Outrage over Gumi, government’s pact with bandits

Bola Badmus | Lagos, Isaac Shobayo | Jos, Adelowo Oladipo | Minna, Muhammad Sabiu | Kaduna, Ebenezer Adurokiya | Warri and Segun Kasali | Lagos

OUTRAGE, on Friday, greeted Thursday night’s open fraternization between Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, the Niger State government and bandits who abducted students and teachers of Government Science College, Kagara, in Rafi Local Government Area of the state. The bandits also killed a student of the school during the abduction. Sheikh Gumi led a delegation that included high-ranking officials of Niger State to a negotiation meeting with the bandits in Tagina Forest, at the end of which Gumi said the bandits showed positive signs of releasing the students and renouncing banditry. Leaders of the Niger Delta under the aegis of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), their Yoruba counterparts, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and other similar groups and leaders across the country described the meeting and the negotiation as bizarre and an endorsement of criminality. PANDEF condemned the meeting and described kidnapping as having become an enterprise.

PANDEF’s National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, said in an interview with Saturday Tribune on Friday that the country had become a ludicrous state. He said that the situation would not be allowed to continue forever as the rest of the country would not sit back and watch.

Robinson said: “ It (kidnapping of students) has become an enterprise. The bandits are allowed to move around freely and audaciously go to school, kidnap school children, kidnap citizens and the likes at will and the so-called Sheikh Gumi will lead a team to go and negotiate with taxpayers’ money given to them and then the next day, they will fly go somewhere else to kidnap. It is an enterprise now.

“It is shameful that the Minister of Defence is saying that Nigerians should defend themselves because as it is now, the government has been overwhelmed by the bandits and there is a Gumi that goes to the forest with government officials.

“That means government officials know where these bandits are in the forest and they are not arrested; nothing happens to them; they are given money to release people and business continues. It is a shame. Nigeria is a funny country.

“How funny the country has become is really ironic. It is ridiculous that in the Eastern Region of the country, Easterners, who are peacefully coming together to form a security outfit to protect their lives and livelihood, are being attacked with the full force of the Nigerian military; aircrafts flying over forest to bombard innocent citizens who are working to protect their livelihood.

“On the other hand, you have bandits in the forest who kidnap at will, who destroy livelihood at will, who kill at will, being tolerated and accommodated.

“Government officials going to the forest to meet with them and negotiate the release of kidnapped kids and air force aircraft are not bombarding the forest.

“Nigeria is a ridiculous country. That is the truth. And this situation will not be allowed to continue forever. The rest of the country will not sit back and be watching this very funny drama.

“Someday, something will happen in this country. I am sorry but that is the truth.”

The PANDEF spokesman advised President Muhammadu Buhari to desist from his “nepotistic pastime if the country must remain an entity.”

He said: “As a responsible organisation, PANDEF has continued to call on Mr President to become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, not the president of a region.

“The nepotism in the country is too much. It is too glaring that people are not treated as the same. Some persons are given preferential treatment and others are treated as criminals. In fact, the victims are criminalised and victimized, while those perpetrating criminality of all sorts are being tolerated.

“So, it is for government to rise up to the occasion to become a neutral government that will protect the lives and properties of all Nigerians. These bandits are criminals. They are marauders. They should be so dealt with and smoked out of the country. “ They are threatening the peace and unity of this country and this sentiment and attachment should be done away with and the Nigerian Armed Forces should treat them as criminals.” 

They’ve turned Nigeria to Banana Republic –Afenifere 

The pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, described the meeting and negotiation as condemnable and something a stop should be put to. 

The organisation’s spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin, in a short statement to Saturday Tribune, said: “It is becoming clearer that there are more bandits in Nigeria than we ever knew. Those of us who are normal had mistakenly thought it is only the criminals in the forests who are bandits but we are gaining better understanding now. They have turned Nigeria into a Banana Republic.” 

Bandits have exposed FG’s weakness –MBF, ASOMBEN 

The Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF) stated that the visits of Sheikh Gumi to kidnappers and bandits’ dens have exposed the weakness and wrong approach of the Federal Government to the fight against insurgency in the North.

Speaking to Saturday Tribune, the General Secretary of ASOMBEN, Reverend James Pam, agreed that negotiation is allowed in conflict resolution but said that the roads the Islamic cleric and his team passed through to get to the destinations of the bandits were no strange to the military men. He, therefore, wondered why they could not take the fight to their hideouts.

Reverend Pam said: “There is nothing wrong with the negotiations but it has further exposed the weakness and lack of political will on the part of the Federal Government to fight insurgency. It has also shown that the military knows the location of the bandits and kidnappers but they are not willing to go to their dens.”

He also condemned the idea of granting amnesty to bandits and other criminal elements terrorising the northern part of the country, arguing that it is constitutionally and morally wrong to reward evil. “Amnesty for what? These people are purely criminals who have no regard for human lives. Negotiation in this context cannot work. They should be crushed. They have wreaked so much havoc and, therefore, deserve no sympathy or amnesty under any guise. The government should make up its mind to move against them. “I will suggest that the president come up with a special force to handle the issue of banditry. He should also appoint a commander that will report directly to him,” Pam said.

Also, the president of the MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said there was nothing wrong in using religion as a platform to negotiate with criminals to surrender but questioned the rationale behind any amnesty for criminals.

Dr Pogu said: “How can amnesty be given to bandits? It means the government is rewarding them for their atrocities. It has been confirmed also that many of them are not Fulani from Nigeria; the majority of them are from Mali, Chad, Senegal and other African countries. So, they don’t deserve amnesty under any guise. The military should move against them.

Our forests need to be cleared. “The stage at which we are now, the military, especially the new service chiefs, must be determined because Nigeria is under the siege of these killer herdsmen and can plunge the country into war if not dealt with once and for all. So, negotiation cannot solve the issues on the ground. It has gone beyond the stage of negotiation.” 

Negotiating with bandits is shameful, defeatist —Pa Adebanjo 

An elder statesman and Afenifere Leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo said it is shameful and defeatist for a government to be negotiating with bandits. Adebanjo, in a chat with Saturday Tribune, said that no competent government would ever do such. “Negotiating with bandits over insecurity in the country is shameful and defeatist. A competent government will never do such a thing,” he said

Negotiating with bandits illogical, unproductive – Security expert 

A Security expert, Babatunde Okoya, described the Niger State officials’ negotiation with bandits as unnecessary, illogical and unproductive. Okoya, in an interview with Saturday Tribune on Friday in Lagos, described the move as futile as there are drones and other technologies that can solve the protracted challenge. He said: “I strongly don’t think negotiating with bandits is a good approach. As a law enforcement officer, I don’t see why we are negotiating with bandits if all the necessary things are done. 

Abducted students will be released soon —Gumi, Niger State govt 

Earlier on Friday, the Niger State, Abubakar Bello, had said that the kidnapped students and teachers would be released soon. Bello, while speaking to newsmen in Minna on the efforts being made to secure the release of the kidnap victims, said his government was interfacing with security agencies, community leaders and other stakeholders to ensure their release.

According to him, with the information he has received from state officials, security agencies and other stakeholders, including Dr Gumi, he was optimistic that the students would soon regain freedom.

He appealed to parents to remain calm, saying his administration was not leaving any stone unturned in addressing the situation.

The governor said: “The release of the students and other people is our ultimate priority for now and we are hopeful they will soon be released.

“I want to assure you that we are doing everything we can. We are interfacing with the local communities and federal authorities to ensure that we recover the victims safely.

“Our utmost priority right now is to make sure we bring them back home safe, and that is exactly what we are going to do.”

He said his administration will ensure schools became more secure by fencing them and strengthening the vigilance group to complement the conventional security agencies. Gumi, who led the dialogue with kinappers in the forest, said in an interview on Friday at the Government House, Minna, that the meeting was fruitful. The cleric expressed optimism on the early release of abducted students, saying that the outcome of his discussion with their abductors was positive. Earlier, a source close to the negotiating team had told newsmen that the students had regained their freedom but the information turned out to be false. Gumi later told newsmen that they were yet to be released.  

 

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