The bandits, terrorists, and herdsmen have upgraded. They are no longer interested solely in cash payments for ransom. They have added basic items such as bags of rice, tin tomatoes, beans, soaps, stock fish, sugar, beverages etcetera, to their list of demands. And this is on top of their demands for brand new motorcycles and Android phones. These last two are very important: They need the motorbikes for quick movements and getaways to, and from the scenes of their crimes, and the Androids, to take sharp and clear pictures of their fearful and forlorn looking prisoners for onward transmission to government officials and their parents. And if they delay settlement, they will just shoot some of the students and send their dead bodies to their people. You see why the phones are important?

It stopped being a rumour a long time ago, that bandits and herdsmen and terrorists who had killed in their thousands, raped in their hundreds, and burnt houses in their dozens were being begged by governments, states and federal, to be merciful. Begging was a new tactic after the old strategy of threatening them failed. In fact, the more they were threatened by the Nigerian military, the more dastardly, daring, and spectacular their wicked exploits became. They struck in a terrible manner when the president said they had been technically defeated. And they responded with more viciousness when the information minister claimed that they had been decimated.

So out of fear for the killers, they began to beg them. The president pleaded with them. The governors cajoled and pampered them. They even told one of the governors in the north to dismantle the vigilantes he had set up in the state because the vigilantes were disturbing them. Quick, quick! the governor complied, and the vigilantes were gone. Then the father of another notorious bandit or terrorist killer who had killed in the hundreds was arrested. All hell broke loose. Turji, the bandit, issued a warning and ultimatum to the government that his father must be released. When the government foot dragged over the matter, Turji simply rounded up villagers and travellers and kept them in detention. Quick, quick, the government sprang into action and released Turji's father. 

And the killings and sexual violations of our women continued. Kidnappings of school children increased and farmers were raided in their farmlands and killed. 

Once more, the governments, both federal and affected states put on their thinking caps and came up with a brilliant idea: why not pay the killers money, plenty of money? So they began to pump and spoil the bandits with money. The federal government paid millions of dollars to the kidnapers of the Dapchi girls and Lai Muhammed, the information minister told a lie—that money was not paid—meaning that the terrorists had suddenly become father Christmases and kind-hearted. 

Unfortunately, it appeared that the United Nations was not carried along on the need for secrecy over the payment as they informed the Nigerian people that millions in dollars were paid to the terrorist kidnappers by their government. But do not forget that long before that, Governor El Rufai of Kaduna state had set the ball rolling as they went in search of killer herdsmen, wailing and weeping and gnashing their teeth in sorrow before them, and begging them with plenty of money to stop killing Nigerians. 

Since that time, the meal tickets of these wicked vandals were guaranteed. They get paid for committing great evil, and they then  go off into the sun to enjoy their loot. They do not need the services of banks to save their monies. Whenever they are in need of money, they simply go to schools and take more investments in the form of more kidnapped students. 

Now our government has come out with yet another brilliant idea to permanently solve the problem of insecurity in the north. It is actually simple and it is surprising that nobody has thought about it. The solution is to forgive the killers, the pillagers, rapists, and arsonists. All they need to do is come out of the bushes, carry a placard with the inscription: “We are sorry Nigerians for killing your fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and burning your houses. Forgive us!”  





That's all it takes. Then the government will now look for jobs and accommodations for them, while the victims of their atrocities remain in IDP camps wondering how evil can be rewarded in such a manner. 

And when Nigerians shouted at the injustice of it all, our minister of information, Lai Mohammed proclaimed that it is all well and good, because Nigeria's open forgiveness for killers is in line with international best practice. Which international best practice? Which international treaty, protocol, convention or agreement is he talking about? Where are the examples of such international standards? Of course such an assertion is obviously from the figment of the minister's imagination. 

The United Nations Criminal Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, The Nuremberg Military Tribunals, The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, The International Criminal Court in Rwanda, The Special Court for Sierra Leone, are all examples of special courts set up to try gross violations of human rights in those countries where the sitting government lacks the ability to prosecute offenders. This is the international standard for such situations. 

And surely, Lai Mohammed cannot be talking about the comprehensive peace agreement supervised by the United Nations that led to the end of the war in Sri Lanka and Cambodia. 

Besides, many none-state actors from across Africa, namely Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo who headed terror networks in the name of liberation struggles were not forgiven by their governments the way and manner the Nigerian government has. The prosecution of fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army, the LRA in Uganda by the International Criminal Court is well known. Joseph Kony, leader of LRA, Raska Lukwiya, Okot Odhiambo, Dominic Ongwen, etc, were all arrested and prosecuted for various degrees of war crimes. Part of the charges against Kone was: Charges - 12 counts of crimes against humanity; murder, enslavement, sexual enslavement, rape, inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injury and suffering; and 21 counts of war crimes: murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape, and forced enlistment of children. 

These are some of the same atrocities the Nigerian bandits, herdsmen and terrorists are committing. Uganda and Congo cooperated with the ICC to bring their own terrorists and bandits to book. In Nigeria the government is blessing them with meaningless forgiveness. And the killings continue. 

No, Mr. Minister, sir! Forgiving and not prosecuting killers, terrorists, and rapists is not best international practice!

·      Chude is a novelist, and a public policy analyst.

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