Popular Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, says if care is not taken, notorious terror group, Boko Haram, may infiltrate bandits in the country.
“I can say categorically that they (bandits) are not Boko Haram but we have to be very careful because if the pressure is too much, Boko Haram being more international, more connected, may be richer, I am afraid they (bandits) can be influenced by Boko Haram. And we have seen the signs that Boko Haram wants to infiltrate them but so far, they are not Boko Haram, they are ready to lay down their arms.
“There was an incident that happened in Zamfara during the former regime. The Fulani themselves caught some elements of Boko Haram and presented them to the government. So, they are not Boko Haram, they are citizens, they recognise authority and they are ready to lay down their arms and that is why we have to act fast,” Sheikh Gumi said on Monday.
The cleric also said the Nigerian military forces were aware of the whereabouts of bandits who have been involved in high-scale kidnappings in Kankara and Kagara as well as serial killings in different parts of the country.
He, however, said the military forces were re-evaluating their strategies having realised that neutralising the bandits through superior fire power had created more monsters.
The cleric spoke while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme monitored by The PUNCH.
Of late, Sheikh Gumi has been seen in photos holding talks with bandits in the forests of Zamfara, Niger and other states. He had also advocated blanket amnesty for the bandits.
Many Nigerians have, however, wondered how the cleric was able to locate the bandits while the military forces haven’t been able to encircle and neutralise them.
When asked on Monday, Sheikh Gumi said, “They (military forces) know, they see them by aerial view, they have intelligence among them. I’ve met a herdsman who is part of the internal security. They all know but the problem is that the 8th military has learnt its lessons. The first approach they had when they go in and start killing, they realised it’s the wrong way and they realised they are producing monsters. So, they are now very careful, watching and seeing how they will go about it.”
The cleric urged the military not to “just wait and watch” but to “go in and negotiate” with the bandits.
On how he has funded his trips to forests to meet with bandits, the cleric said state governments assisted him and his team with logistics support.
Sheikh Gumi also insisted that peaceful negotiation was the only way to end the menace of banditry. He, therefore, called on Christian and Muslim leaders to join him in brokering peace with the bandits.