Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has asked the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to bandits like it gave to Niger Delta militants.
Gumi who has been visiting bandits in the forest in an attempt to negotiate a peace deal with them disclosed this on Wednesday during a virtual event hosted by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.
The cleric’s tour had drawn mixed reactions among Nigerians, with many, including the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, condemning the move.
Speaking at the conference, Gumi said the gunmen are not assured of their safety and rehabilitation, so they will not let go of their arms.
“Nobody can justify criminality, what we are saying is what we saw in the forest is an ethnic war going on between people in the forest and the neighbouring villages and hamlets. When the herder felt he had grievances and nobody was listening to him, he took up weapons.
“So when we went there and they saw a listening ear, they were ready to negotiate, tell us their grievances, and ready to incorporate into the society. So in such a case, I see no reason why we should not have a dialogue with them.
“Looking at their educational status, they don’t have any official or unofficial education. How can a nation which is serious about security leave a chunk of its society so uneducated, leave it to arms and drugs? I don’t think that society is serious. How can we disperse them, rehabilitate them because they are holding arms to protect themselves.
“If you don’t show them they’re safe in the larger society, there’s no way they can leave their weapon. And that’s why we asked for amnesty for them just like we had in the Niger Delta.
“I’m not justifying their kidnapping, what they do is crime. But their kidnapping is to get more money to buy more weapons so that they can protect themselves.”