Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, has refuted reports of negotiations with armed terrorists wreaking havoc on different parts of the country.
According to the cleric, he only initiated peace advocacy through which he preaches to them with a view to discouraging the criminals from their bad ways.
He, however, insisted that a “blanket amnesty” for the criminal Fulani herders was necessary in order to achieve peace instead of a vicious circle of reprisal attacks.
The Islamic cleric made this disclosure in an exclusive interview at the weekend in Abuja on his way back to Kaduna after his trip to and from bandits’ den in Dutsen Magaji Forest of Niger State.
Furthermore, Gumi explained that what he described as a “carrot option” was achievable since the federal government had once extended the same olive branch to the Niger Delta militants to discourage them from attacking the economic interest of the nation.
The bandits, according to Gumi, deserve amnesty since they too are willing to lay down their arms to embrace peace.
“What I saw is that they are ready (for peace). Just to know that the person you have dreaded so much is ready to put down his arms and release his captives shows there is hope if the right steps are taken. Things will come back to normal and in a very short time,” Gumi said.
The Islamic cleric noted that his visit to the forest in Niger State to meet a dreaded bandit leader, Dogo Gide, was a pre-planned event, which only coincided with the recent abductions in the state.
On the allegation that he was negotiating and supporting the bandits, Gumi said, “That is a misconception. That is why we record all that transpired between us and them whenever we visit them.
“One can hear that we do admonish them religiously that kidnapping is forbidden, rape is forbidden and stealing people’s money is forbidden and we recite the Qur’an for them and whoever that listens to our sermon to them will know that we are discouraging them from their bad ways.
“We are not threatening them; we are not saying they are thieves or what they are doing is bad and we can see the response from them that they are accepting it. So, there is no way anybody can link us to what they are doing when we are admonishing them that they should not do that”.
Gumi pointed out that the government and the bandits were to blame for the escalation of the crisis because of their wrong approaches.
“The place of the government is the same as the place of the bandits. We are trying to draw their (bandits) attention to what is right and at the same time draw the attention of the government to doing what is right,” he explained.
He also accused politicians and the press of further exacerbating the insecurity in the country with their utterances and skewed reportage respectively.
He stated: “We want to bring peace and we are in the process of doing it, which gun cannot do, force will not do it, intimidation will not do it, and bad words coming out from politicians, the press or individuals can disrupt the process.
“As we were sitting down there (bandits’ camp), I was shocked when the leader, the warlord, was telling me that they heard that one politician said he is not for peace”.
The cleric said his decision to initiate the peace advocacy for the armed bandits was based on the fact that he had ceased to be an armchair critic of the government.
He noted that rather, he has chosen to get involved in activities geared towards fostering peace and development.