Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi yesterday made another controversial claim regarding the onslaught of bandits on Nigerians.
He accused rogue security agents of being complicit in the rising insecurity across the country orchestrated by bandits who engage in killings and kidnapping for ransom, among other crimes.
NIgerian military and police authorities have, however, debunked insinuation by Sheikh Gumi that their personnel are colluding with the bandits, saying the cleric was trying to tarnish their image unduly.
Speaking in an interview on Arise TV yesterday, the Islamic cleric and retired army doctor also called for amnesty for the bandits in order for them to quit their criminal acts. He specifically urged farmers across the country to allow herdsmen to protect the forests.
“I know these bandits. If we do not know, these bandits are operating with bad elements in our security system. So many people are involved and you will be so surprised, and I’m still against who is operating against this nation and humanity.
“How can these big weapons get across our borders and get into the forest without the cooperation of so many bad elements in our security system? It is not possible. If I give you the same amount, can you take me into the UK? You cannot take me to the UK because the security is surrounded,” Gumi said.
While admitting that the bandits are committing all sorts of crimes, he also said that atrocities have been committed against them by various tribes across Nigeria, saying there is a tribal war going on in Nigeria and that government is not being neutral as it should be.
“When you said these bandits are committing atrocities, yes, I agree they are committing crimes; they are killing people; they are kidnapping; they are raping; they are doing all sorts of atrocities. But have you for once gone to their own side to see all sorts of atrocities that are also committed against them?
“Do you know that an ordinary herdsman is lynched in many towns in Nigeria? We have seen that in Oyo; we have seen that in Anambra; we have seen that in many regions of Nigeria. I think there should be well meaning Nigerians that should stay neutral in this tribal war.”
He said: “What you call banditry, when you cross to the other side, you discover Nigeria is fighting a tribal war and the government is supposed to be the mediator; it is supposed to be neutral; it’s not supposed to take sides. But the moment the government takes sides, it becomes part of the conflict. And this is what I saw in Zamfara State, in Niger State and other states. This is a tribal war going on and the government is taking one side.
Gumi also stated that arrangements are being made to educate the herdsmen about the communities that they are living in where they are not indigenous.
According to him, “the situation we are in now is very bad and that is why we engage them in the North to see if we can quench the fire, but we are not in authority to say that we have the resources or mobility enough that we can move around the country but it is in the pipeline.
“We want to go to the South West, South South, and South East to get them, civilise them, teach them how to behave and also how to channel their grievances up there.”
The Islamic cleric stated that former President Olusegun Obasanjo had been trying to get to the root cause of the problem.
“Actually, there is a Fulani leader who gave me some papers in confidence but unfortunately a week after that he died. So, I felt obliged to continue with what he started with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Since 2019, Obasanjo has been trying to go into the deep root cause of this problem and that is what I consider him a good leader. He doesn’t depend on what he heard in the news or what he read in the papers. He tries to dig deep and know what is the problem.
“He has had two consecutive meetings with the Fulani leaders and I felt that meeting should continue and I found the chief very passionate about Nigeria. He is a peace seeker and also intelligent.”
Speaking on the nationality of the bandits, he said the bandits he conversed with during his visit to the bandits’ enclave in the bush were Nigerians, not foreigners as earlier claimed by the presidency and recently by the governor of Niger State, Abubakar Sani Bello.
Gumi said, “I am not an immigration officer by looking at somebody to know who is a Nigerian and who is not, and I’m not trained to know who is a Nigerian or who is not, but the people we saw in the bush are Nigerians.
“What I’m saying is that I’m for the truth and I’m for Nigeria. I do not accept extrajudicial killings whether from the military or the government, bandits or any Nigerian; I do not accept that. All we want is everything to go through the rule of law
Insisting on his call for amnesty for the bandits, Gumi said they are ready to surrender if the government will provide a means of livelihood for them.
“The Niger Delta example, I think we can take an example from that. When they were vandalising pipelines, they were given the pipelines to guard.
“Now, the herdsmen are controlling a big chunk of land whereby they are preventing farmers from farming. As the Niger Delta is important to the economy, these herdsmen now are becoming important to the Nigerian economy.
“They can be our guards; they can guard the forests. They have qualities that we can tap from,” Gumi said.
He dismissed the amnesty granted to bandits by Katsina State Governor Bello Masari, describing it “political amnesty” without any package.
“When you grant a political amnesty, I mean amnesty in front of the press and the media but in the real sense there was no amnesty. Amnesty comes with a package. The package is, you rehabilitate these criminals, you provide for them social amenities. You entice them to leave the forests by providing them with skills. But there is no project put forward.”
It’s A Calculated Attempt To Denigrate The Military – Army
But the Nigerian Army has strongly debunked insinuations that its personnel collude with bandits.
The director, Army Public Relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, stated this while reacting to Sheikh Gumi’s statement on Arise TV yesterday alleging that rogue Nigerian security agents were colluding with marauding bandits responsible for various crimes and atrocities against Nigerians.
Gen Nwachukwu said contrary to Sheik Gumi’s claims, the Nigerian Army remains a bonafide symbol of national unity that has conducted its constitutional responsibilities in the most professional manner in line with global best practices of adherence to the rules of engagement and protection of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
“The sweeping allegation peddled by the scholar is not only sad and unfortunate, but a calculated attempt to denigrate the Nigerian military and undermine the sacrifices of our patriotic troops who are working tirelessly to restore peace and stability across the country.
“It is essential to remind ourselves that these same military being accused of connivance are the ones who recently put their lives on the line to rescue abductees of the Government Secondary School, Birnin Yawuri, from kidnappers,” he said “While the Nigerian Army (NA) will not attempt to excuse the possibility of black sheep amongst its fold, it must be stated unambiguously that it will not condone any form of sabotage or aiding and assisting the enemy by any personnel, as provisions for dealing decisively with such acts are crystallised in Section 45 (1) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
He said while the military is very much receptive to constructive criticism, it should not be perceived as a gateway for derogatory comments that have the potential to embolden criminals.
The director reiterated that patriotism must be taken to a trajectory where subversive conversations on the state are brought to the barest minimum.
“Opinion leaders are enjoined to demonstrate patriotism in building the peace, rather than being agents of destabilisation, thereby aggravating the current security challenges facing the nation.” he advised
‘We’re Used To Cleric’s Allegations’
When LEADERSHIP contacted, the Force Public Relations Officer (FORO), CP Frank Mba and the spokesperson of the DSS, Dr Peter Afunanya, if the police and the DSS were considering inviting Sheikh Gumi, considering his continued inciting statements against the president and security agencies, including the police, they failed to comment on the issue.
But a police source told our correspondent that the police authorities were already used to the cleric’s allegations.
Northern Governors Meet PMB Over Worsening Insecurity
Northern Governors yesterday met with President Muhammadu Buhari over the worsening insecurity in the region as insurgents and bandits continue to wreak havoc on the region .
Speaking to State House correspondents, Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle said the president assured them that actions will be taken soon.
“We discussed security, not just myself, but the Northern region, because of the current escalation of insecurity. I briefed him and the governor of Niger State also briefed him. The president has assured us that action will be taken about what we have discussed about the issue of insecurity,” he said.
On the situation in Zamfara State, Matawalle said, “For now, for the past four days, no incidence had been recorded, but we are doing our best and the security agencies are also doing their best to make sure that they tackle all the challenges.
“I assure you that we are on top of the matter and the President has assured all of us that he’s going to take more measures on the issue of insecurity in the northern parts of the country.”
When asked if it is safe to assume that calm is returning to the entire north, he said, “I can say yes, because in the past four months we didn’t have much of this crisis, but it’s gradually coming back, but the security agencies are doing their best now, particularly from the new security architecture that we have adopted now. We are having some improvements on the challenges.”
On farmers returning to the farm, he said, “Yes, with action and the roadmap that we have drawn, between the government and the security agencies, we are doing our best to make sure that farmers go back to their farms, and they will be able to farm, insha Allahu.
Kebbi Gov Briefs PMB On Students’ Abduction
Also, Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu met with President Buhari over the bandits’ attack on Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting on Tuesday night, he underscored the need for all Nigerians to come together and tackle criminalities in the country.
He also lauded the security agencies for rescuing some pupils and teachers and urged more support to them from all Nigerians to end the challenges of insecurity across the country.
He said, “I visited Mr. President, President Muhammadu Buhari, to brief him about the unfortunate incidents in Kebbi State, at the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, where a number of bandits overwhelmed the security agencies and abducted a number of pupils, teaching staff and non-teaching staff and the regrettable loss of life by a police officer in the process and some pupils also, and those who were wounded in the process, and those who are still in the hands of the terror gang even though some successes have been commendably achieved by the rescue of some pupils and teachers.
“I explained to him that the security agencies have mobilised and are doing a great job, assisted by the military, the Air Force, the police, civil defence, vigilante and community leaders. They are still at it and they’re doing a great job, but we need more support from all Nigerians and, in fact, all to ensure that we give them our maximum cooperation to finish what they have started.
“President has always expressed sympathy to those innocent persons who are held hostage against their will by terror elements and he condemned the action of all terror groups – wherever they are, whether they are bandits, Boko Haram, or any group that is taking away the liberty and freedoms and, in fact, lives and livelihoods of others. He maintained the instruction he has always given to the security agencies – to give their maximum best in dealing with those criminal elements.
‘Our stand, I have made it very clear, this is condemnable, this should not happen and all people of goodwill, all good people should mobilise to confront evil and evil elements and criminal elements in our society. It’s not just a job for the security agencies; we have to support them. We have to mobilise.
“Since I made that statement, which I meant by every stretch of the imagination, many groups have come out to demonstrate similar support and yesterday we have seen mobilisation by the Niger State governor and I believe we’ll see more in the coming days.
Military, NASENI Strategise On Locally Made Weapons
The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) and the Nigerian military are working out modalities on the manufacturing of locally made weapons to assist in the fight against insurgency.
Indications to this development emerged yesterday when the director general, Defence Research and Development Bureau (DRDB) of the Nigeria Military, Air Vice Marshal Ubrufih Uzezi, paid an official visit to the NASENI headquarters in Abuja where he solicited the support of the agency.
Receiving the Air Vice Marshal, the executive vice chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Sani Haruna, said that it had become incumbent on the nation to invest more in local technological production of military hardware in order to make the nation self-reliant on that front.
The NASENI boss, who decried paucity of funds as impediments to some of the avowed pursuits of the agency, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for approving 0.5 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for research and innovation, which he said is an improvement judging from previous provisions for the agency.
The president, he said, had directed the agency to work closely with security agencies in areas of manufacturing warfare equipment.
He disclosed that the agency had received the required certification and approvals from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) for the first made-in-Nigeria non-commercial helicopter being constructed by the agency.
He said; “If we don’t work with other agencies such as DRDB, we wouldn’t know what is needed to do in need-oriented research. We will learn from them and they also learn from us, and that is the way to move the nation forward”, he added.
According to him, the technological challenges in military operations have made it necessary to look inward for the production of warfare equipment.
Speaking during the meeting, Air Vice Marshal Uzezi noted that the DRDB had a mandate to locally develop and deliver cutting edge war fighting technologies for the armed forces.
He added that support was needed in areas such as conduct of reverse engineering, identifying subject matter experts both within and outside Nigeria, solar energy, artificial Intelligence and fabrication of components.
He said; “Because of the way we are focused, it is important that we must work with NASENI. The agency has capability and reach that no other institution in Nigeria has; therefore, the capacities and competencies they have are things we can leverage on to get our own research efforts, especially in military technology development, ongoing,” he said.