Controversial Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Gumi has said bandits were pushed by circumstances and only killed for “revenge”.
He said the bandits have only killed a “few” people accidentally.
The cleric spoke while featuring on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme on Monday.
Of late, Sheikh Gumi has been seen in photos holding talks with notorious bandits in the forests of Zamfara, Niger and other states. He had also advocated blanket amnesty for the bandits like was done for the militants in the Niger Delta region.
He said, “I choose to call them (bandits) militants because they are fighting an ethnic war. They are kidnapping to get money. Look at the case where they released a bus full of people, they were asking for N500 million but now, they freed them with mere negotiations for free. Nothing was paid. Even one of them victims’ father called me to thank me.”
Sheikh Gumi, who met with bandits in the forest of Niger last Saturday, over some kidnapped persons in the state, said there was hope that the abducted students and staff of Government Science College, Kagara, would be freed.
He said, “Since there is a peace process, they are ready to lay down their arms, stop kidnapping and all the things they are doing. And you call them killer herdsmen, how many people do they kill? Sometimes, they are on drugs. They want the money.
“When they kill, it is mostly accidental, maybe somebody they took who is sick. But tell me who they have killed? How many? Few.”
The cleric stressed that the bandits were fighting an ethnic war. He also said the bandits speak Fulfulde and Hausa, adding that they are Nigerians. “They are Nigerians, no doubt about that. Some of them have parents in the town.”
“Now we are not talking about banditry but an ethnic war between the nomadic Fulani, the herdsmen and the others – everybody who is not them.
“We are having an ethnic war, the Fulani feels his existence is threatened. What they do is to call other people from other places. Irrespective of where they are, a Fulani is a Fulani, they go to defend their kinsmen, that is why they transit the borders and then go back,” he added.
Sheikh Gumi 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.