Negotiating With Bandits Is Corruption

By Casmir Igbokwe

The Federal Government’s strenuous efforts to deny the poor marks Transparency International (TI) awarded Nigeria on corruption is laughable. TI, in its latest Corruption Perception Index, said corruption was worse in Nigeria. Nigeria scored 26 out of 100 points to rank 146 out of 180 countries, two places down compared to 2018 result. The global body provided evidence to support its report. They include, among others, selective implementation
of Nigeria’s rule of law, institutionalised corruption in political parties, nomination and promotion of senior government officials based on ethnic, religious and nepotistic criteria, questionable and dubious management of confiscated assets, illegal checkpoints, secretive defence procurement, and corrupt usage of security votes.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the TI report was not
a true reflection of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda. Mohammed said the government had placed more emphasis on corruption prevention measures and building of integrity systems, including investigation and prosecution of high-profile corruption cases. While Mohammed & Co. try to deny the obvious, corruption stares you in the face everywhere you go in Nigeria.

The latest act of corruption is trying to decorate banditry with gold ornaments. Some North-West governors believe that we have to negotiate with bandits for us to have peace in the country. Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, said negotiating with bandits had significantly reduced the frequency of their bloody attacks in his state. According to him, rural markets are picking up and they had rescued dozens of kidnapped victims without firing a shot. He forgot that engaging in such negotiations would fuel more banditry. He forgot that there was a law against illegal possession of firearms.

Islamic scholar, Sheikh Mahmoud Gumi, has given his support. He visited some bandits in Zamfara forests, had good picture pose with them and then came out to inform us that negotiating with bandits was the best thing that would happen to this country. He said they were ready to lay down their arms, if they were provided with schools, hospitals and other amenities. He berated his critics and said similar negotiations were employed with Niger Delta militants to restore peace in that region. He wants us to act fast because the bandits plan to acquire anti-aircraft missiles with proceeds of their crime. I am beginning to wonder if we still have government in this country.

Look at how the Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, tried to justify the use of AK-47 rifles by Fulani herdsmen. According to him, they always come under attack
by cattle rustlers in the forests. Hence,
they move about with AK-47 to defend themselves. I wonder why farmers have not been allowed to carry their own AK-47 to defend themselves against the herdsmen who often invade their farms and kill some of them in most cases. I also wonder why other Nigerians have not been allowed to carry their own weapons to defend themselves against incessant attacks by the same herdsmen and other bandits on many of our expressways. Is this not selective application of the rule of law? Is it not corruption?

For most Nigerians, each time their
loved ones embark on a trip, they enter into serious anxiety mode. They begin to pray not just against accident but also against bandits, kidnappers and all manner of criminals on the road. And if the travellers come back safely, there is this palpable relief and exclamations of ‘Thank God o!’

You don’t blame them, because the wound banditry has inflicted in their psyche is deep. Just imagine the recent incident where an America returnee was abducted in Edo State. He was already getting set to travel back after the Yuletide before the tragic incident. He did not survive it. There are many other incidents.

The kidnappers that did this type of thing are the type they want us to negotiate with. It is understandable if the criminals are agitating for resource control as the Niger Delta militants did some years back. We can understand if they are militants asking for equity, justice and fairness in the scheme of things in the country. But they are not. These are pure criminals whose main job is to rob, kidnap and kill innocent members of the society.

It rankles when supposedly respected individuals make such suggestions as negotiating with criminals. The present government had promised to tackle corruption, insecurity and fix the economy. Is negotiating with bandits the best way
to tackle insecurity? Pray, what are the grievances of the bandits that warrant negotiating with them? If we have to negotiate with them, then we must apologise to Lawrence Anini and many other armed robbers who were killed by firing squad by the Nigerian state in the past. We must also apologise to Transparency International for undue attacks by government agents whenever it releases its report. The group did not ask Nigerian youths to embark on #EndSARS protests last year. It did not ask the defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to terrorise
and extort money from people on the road. It did not ask Customs officers to stand
on the road and collect bribes from some motorists on the highways. It did not ask the Immigration to demand gratification from travellers in our international airports. It did not prompt the civil servant who wants his palms greased before he could push files to where they are supposed to be. It did not ask contractors to inflate contract sums or to stop work even when they have collected mobilisation fees. It did not urge the powers that be to be nepotistic in their key appointments in the country. It did not ask us to be non-transparent in the distribution of the COVID-19 palliatives.

Any visitor to Nigeria sees these acts of corruption in the country. He goes home with the impression that we are too corrupt. Government has made some noises about convicting some people on corruption charges and recovering some money. It has introduced the bank verification number (BVN) and some other measures to curb corruption. These are good efforts. But
they are a drop in the ocean of corruption perception and reality in Nigeria.

What is required of us is sincerity of purpose. Nigeria is not the only country Amnesty International focuses its reports on. It’s a global thing. There is no reason why it should hate Nigeria specially. These people have agents in Nigeria. They move round and see what is happening. So, we should stop whining and face reality. We have laws guiding us in Nigeria. The law did not say that we should dine and snap pictures with armed robbers. It stipulates maximum punishment for people who do so. Our laws frown seriously on kidnapping and similar crimes. It is corruption to hound traffic offenders and then grant amnesty to terrorists and bandits. When we do that, we are invariably telling the world that it pays to commit crimes in Nigeria. We should not then turn around to blame the international community when they brand us as a corrupt nation.

Re: ‘Ambassador’ Buratai And Ill-Wind Circling Nigeria

Ours is not a listening or democratic government. The President’s belief and body language usually give the impression of a man whose position, even if it is not working as it is, must be swallowed hook, line and sinker by the helpless majority of the governed. It is a trite fact that institutions don’t work in Nigeria: it’s the rulers and strong men that matter. Haven’t we seen and admired the way that very unfortunate White House accident (Donald Trump) has been tamed by the American institutions? Let’s pray and yearn for the day an Eighth Wonder of that nature would take over Nigeria from our overbearing strongmen.
– Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, +2348037952470

Dear Casmir, President Buhari’s fatuous appointment of retired or resigned Service Chiefs as “Ambassadors” goes to confirm the story that their retirement was with a bargain, beneficial also to the President, who appeared to have been held in a spell, and at gunpoint, all along. With regard to their eventual trial for war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC), their henchman, Gen. Tukur Buratai, should not rejoice that his new position will give him
immunity forever against prosecution. The many crimes he and his cohorts may have committed are not time or statute-barred. They cannot remain ambassadors forever, for life. Examples of their perfidious acts
of impunity, and schemes to evade justice may be likened to those of Charles Taylor of Liberia, and other international criminals, who eventually kissed the dust of shame
at justice. We are all watching and waiting for blindfolded justice to catch up with offenders who believed they were tin gods. We will know who will cry last.
– Dr. Chuka Nwosu, Port Harcourt, 08085914645

Casmir, there is a saying that ‘like dissolves like’. A President that vehemently disobeys the Constitution he swore to uphold, a President that allows his ethnic group to inflict insult and frustrations on the people he swore to protect, a President that appointed the dead to occupy positions that are reserved for the living, a President whose body language indicates anti-democracy would never see any wrong in failure of his subordinates. Unfortunately, such hypocrisies only deepen the ugly quality of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
– Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike,
+234 803 885 4922

Dear Casy, the non-career appointment of the ex-military chiefs can be regarded as unholy reward for unholy loyalty to their principal at the expense of hapless Nigerians whose lives have been at the mercy of Miyetti Allah-backed Fulani marauding herders. As they received valedictory ‘Nagode’ handshake from their Oga, posterity and the almighty God, who judges appropriately, are waiting for them at the gate for appropriate valedictory handshake.
– Steve Okoye, Awka, 08036630731

Dear Casmir, we cannot build a great nation by condoning and recycling evil. A competent legal system punishes wrongs and rewards good deeds. I would have preferred the President to allow investigation into the tenure of these past service chiefs, after which they could be reassigned, if not found liable.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Dear Casy, it has been like that since the inception of this APC government under Buhari’s watch. The Maina case
that Jonathan pursued with EFCC and he disappeared, later in 2016 Oga Aso Rock recalled him and made him a director. The Babachir Lawal, Magu, the Ikoyigate, the gorillas, chimpanzees, pythons and the
rest of APC fraudsters both in and outside this government that have been shielded from criminal prosecution by the Aso
Rock landlord. The ex-service chiefs’ case has become part of the corruption and financial sleaze game, which the present government has perpetrated since 2015. What a government! What a shame! What a way to fight corruption! They haven’t come to develop Nigeria, they have come for Fulanization and it has backfired. Nigerians are no fools. Let everybody defend his ancestral land from Fulani terrorists.
– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

I don’t see the reason why President Buhari should nominate our retired army chiefs for ambassadorial positions. It is very unfortunate and sad. The President should allow them to go and rest, after all their service to the nation is nothing to write home about.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia,+2348062887535

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, February 15, 2021

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