By Modupe Shodeinde
Well known Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, says bandits were only interested in ransoms and only killed few people accidentally or for revenge.
According to Gumi, who had advocated amnesty for bandits like it was done for Niger Delta Militant, they (bandits) are not interested in killing people but we’re pushed by circumstances or revenge.
The cleric, who spoke during a Channels TV programme on Monday, said “I choose to call them militants because they are fighting an ethnic war,” he said.
“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.
“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?
“When they kill, it is mostly accidental, maybe somebody they took who is sick. But tell me who they have killed? How many? Few.”
When he was asked about instances where the bandits have razed down villages during attacks, he said such cases are motivated by revenge.
“That killing is not because of criminality but for ethnic revenge. And they don’t attack a village except that village did something to one of them,” he said
“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.
The cleric also warned that the bandits might be influenced by Boko Haram insurgents operating in the North-East if the pressure is too much.
“I am afraid they can be influenced by Boko Haram. And we have seen the signs that Boko Haram is going to infiltrate them but so far, they are not Boko Haram.”
Sheikh Gumi insisted that peaceful negotiation was the only way to end the menace of banditry.