Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gumi, has called on the Federal Government to grant a blanket amnesty to bandits terrorising the northern region of the country.
The cleric has in recent weeks met with banditry gangs in Kaduna and Zamfara to negotiate their peaceful surrender after years of killing thousands and displacing tens of thousands from numerous communities.
He also met with the bandits responsible for this week's abduction of 27 students and 15 others from the Government Science College, Kagara in Niger State to negotiate the release of the hostages.
After a meeting with Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, on Friday, February 19, 2021 to discuss the result of his negotiation with the bandits, Gumi told reporters that the bandits are victims themselves.
"They were persecuted, arrested, lynched. The Federal Government should give them a blanket amnesty," he said.
Gumi has argued in the past that the easiest and safest way to end insecurity in the north is to negotiate peace with the bandits.
"I've spoken with them (bandits) 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," he said two week ago.
Some northern state governors have made it a policy to negotiate with bandits to surrender their arms in return for amnesty and compensation after years of killing thousands, and wreaking havoc.
But others like Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, have raised objections to the practice, noting that the bandits cannot change from their ways and should be brought to justice instead.
Kagara students still in kidnappers' custody
Contrary to media reports early on Friday, Governor Bello announced shortly after his meeting with Gumi that the students have not yet been released.
He said his government is coordinating with the authorities and local communities to ensure the safe return of the hostages.
"I want to assure you we are doing everything we can," he said.
He also announced that he's still awaiting a comprehensive report of Gumi's findings during his meeting with the kidnappers.