ISLAMIC cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has called on the Nigerian government to offer a blanket amnesty to all armed bandits operating in the country pointing out that if coup plotters who commit treason are forgiven the gesture should be extended to others.
In a bid to resolve what appears to be an endless crisis, Sheikh Gumi, travelled from his base in Kaduna to Zamfara State last month to meet with bandits who have been terrorising northwest Nigeria. Over recent years, heavily-armed bandits have ransacked the northwest geo-political zone, taking control of large swathes of territory, particularly in Zamfara and Katsina states.
Powerless to stop them, state governors have been forced to enter into dialogue with these bandits and even offer them money to lay down their arms. So far, however, every agreement entered into has broken down, leaving several states at the mercy of bandits who attack villages and towns with impunity.
Sheikh Gumi, who met with bandit leaders Kachalla Turji and Kachalla Muhammadu Bello in Makkai Forest, said that what is currently happening in Zamfara is insurgency and not banditry. Briefing Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State at Government House about his trip, he said the bandits have completely turned into insurgents following the bad treatment from the people of the state.
With the federal government saying that the bandits will not be granted an automatic amnesty, Sheikh Gumi said there was need to forgive bandits for the country to have peace. He pointed out that if the government could pardon coup plotters that committed treasonable felony, there was nothing wrong extending the same gesture to bandits.
Sheikh Gumi said: “Even those that instigated civil war, the civil war that millions of people died, were pardoned. I see no reason why we cannot accept the bandits repentance and give them amnesty.”
He added that he never betrayed soldiers of Christian faith before the bandits when he visited them. According to the cleric, he was misunderstood by the Christian Association of Nigeria because his recent video recording that went viral about his discussion with the bandits was distorted and the actual message manipulated.
Sheikh Gumi said: “You ask why do we give them amnesty but they told us specifically that they are ready to drop their arms and they don’t want to be pursued with legal actions after they repented. If the country could pardon coup plotters who committed treasonable offences in the era of military administration, the bandits can as well enjoy similar forgiveness even better under democratic rule.
“These people in the bush who have taken arms they are criminals, I wonder who is not a criminal. Since Nigeria forgave coup plotters, forgave those that killed, even those that instigated a civil war that millions of people died, I see no reason why we cannot accept their repentance.
“That is the bottleneck and it is only the federal government that can give them that leverage. Strangely, we found out that they are victims too as they were victims of profiling, with so many of them arrested and punished just for looking like herdsmen.”