Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric, examined the escalating number of kidnappings in the North-west yesterday and decided that what is commonly referred to as banditry is actually a tribal battle between Fulani herders and the affected people.
Gumi said on The Morning Show, the flagship breakfast show on ARISE NEWS CHANNEL, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, that the federal government’s preference for the military option to subdue the outlaws will not solve the problem, and that the only way forward is for the bandits to engage in dialogue.
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The cleric accused some elements of the Nigerian military of coluding with the marauding bandits, who have been accused of crimes such as murder, rape, and kidnapping of schoolchildren, and argued that the war would not end unless the federal government correctly identified the crisis as a tribal war and played the role of arbiter rather than taking sides.
He claimed that the Fulani herders who have turned to banditry and kidnapping are on a revenge and survival mission, explaining that they are reacting to decades of vigilante injustice and government neglect.
The Islamic Cleric demanded that the federal government grant them amnesty and hold talks with them about how they would reintegrate into society.
Gumi believes the government should create hospitals and schools for them, and that providing them with jobs, such as forest and school guards, is one method to deter them from becoming criminals.
According to him, the bandits will be forced to lay down their weapons and embrace peace as a result of the engagement.
He asked the government to remain neutral in matters affecting Fulani herdsmen and warned against what he called the military’s and vigilante groups’ extrajudicial killings of Fulani herdsmen.
He cautioned that extrajudicial killings would reinforce the bandits’ resolve to continue their nefarious activities.
“If the federal government allows me a free hand to deal with the bandits, I will be able to make them abandon their firearms and reintegrate them back into society,” he stated. The bulk of them want to leave the forests and return to society, but they want the federal government to work with them, releasing every bandit held by the government and allowing them to free all of their hostages held in various forests.
“The truth is that the bandits do not murder their prisoners. They just kidnap people to make money, which is all the more reason why the military should stop executing the bandits and instead engage them in a friendly dialogue.”
Gumi slammed the government’s efforts to deal with the bandits, claiming that the government is merely fighting a tribal conflict when it should be mediating and neutral in the situation.
The only option, he argued, was for the government to listen to the bandits’ cries and resolve the issues once and for all.
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He noted that while the bandits were committing crimes by kidnapping and killing innocent people, the vigilante killing of herdsmen and their cattle, as well as the military killing of bandits, were all acts of injustice against the bandits that needed to stop in order for the country to be at peace.
“We need a nation of transparency and peace,” he said. “While I strongly condemn the killing of Nigerians by bandits and the abduction of students, the truth is that those who kidnap and abduct students are also youths who chose to take up firearms because the government ignored them and refused to listen to them.” They are Better Than IPOB.
When informed that Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Masari, had previously granted amnesty to several bandits in the state, Gumi remarked that this was always the case when politicians awarded political amnesty.
He believes that a meaningful and honest amnesty should include a comprehensive package that addresses the bandits’ needs.
He stated that the package must include the construction of schools, hospitals, and jobs, and that anything less would not be considered amnesty.
Gumi believes that if Niger Delta militants were granted amnesty during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, and some of the boys were assigned to guard oil pipelines, the Buhari administration should grant amnesty to bandits in the north and employ them to guard schools and forest reserves.
Gumi cited the example of Zamfara State, which is experiencing relative peace as a result of the state’s meaningful engagement with the bandits.
He said, however, that the government of Zamfara State was overloaded in its efforts to preserve peace and security in the state.
He called on the federal government to assist the state in maintaining a high level of security.
According to him, certain Fulani organisations approached him and said they were willing to collaborate with the military to put an end to banditry.
He stated the group had over 300 members and over seven commanders, and that they were prepared to work with the government and the military to protect their areas.
“They are Fulani herders who are willing to lay down their arms and embrace peace. This is the type of bandit with whom the government should deal,” Gumi remarked.
Gumi, a former captain in the Nigerian Army, stated that his allegiance remained with the federal government, but that he would not support criminality or take sides with criminals seeking to undermine Nigeria’s unity.
“Inasmuch as my allegiance is with the federal government, I also completely condemn the government’s neglect of the bandits, leaving them uneducated and allowing them to fend for themselves, buying weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves and engaging in the business of kidnapping to make money to survive,” Gumi said.
He urged the federal government to revamp the country’s security system and close any vulnerabilities that allow guns to enter Nigeria.
He also criticised Nigeria’s security architecture, accusing security agents of collaborating with robbers to bring guns into the country.
Army denies collusion with gunmen, according to a cleric who criticises the military.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army Headquarters has dismissed Gumi’s claim that some military personnel were working with bandits as a ploy to discredit the military.
Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations, stated yesterday that the army remained a symbol of national unity that carried out its constitutional responsibilities in accordance with international best practises.
While the military remained open to constructive criticism, it should not be viewed as a place for insulting statements intended to encourage criminals, according to the report.
The army urged opinion leaders to show patriotism by helping to establish peace rather than being agents of destabilisation, which would exacerbate the country’s existing security issues.
“The Nigerian Army has just been alerted to a submission made by Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, when he appeared on ARISE TV Morning Show, alleging that the Nigerian military is colluding with marauding bandits who have been responsible for various crimes and atrocities against Nigerians and the Nigerian state.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to state that, contrary to Sheik Gumi’s claims, it remains a genuine symbol of national unity that has carried out its constitutional responsibilities in the most professional manner in accordance with global best practises of adherence to rules of engagement and protection of citizens’ fundamental human rights,” it continued.
200 citizens of Zamfara State have been slain in violent attacks despite the no-fly-zone’ declared over the state’s airspace..”
On March 2, 2021, the President’s no-fly order was delivered by the National Security Adviser, BabaganaMonguno, in an effort to stop banditry in the gold-rich state.
Buhari proclaimed Zamfara State a no-fly zone and banned all mining activity in order to put an end to the banditry that has ravaged the state and other portions of the North-West and North-Central states.
A no-fly zone is an area set aside by a military power where certain aircraft are prohibited from flying.
Officials from the Presidency told newsmen that Buhari was shocked to learn that some of the foreign illegal miners had been linked to banditry, and that the Zamfara State government had simply ignored the destruction of some villages where the mining took place, while tolerating the use of choppers to facilitate illegal mining.
Traditional rulers in the state warned visiting service chiefs that there were around 30,000 bandits in the Zamfara woodlands, far outnumbering the state’s less than 10,000 troops deployed to combat instability.
However, according to a report by Punch Newspaper, at least 200 people have been slain by bandits since the no-fly zone went into force in March, even as states bordering Zamfara, such as Kaduna, Niger, and Kebbi, have continued to see killings and kidnappings.
In an attack on Tungar Baushe community in Mutunji district, Maru Local Government Area of the state on March 3, a day after the no-fly order went into effect, some 50 people were abducted and numerous buildings were burned down, but no one was killed.
Terrorists massacred eight people on March 17 in Kasaba village, Magami district, Maru Local Government Area, Zamfara State, including three troops and five civilians, an act condemned by the governor in a statement signed by his Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara.
Military forces were also said to have killed some of the robbers. On May 10, the Nigerian Army announced that its troops had slain 48 bandits operating out of various camps in the state’s Maru local government area.
On April 21, however, around 90 people were slain in separate attacks in the local government areas of Gusau, Maradun, and Bakura. Many of the victims were vigilantes, according to reports. While 62 bodies were discovered right away, residents said the death toll grew to 90 the next day.
On May 18, around 100 bandits reportedly assaulted Dansadau Town, taking over 300 cows and plundering shops, although no one was killed.
On May 22, however, bandits in the Zurmi and Kaura Namoda local government regions of the state massacred 21 people, including two police officers, in Gabaken, Rigiya, Donroyi, Torawa, and Riwoji.
On May 24, motorcycle-riding gunmen attacked the villages of Dandamji, Gidan Runji, Doka, Yanmadanga, and Yarkatsina, murdering at least ten people. The police, on the other hand, claimed to have murdered ten of the robbers.
On June 3, bandits attacked the Gusau Local Government Area, killing 12 farmers and injuring nine more.
An attack on five settlements in Zurmi village on June 12 resulted in the deaths of about 54 residents. Residents were said to have protested by taking some of the bodies to the village traditional ruler’s palace.
The Federal Government should analyse the impact of the no-fly zone – Zamfara
When contacted, Alhaji Zailani Bappa, Governor Bello Matawalle’s Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media, and Communication, stated the subject of whether the no-fly zone order had reduced killings and kidnappings in Zamfara State should be referred to the Federal Government.
According to Bappa, the Federal Government has enforced the no fly zone order in order to restore peace in the state, but the question is if the order has had an impact.
“You should take your query to the Federal Government to find out if the no-fly zone order has stopped individuals being killed and kidnapped in the state.”
“The state government of Zamfara is not allowed to comment on whether the order has had an impact or not because it is not responsible for that.”
“As a journalist, you can do your own research to determine whether the order has stopped the killings and kidnappings in the state,” Bappa explained.
Ms. Osai Ojigho, the Country Director of Amnesty International, told newsmen on Wednesday that it was very unfortunate that high numbers of people had been killed, lost their houses, and displaced as a result of the violence in Zamfara and other states.
“One of the things we’re hearing from the ground is that many of these areas are dominated by a strong military presence, but there’s a slow response in terms of engaging the bandits, criminals, or whatever you want to call them in these communities, and it’s due to years of failure to find long-term solutions to this crisis,” Ojigho continued.
In response, Brig. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Information, said the army had thwarted multiple attacks in Zamfara State and bombarded bandit hideouts.
Residents, on the other hand, were urged to provide the military with reliable security information.
“As we speak, Nigerian Army troops in the North West are conducting aggressive clearance operations on suspected bandit enclaves under the auspices of Operation Hadarin Daji,” Nwachukwu said.
“Operations to apprehend fleeing bandits and intercept the flow of illegal arms and ammunition are also ongoing. To prevent the bandits freedom of action, troops are also maintaining blocking positions.”
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