CONTROVERSIAL Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmed Gumi has defended his recent negotiations with armed bandits in Zamfara State saying that the government was fully aware of the talks and always had representatives present when he visited the hoodlums.
Over recent years, heavily-armed bandits have been terrorising the northwest geo-political zone, controlling large swathes of territory, particularly in Zamfara and Katsina states. In a bid to resolve what appears to be an endless crisis, Sheikh Gumi, travelled from his base in Kaduna to Zamfara State to meet with the bandits in Makkai Forest.
Sheikh Gumi, who met with bandit leaders Kachalla Turji and Kachalla Muhammadu Bello, as well as notorious gun runner and assassin Auwalun Daudawa, said that what is currently happening in Zamfara State is insurgency and not banditry. After meeting with the bandit leaders, the cleric met with Governor Matawalle to brief him on the situation.
Following his meeting, Sheikh Gumi asked for the bandits to be given an amnesty as they were victims of government neglect and brutality. His comments prompted the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (Huriwa) for call for the arrest and prosecution of the cleric as he was aiding and abetting banditry and engaged in a treasonable crime.
In response, Sheikh Gumi disclosed that his interactions with bandits were done in the presence of government officials, describing those calling for his arrest as clowns. Furthermore, the Kaduna-based cleric stressed that he was not the first to have negotiated with bandits.
Sheikh Gumi said: “Those are clowns as even the Kaduna State governor dialogued with them and the Zamfara governor dialogued with them. I’m not the first person that started dialoguing with the bandits as I only added value
“I find them to be religious and religion is the only thing that teaches you that blood has sanctity. I’m trying to gather them and teach them that there is sanctity to life and that they cannot kill, rape and so on.”
“All the bandits we met were with government officials and that is why I said those calling for my arrest are clowns because my interaction with bandits has yielded instant results. When you are dealing with somebody engrossed in criminality, if you approach him as a policeman, you will have a problem but if you come to him as a pastor, he will confess all his sins to you.
“We approach them as clergy and they feel comfortable to vomit all their problems, hence, we see how we can appease and help them. We are not approaching them as an authority but from the spiritual angle. You know every human being has that spiritual influence and that is why we are adopting that.”