NORTHEAST GOVERNORS DEMAND CEDING OF POWER TO PROSECUTE INSURGENTS IN ORDER TO COMBAT TERRORISM

Kingsley Nwezeh, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri and Daji Sani in Yola

Northern leaders yesterday upped the ante in their quest for an end to the insecurity that has become rife in the region with a call for more measures to combat terrorism, banditry and kidnapping.

The issue of security also dominated talks between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Algerian President’s Special Envoy, Mr Sabri Boukadoum, yesterday in Abuja, with the president saying that there can’t be development in an insecure country.

At a meeting in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, governors in the North-east demanded that the federal government should cede the power to prosecute suspected insurgents to states as the present system of relying on the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, for the prosecution of those arrested for terrorism is cumbersome.

On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, expressed concern over the spate of insecurity in the North, saying that it has made the region the most unsafe place to live in Nigeria.

However, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) has assured the region that banditry and insurgency will soon end as defence authorities have stepped up both kinetic and non-kinetic operations to combat crimes.

But despite the repeated claims by the federal government that terrorists have been degraded, a report by the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) has again ranked Nigeria the third most terrorised country in the world, with the number of deaths attributed to Boko Haram increasing by 25 per cent from 2018 to 2019.

The Chairman, North-east Governors’ Forum and Governor of Borno State, Prof. Babagana Zulum, at the opening of the meeting of the governors, canvassed an amendment to the law that invested sole authority on the AGF to prosecute terrorists.

He said: “As we deliberate on the scourge of terrorism and terror groups within the North-east, we need to fashion out ways of facilitating the prosecution of those charged with terrorism activities.

“At the moment, the process is a bit cumbersome as all suspects charged with terrorism and terrorist-related offences

have to be transferred to Abuja for prosecution, as only the Attorney-General of the Federation has the statutory powers to prosecute terrorists; according to the provisions of the anti-terrorism law.

“We need to obtain prosecutorial fiat from the attorney-general to enable us to prosecute those charged with terrorism in our respective states, instead of referring them to Abuja.”

He added that governors in the region need to take far-reaching measures to ensure that the incidence of house kidnapping as reported in some states, does not extend to the North-east.

“As a result, inter-state road travel is becoming a virtual impossibility for the people, because of the palpable danger of abduction along most of the major roads. It is, therefore, a matter of strategic imperative for us to give considerable

attention to how to deal effectively with the problem and give our people a sense of sufficient and sustainable protection whenever they travel out.

“Unless we regard it as a matter of urgent priority, the phenomenon may escalate, as it is currently happening in some states, where there are persistent reports of innocent people being daringly kidnapped even within the safety of their homes. This is already happening in states like Kano and Kaduna. I hope the Committee of Attorneys-General, which has been given a special assignment on the issue, would come up with concrete and appropriate legal framework to deal with the phenomenon,” he added.

Zulum stated that the most alarming and worrisome challenge confronting the North-east remains the daunting issue of insecurity with the prolonged Boko Haram crisis.

“There is, however, absolute need for us to seriously look into how to stimulate and renew the confidence and trust of our people in the ability of our security forces to contain the palpable threats, being posed by the continued presence of the insurgents. This is to ensure that our people are adequately protected and sufficiently guaranteed to open up and go about their normal socio-economic and business activities, without fear of being attacked or kidnapped or even forcefully being recruited by the insurgents.

“Another frightfully shocking social problem, which, unfortunately, is becoming widespread in our sub-region, is that of rape. We must find a way of protecting our women and girls from the intolerable and aggressive demeanour of rapists.

“While it is essential to embark on a massive enlightenment campaign on the dangers associated with rape, there is need also to domesticate the federal law against rape, in our respective states, based on the peculiarities and special circumstances of each state,” he said.

Zulum also expressed concern about emergent criminal activities like banditry and kidnapping in the North-east and called for concerted efforts to check the criminality.

He said: “Another issue, which unquestionably needs to be urgently tackled is the almajiri phenomenon and its associated challenges, which are increasingly having a telling effect on the overall socio-economic development of the society.

“Unless the almajiri system is completely overhauled along the lines of its original objectives, we may end up having to deal with an army of perhaps untrainable youths who inadvertently become vulnerable to the influence of social misfits like kidnappers and bandits and even terror groups like the Boko Haram insurgents

“It is a problem common to all of us and it needs both multi-dimensional and individually selective approach, based on the general and specific peculiarities of the system in each state.”

Besides Zulum, other governors at the meeting were governors of Adamawa State, Hon. Ahmed Fintiri; Bauchi State, Senator Bala Mohammed and Gombe State, Alhaji Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya. Yobe and Taraba States were represented by the deputy governors, Alhaji Idi Barde Gubana and Mr. Haruna Manu, respectively.

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