Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, and his Niger State counterpart, Sanni Bello, on Monday said the effort of a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, to woo bandits to lay down arms and embrace peace was an exercise in futility.
While El-Rufai spoke in an interview with the Hausa service of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Bello spoke through his Commissioner for Information, Sani Idris, in an interview with one of our correspondents.
El-Rufai said the criminals were used to getting big money and would find it difficult to repent.
He noted that his administration had no room for negotiations, adding that any bandits arrested in the state would be killed.
“My administration is at war with the bandits and so we cannot negotiate. Eliminating them is the only solution to banditry.
“I never believed that a Fulani herdsman who ventured into banditry and is collecting millions of naira as ransom will repent. I spoke to Dr Gumi, who is my friend. I explained that majority of these bandits don’t believe in the religion. That is why they kill mercilessly.
”Anybody who thinks a Fulani herdsman that was used to only getting N100,000 in a year after selling a cow, but now is getting millions through kidnapping for ransom will stop, is only wasting his time,” he added.
The governor also lamented the division among governors in the North-West region on the synergy to confront the criminal elements in the North.
He maintained that while some of his colleagues preferred dialogue with bandits as a solution, he and other governors thought otherwise.
Supporting El-Rufai’s position, the Niger State Governor, Bello, said Gumi’s negotiation with the bandits was not the solution to the ongoing terror ravaging the North.
He said the activities of the kidnappers had led to loss of lives and property in the region, adding that any bandit caught would face the law.
“We don’t believe in what Gumi is doing; it is not the solution to the insecurity problem in this zone. We are in full support of what the Kaduna State Government said and that is our stand also on the issue,” he added.
However, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union on Monday described El-Rufai as ‘mix of annoying and confusing contraction’ for discrediting Gumi’s efforts to get bandits to lay down their arms.
The SOKAPU, through its National Public Relations Officer, Mr Luka Binniyat, who spoke in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the governor had no moral rights to make such a statement.
“Here is a governor who in 2016, by his own admission, traced these same killer herdsmen to their various countries and paid them not to return and kill in Southern Kaduna. The genocide only got worse after. And he has no regret, no remorse.
“Today, as SOKAPU has consistently publicised, 109 or more communities of Southern Kaduna have been chased out and are under the control of armed Fulani militia, who the press is window dressing as bandits,” Binniyat said.
The group commended Gumi for demonstrating “leadership and empathy with the suffering of affected communities in Kaduna State and offering intervention.”
But the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, on Monday, said those agitating for the integration of bandits into the society were their sponsors.
The secessionist group was reacting to Gumi’s amnesty demand for bandits and herdsmen.
The group also faulted his claim that bandits and freedom fighters were the same.
IPOB, in a statement signed by its Director of Media and Publicity, Emma Powerful, said such remarks revealed sponsors of killer herdsmen in the country.
The statement read in part, “Gumi, in the said media report, allegedly compared agitators of Biafra and Oduduwa republics with his Fulani bandits rampaging the North and ravaging the entire South. Such a statement, if true, has simply unmasked and exposed the real identify of this man masquerading as an Islamic cleric when in actual fact he is one of the hardened supporters of Fulani terrorism.
“With such ignorance-laden utterance from a supposed Islamic scholar, the world does not need to look far for the real sponsors of banditry and terrorism in Nigeria. We now know those behind the killing spree and evil agenda to decimate indigenous ethnic populations and non-Muslim communities across Nigeria.
“Before now, Nigerians were deceived into believing that bandits and other agents of terror on the rampage all over Nigeria were invisible and without a fixed address. How come this pretender and self-acclaimed Islamic cleric knew where to find the bandits? He even posed for a picture with gun-wielding murderers and was very proud of it.
“How was it that this man managed to locate the hideout of these mass murderers but Nigerian Air Force cannot? How come there hasn’t been any invasion or bombing of any of these bandits’ settlements in the North, but the same Nigerian Air Force was quick to deploy fighter jets to be terrorising innocent citizens in Orlu?
“Not only did Sheik Gumi wine and dine with their bandits, he has also suddenly become their advocate. He has gone to the extent of comparing blood suckers with self-determination activists.”