. Musa Dona, a Secondary School teacher, said pardoning terrorists, be they bandits or those who committed felony, amounted to grave injustice to victims of the nefarious act.
Dona added that the consequences of pardoning terrorists would be that families would start taking laws into their hands.
“The consequences of pardoning terrorists is breeding more terrorists and bandits”, he warned.
On his part, an Airforce Officer who craved anonymity, said security information are quite sensitive and not all were meant for public consumption.
He said that there was no harm in pardoning bandits or terrorists, provided they had been properly disarmed and rehabilitated to enable them engage in skills or jobs that would never make them return back to their former atrocities.
He however stressed that the pardoned terrorists or bandits psyche needed to be examined and treated psychologically.
“They should be made to serve their immediate communities or the country in a way that will make the masses know that they are remorseful of their evil works, and have repented from their evil acts”, he advised.
Also, Alhassan Aliyu, a Lawyer, stated that pardoning bandits and terrorist had both positive and negative effects, noting that some may sincerely repent, while others may not.
He said pardoning genuinely repentant bandits would help in reducing banditry and terrorism, but added that the negative effects were that more youth may key into banditry and terrorism because no one had been punished.
Also, a Sociologist, Mr. Zailani Musa, said some of the consequences of pardoning bandits were that majority of the perpetrators are energetic youths who might apply other tactics in engaging in the crime.
Musa added that pardoning terrorists would make people think that they could get away with crime, and therefore would not hesitate to unleash terror on innocent people.
In Katsina, a pressure group, Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), said granting amnesty to bandits was counter-productive and did not yield any dividend in the past.
The CNG’s President, Jamilu Charanchi, cited an example with such effort by Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State in the past, adding that the situation worsened thereafter.
“The dialogue did not yield any result; these bandits still terrorise and kill our people, rape our women, leaving so many people as orphans”, he said.
However, the Village Head of Kungurki in Zamfara, Malam Garba Yusuf, expressed divergent view, saying his people were reaping the fruit of amnesty granted to bandits.
According to him, pardoning the bandits has restored the much needed peace, going by the experience of his community.
Yusuf said before now, some communities were under frequent attacks, but with reconciliation engaged in with Bello Turji, leader of a terrorist group, the entire Zamfara North Senatorial District started enjoying relative peace.
Also, the District Head of Gurbin Bore, Alhaji Muhammad Barau said if pardoning the bandits could help, it had become a necessity as all measures adopted by security operatives had not restored peace to the state.
He however said that such measure must be arranged in a manner that the bandits would not renege on whatever agreement was reached.
An analyst, Abba Abubakar, however disagreed with this option, adding that pardoning bandits was a wrong step in tackling the challenge of insecurity in the state.
” What is most dangerous in the whole matter is that the bandits may assume superiority advantage and further exercise authority over innocent communities”, he warned.
He said there was need for Federal Government to disclose the names of sponsors of banditry and terrorism if a solution to the problem was to be found.
In Kebbi, respondents expressed divergent views over whether or not bandits should be pardoned.
Some said such amnesty may motivate other terrorists to surrender, while others said granting them amnesty amounted to depriving their victims of the much-needed justice, especially as lives had been lost.
A Psychologist working at the Federal College of Education (FCE), Gidan Madi, Malam Sama’ila Muhammad, said amnesty might motivate other terrorists to surrender and lay down their aims.
“This is a move that will reduce the rate of insecurity in the nation, and will go a long way in removing anxiety from the minds of the people.
“Pardoned criminals may serve as a source of intelligence for the security agents, but the danger is if the remorse shown by the terrorists is not genuine, the nation would bear the consequences.
“The scenario will be like locking the door of the house with a thief hiding inside, disguised as a friend.
“Other foreseen challenges are fear of relapse due to possible social rejection of the pardoned bandits by the people, and breach of amnesty conditions on the part of government,” he said.
On his part, Malam Shuaibu Aliero, a Lawyer in the state, said there should be no room for pardoning terrorists, rather, they should face justice.
“ As a lawyer with the knowledge of the constitutional law, I will not support the pardoning of terrorists; names of their sponsors should also be disclosed.
“Terrorism and banditry are serious crimes which should not be treated outside the fence of the law; there ought to be no room for arbitrariness,” he insisted.
Malam Musa Yusha’u, a resident of Birnin Kebbi, said that no citizen would subscribe to the idea of pardoning terrorists after causing destruction to lives and property, just as he cited an example.
“Just imagine someone came to your peaceful house, killed your mother and father and abducted your wife and two daughters; held them for ransom in the forest for many months and repeatedly raped them, releasing them only after payment of millions of Naira as ransom.
“You were waiting to hear the story of justice from your government as you are not allowed to take laws into your hands, then, just of a sudden, you hear that they will be pardoned!
“I swear to God, should I see anyone of them moving freely in our environment, I will take the law into my hands for justice and vengeance,” he fumed . (NAN).