Christian soldiers launch attacks on communities in troubled northern states, leading bandits to seek vengeance by killing residents, controversial Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi claims.
Gumi earlier visited Zamfara villages to have peace talks with bandits in the forest, to negotiate with them on the need to surrender their arms.
While addressing some of the bandits in a new video circulating online, Gumi claimed that the soldiers are stirring confusions with the aim of wreaking havoc.
“What I want you people to understand is, soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non-Muslims.
“The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite crisis,” Gumi said.
Some interpretations of Gumi’s words translated “non-Muslim soldiers” as “Christian soldiers,” with observers warning that the cleric’s romance with bandits could endanger the lives of non-Muslim civilians and troops.
There have been controversies on how Gumi was able to locate the camp of some bandits operating in Zamfara and Niger State, without security personnel’s intervention.
Many have been displaced, killed and kidnapped by armed bandits who storm communities in the northern and southern parts of Nigeria to loot and burn homes.
It is unclear where the cleric’s claims sprang from, but he queried the bandits on why they should attack villagers in vengeance.
“If you people, in return, retaliate or seek vengeance, attack residents in the city, you may end up in killing youth, children and old men which eventually results in tension in society.
“Why would military men launch attacks on your community and you take your revenge on innocent citizens in the city?
“That is what is denting your image in the society,” the cleric added.
Faulting Gumi’s remarks, legal analyst Yomi Ogunsanya noted that it was capable of igniting divisions in the security agencies, just as it threatens peaceful co-existence in the country.
Ogunsanya said it is inappropriate for the cleric to make the “grave” allegation without evidence, noting that “he is not a security expert or personnel, he should disclose where he got his information from.”
While stating that security personnel are deployed to troubled communities notwithstanding their religious beliefs, the analyst said Gumi basically states that the Christians and pagans are responsible for the havoc.
“That’s a very serious grave allegation, he has to come out and clarify how he got that information and what he meant by that because some people can even translate it to me that he is saying that they are Christian soldiers,” Ogunsanya said.
“If he is saying non-muslim, he should, first of all, clarify if he is referring to the Christians or pagans.
“It’s inappropriate for him and it’s even divisive to make such allegations. Is he trying to justify the activities of the so-called bandits or terrorists?
“For me, Gumi should be careful with generalised statements without evidence to back it up,” the legal analyst said.
Also questioning the cleric’s assertion and how he located some armed bandits, Ogunsanya advised that he should be careful even though he has the support of the northern leaders.
“Where did he get his intel from? Is it from the bandits, the villagers, residents or the security personnel? So now that he is stepping into it, people have started to query how he is able to locate them when security agencies can’t get where they are and how they operate.
“He should tread softly in as much as the northern governors are supporting him. He should tread softly and mind his decisions so that they do not ignite other divisions even within the security agencies because if they are going to deploy security personnel to a troubled place, they won’t select Christians and Muslims’, the analyst added.
Gumi has recently become the government’s key link to rampaging bandits who have been on a destructive spree across northern Nigeria. Earlier this week, he sought a blanket amnesty for the bandits, eliciting nationwide criticism.