The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has said the armed bandits terrorising North-West and some other parts of Northern Nigeria are common criminals.
He said unlike Boko Haram and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who have ideologies and flags, they are simpler criminals.
According to him, bandits are just common criminals who believe in Nigeria’s unity and sovereignty, unlike Boko Haram and IPOB.
The Minister made this known on Monday during an interview on TVC's 'This Morning' programme.
Mohammed, one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ministers, therefore, noted that bandits should not be compared with Boko Haram insurgents and IPOB separatists because they cannot be attached to a religious or an ideological goal.
“The difference between IPOB, Boko Haram on one side and bandits is that, while IPOB and Boko Haram are driven by ideology, a belief that they don’t want to be part Nigeria, bandits have no flags.
“Bandits have no flag. Bandits are simple criminals. There’s no difference between bandits and other criminals other than their ferocity,” the minister said. “Bandits have never said they don’t believe in Nigeria, they are just pure criminals,” he said.
The comments of the Minister came amidst growing calls for Buhari to declare bandits and killer herdsmen as terrorists.
Earlier in October, Mohammed on the Nigerian Television Authority programme, “Good Morning Nigeria,’’ said the accusation the Buhari government was treating bandits with kid gloves was erroneous and misleading.
Speaking on the issue during the programme monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, the minister said the approach of the Nigerian government through the military in treating criminals is not to make a distinction between bandits and terrorists.
“I think we have been dancing around nomenclature, a criminal is a criminal whether it is a bandit or terrorist and the same measure is being meted out to them.
“That is why we find it ridiculous, the accusation that the federal government is softer on bandits than the separatists and other criminals.
“This is a fallacy, a fake news and misinformation all into one, and this is the kind of divisive rhetoric being promoted by some naysayers."
"It is senseless for the military to treat bandits, who are killing soldiers and policemen, with kid-gloves.
"The method of the military in fighting criminality through the land and air would not allow for any distinction between bandits and other criminals," he had said.