The recurring activities of bandits and insurgents assumed a new dimension yesterday when a renowned Islamic scholar, Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Mahmud Gummi and the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, yesterday proffered ways of tackling banditry and insurgency, with both leaders advocating measures to tackle the issue.
While Sheikh Gumi advised the Zamfara State Governor, Bello Muhammad Matawalle, to ensure it reappoints trusted persons, who will deliver the promises made to the repentant bandits under a peace reconciliation treaty, Mohammed said it was interesting that bandits and criminal elements were more willing to listen to religious leaders as mediators than the government. Speaking during his peace-preaching tour for armed bandits to embrace peace across camps in the Zamfara State, on Thursday, Gumi said a multitude number of armed bandits have shown their unreserved interests to lay down their arms for total normalcy to return.
He said: “I must recommend that, these bandits should be granted amnesty similar to Niger Delta militants as was done by the previous Umaru Musa-led administration. There is supposed to be a Federal Government intervention with a view to complement the existing disarmament efforts by the Zamfara State.
“I went round a number of bandits’ camps and witnessed the huge number of illegally-acquired dangerous weapons. But the good side of the story was that, the bandits are ready to embrace peace should all the promises made to them by the state government would be fulfilled, I sat with the bandits leaders who gave such an assurance.”
Responding, Governor Matawalle has commended the heroic efforts by the Islamic Scholar, which according to him, was part of both the state and the federal governments duties, adding that, “We learnt that the federal government’s intervention on disarmament issues is paramount in the sense that, our baby state alone cannot make it as speedy as expected.” Matawalle recalled during immediate past administration when over 90 per cent of markets could not operate in the state as a result of incessant attacks by bandits.
He said: “My priority when I came on board was to find resolutions towards restoration of peace in the state as that was the only way to achieve all planned developmental projects in our blueprint.
“My administration has obviously achieved a lot in that direction, we were able to recovered large number of firearms as well as secured the unconditional release of multitude number of kidnapped victims, all our markets are now fully operating and there is hitch-free movement across the state.” Meanwhile, Muhammed, while speaking during a programme on Television Continental, said there was nothing unusual about employing the services of religious leaders to act as a bridge between the government and bandits.
The minister, while reacting to the meeting between Ahmad Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, and some bandits in Zamfara State, said the government had employed back-channel approaches in solving crisis. An online news portal, TheCable had reported that Gumi met with some bandits in the forest of Zamfara and appealed for peace. Mohammed said: “Like I explained that when we want to resolve issues like this we use a lot of back-channels.”
“Again it is not unusual to use a respected cleric to have the confidence of outlaws or bandits. As a matter of fact, they are probably ready to listen to him more than they are ready to listen to the government.
“They are probably ready to believe in them, so it is not unusual for him to act as a bridge between government and outlaws to find solutions.” The minister said all stakeholders involved in finding a solution to the farmer-herder conflicts should also strive to reduce the tension, adding that waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments on the crisis is not of importance. “I think we should lower the tension. Nigeria is a big country, diverse, we must continue to live together, recognising each other’s rights,” he said.
“We are not going to score any advantage by heating up the polity. I think the governors, traditional rulers, religious leaders are all doing their best that all issues are resolved. “Comments are not of importance; it is the steps the government is taking, and I can assure you there are a lot of back-channel approaches being taken to ensure that all these crises are tamed. “We are rising stoutly to the challenges of insecurity. This government is alive to its responsibility. We are not only rising but we are making a success of it.”