•Says armed bandits are Nigerians
Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, yesterday, warned that the clamour for a “blanket amnesty” for armed bandits requires proper evaluation by the Federal Government and its security forces to ascertain its viability or otherwise in curbing the menace of banditry in Nigeria.
A popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, recently flagged off the advocacy for a blanket amnesty for the bandits after he visited the camps of these armed bandits in the forests of Zamfara and Niger states.
Gumi observed that in spite of the deployment of the military to these states, the armed bandits have continued to launch attacks on communities, killing, maiming and abducting people for ransom.
According to him, only the declaration of a blanket amnesty for the bandits will bring the crisis to an end. He likened the banditry crisis to the militancy that once took place in the Niger Delta before President Umar Musa Yar Adua proclaimed an amnesty in the oil rich region.
But Yakassai who was reacting to the campaign for amnesty, charged the federal and state governments to be cautious in handling the activities of the armed bandits currently operating in the North West and North Central regions, to avoid taking decisions and actions that could encourage them to do more havoc to the society.
The elder statesman said that while Gumi was entitled to his opinion, those who are in charge of the security of the country should evaluate his views and decide what more appropriate for Nigeria.
“If we’re about 200 million people in Nigeria and any time one single individual proffers an opinion, the government will take it up and work on it, then there will be chaos.
Allow those responsible for handling security matters to examine the suggestions and make appropriate decisions.
Don’t be hysterical about anything because it will not help anybody. It is not good for anybody. “I think that whenever a citizen offers a suggestion, the government should evaluate it and take appropriate action.
They should not dismiss a recommendation made by a citizen but they should evaluate it and see how best to use it for the benefit of the country,” he said.
Yakassai also cautioned the media against sensational reporting of the activities of the bandits, stressing that celebrating them could encourage them to commit even worse crimes.
“Avoid hysteria in reporting this issue of banditry in the country. Niger Delta people did it before; IPOB did it before and it has also happened it other countries.
Do not report that bandits have taken over the North West. It is an exaggeration and an overstatement. They’ve not taken over because there are still constituted authorities there; the state governments are there, the local government councils are there and people are going about their normal businesses.
“Certainly, there are sporadic attacks here and there but they’ve not taken over any state in Nigeria. Let us not exaggerate things because it can bring trouble and when there is trouble, it will affect everybody.
Don’t give credit to those bandits because the way you people are reporting about the banditry, it encourages the bandits. They are doing some havoc but certainly they have not taken over anywhere because taking over means taking control of it.
They just spring surprise attacks here and there just to attract publicity from the media and unfortunately, the Nigerian media is awash with sensation.
When you magnify the activities of these people, they feel encouraged with what they are doing and indirectly you are helping them by giving them prominence which they do not deserve,” he said.
On the true identity of the bandits terrorising communities, Yakassai said he does not share the view of some persons that the bandits are foreigners who have invaded Nigeria.
He said that so far, the theory of foreign invasion has not been proven and he believes they are Nigerians.