Ahmad Gumi, Islamic cleric, has said bandits wreaking havoc in Nigeria’s Northwest and North Central regions cannot be compared with separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), because they only kidnap school children for money,
The cleric, who is known to have access to bandits, said herdsmen’s crimes weigh significantly lesser than those of IPOB who he said attack security agencies.
Speaking on Arise TV on Wednesday, Gumi called for “fairness” in the comparison between the two groups, saying one “is killing our gallant men” while the other is “kidnapping children to make money and not to kill them”.
“IPOB is attacking the police, the army, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other government institutions; killing our men in service,” he said.
”And the herdsmen are kidnapping children not to kill them but to get money; so how can you compare somebody who is killing our gallant men directly to somebody who is kidnapping children to make money and not to kill them. Look, we need some fairness in what we are doing.”
Bandits have kidnapped about 100 school children across the north in the last few months, some of whom have been gruesomely murdered.
They have also kidnapped hundreds of local people, and made life generally unsafe in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kabbi, Niger, and a number of other states.
This is even as sister herdsmen are carrying out criminal activities in the South and other parts of the country.
Gumi went on to propose that the bandits be granted amnesty like Niger Delta militants, noting that they are controlling large chunks of land and thus, hampering Nigeria’s economy.
He said the bandits are willing to give up there arms if their demands are met.
He noted that herdsmen across regions of the country are also lynched, killed and their children are sometimes decapitated
According to him, there is a tribal war going on in Nigeria and the Muhammadu Buhari-led government has taken sides.
Gumi said the Nigerian government is not neutral in the “tribal war” going on, adding that it spells danger for the country.
According to him, “This is a tribal war going on and the government taking one side. What I see now is a tribal war. Fulani fighting Yoruba in the South West, Fulani fighting Igbo in the South East, and Fulani fighting in other areas in the North.
“What you are calling banditry when you cross to the other side, you discover Nigeria is fighting a tribal war and government is supposed to be the mediator. Government is supposed to be neutral; it’s not supposed to take sides.
“But the moment government takes side it becomes part of the conflict. And this is what I saw in Zamfara state, in Niger state, and other states.
“When you say these bandits are committing atrocities, yes, agreed, they are committing crimes – they are killing people, they are kidnapping, they are raping, they are doing all sorts of atrocities. But, have you for once gone to their sides and seen all sorts of atrocities that are also committed against them?
“So that rather than wielding the big stick and relying on military action, the Federal Government will do well in restoring normalcy by engaging the bandits in negotiation and using willing volunteers among them to win the battle.”
He urged the government to appeal to moderate bandits and use them against the deadlier ones.
“Boko Haram leader, Shekau had been causing havoc in the country for more than 10 years and the military could not kill him but ISWAP, a splinter group from Boko Haram was able to eliminate him. So is the case with the herdsmen. We can use them to suppress the criminals among them.
“As we all know, at a point, the Boko Haram were ready for dialogue and at a point, they even recommended the current president (Buhari) to negotiate for them. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo even tried to broker peace with Boko Haram,” he said.
The cleric also urged the President to discuss with bandits and agitators for secession in the country like the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), saying, “Government doesn’t want to recognise that there are agitations. Even with the IPOB. If I were the government, I will go and sit down with them and ask what the problem is.
“Why are you carrying weapons against your own country? So is the case with the herdsmen. They are ready to negotiate.”