Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, has said he sees no reason why the Federal Government should not negotiate with bandits, herders and persons considered to be criminal elements in the country.
Gumi said this at a virtual event hosted by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, on Wednesday.
The cleric, who has been advocating for the government to grant amnesty to bandits, said individuals classified as criminal elements, especially herders and bandits, carried weapons because no one listened to their grievances.
According to him, he went into the forests and discovered that the bandits and herders were willing to negotiate, adding that the government should seize the opportunity and dialogue in order to prevent a crisis.
He said: “Nobody can justify criminality, what we are saying is what we saw in the forest is an ethnic war going on between people in the forest and the neighboring villages and hamlets. When the herder felt he has grievances and nobody was listening to him, he took on weapons.
“So when we went there and they saw a listening ear, they were ready to negotiate, tell us their grievances, and ready to incorporate into the society. So in such a case, I see no reason why we should not have a dialogue with them.”
Gumi also said if bandits are not shown that they will not be safe when reintegrated into society, they will not give up their arms.
He said: “Looking at their educational status, they don’t have any official or unofficial education. How can a nation which is serious about security leave a chunk of its society so uneducated, leave it to arms and drugs? I don’t think that society is serious. How can we disperse them, rehabilitate them because they are holding arms to protect themselves.
“If you don’t show them they’re safe in the larger society, there’s no way they can leave their weapon. And that’s why we asked for amnesty for them just like we had in the Niger Delta.
“I’m not justifying their kidnapping, what they do is crime. But their kidnapping is to get more money to buy more weapons so that they can protect themselves.”