'They want schools, hospitals,' Sheikh Gumi says negotiating with bandits is easiest way to end insecurity

Gumi says bandits are open to peace as long as their legitimate grievances are met by the government.

Sheikh Ahmad Gumi (second from right) recently met with bandits in Zamfara to negotiate peace [HumAngle]

Some state governments in the region have made it a policy to negotiate with bandits to surrender their arms in return for amnesty after years of killing thousands, and wreaking havoc.

Gumi himself has become a peace broker over the past few months, meeting with bandits in Kaduna and Zamfara to negotiate their peaceful surrender.

The influential Islamic cleric met with Zamfara governor, Bello Matawalle, on Thursday, February 4, 2021 following his recent meeting with two bandit leaders in the state.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Gumi said the bandits are open to peace as long as their legitimate grievances are met by the government.

He said, "I am in full support of what the governor is doing in negotiating with these citizens that are misled. I call them misled citizens.

"I've spoken with them face-to-face and they're ready to lay down their arms if their conditions are fulfilled, and I find all conditions they gave as justifiable.

"They don't want to be lynched when they come into our markets, or be profiled just for riding a new motorcycle.

"These are complaints so basic. They want amenities, schools, hospitals. I hope Nigerians will come together so that we have everlasting peace."

Gumi said 'armchair critics' should stop knocking negotiation efforts because a similar process was employed with militants in the Niger Delta to restore peace in the region.

He said his involvement in the process is not influenced by any political or religious affiliations, but by the desire to see the return of peace.

The cleric cautioned that repentant bandits should not be victimised by Nigerians that want peace to reign in the country.

"Nigeria has faced civil war in which the vanquished was not stigmatised and their wealth was returned to them, so we should consider them as those who were vanquished in a war, and we should not stigmatise them, and we should give them all their rights and privileges as a nation," he said.

He also noted that victims of the activities of bandits should be compensated by the government, but so should bandits who have been affected by the military's crackdown on them.

Gumi sounded a warning that failing to effectively tackle the banditry problem could lead to another insurgency like the one terrorist group, Boko Haram, has waged in the northeast region since 2009.

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