Some Nigerians have expressed concern and dissatisfaction over the Federal Government’s repeated offer of amnesty to some arrested bandits and terrorists, claiming that this practise actually makes the insecurity challenges in the nation worse.
The people, in a survey by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the South South region, are of the opinion that pardoning bandits/terrorists questions the nation’s sincerity in fighting the heinous crimes.
They said that bandits were involved in kidnapping, maiming and killing of innocent citizens and should be prosecuted and punished after arrest, and not pardoned.
They claimed that forgiving the criminals would only promote future crimes, increase the number of Nigerians killed, scare off investors, and cause the country’s economy to crash.
According to the responses, there would be far-reaching effects on the nation’s and the people’s general well-being if they were to be pardoned.
According to Mr Eyobio Okon, a lawyer in Uyo, apprehended bandits and terrorists have to be severely punished so that those who are committing the same crime will be deterred from doing so.
He said that in “sane” societies, when someone was arrested by security agencies, the suspect would pass through investigation and prosecution and get convicted.
However, the attorney pointed out that there were some crimes for which the government had the constitutional right to pardon the offender, but in the case of banditry and terrorism, morality should be taken into account.
He contends that such crimes are punishable by death and that after killing so many other innocent people, the culprits shouldn’t be granted a pardon.
The promise that such pardoned individuals would not commit the crime again raised doubts in his mind.
However, Okon argued that the federal government has the authority to reveal or not the names of those funding terrorism and banditry in Nigeria.
Timothy Idege, a lawyer in Calabar, voiced concern that even after so many people have died at the hands of terrorists or bandits, the government still sees fit to pardon them when arrested.
He claims that the policy gives people the sense that being polite, responsible, and patriotic is pointless.
Idege pointed out that terrorists in the Niger Delta, who he said fought for the development of their area, did not go around killing innocent people.
He said, “They merely said that the resources you extract from our land should be utilised to develop our land.”
The attorney maintained that pardoning terrorists and bandits would have far-reaching effects and would amount to encourage the commission of evil.
He also predicted that the country’s economy would continue to decline because no one would want to invest in a chaotic environment and because growth would be constrained.
In order to deter others from planning to engage in terrorism or banditry, Mr. Henry Ekini, National Legal Adviser for the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) in Rivers, suggested the harshest penalties for individuals who had engaged in either.
He said: “As much as the law permits certain authority to grant pardon, crimes that are destructive shouldn’t be considered for clemency.
“Terrorists and bandits should not be considered for state pardon because their criminal activities run contrary to public policy and interest.
“If public interest is directed at eliminating terrorism, banditry and even corruption, then it would be contradictory that government is fighting terrorists and on the other hand granting them amnesty.’’
Ekini however said despite the fact that it would be wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari to give amnesty to terrorists, the law does not restrict him to do so.
“This is so, because by law there is no clear classification of what offences that pardon is to be granted.
“But for public confidence and interest, there shouldn’t be consideration for terrorists and bandits; they should be subjected to maximum punishment,” he added.
He also said it would be wrong for the federal government to reveal the names of perceived sponsors of terrorism without clear evidence.
“Where this can be justified is if investigation provides credible evidence by security agencies linking a person to sponsoring terrorism, with the involvement of the court,” he said.