Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, has described what is ongoing in the country as ethnic war, adding that Fulani nomad feels his existence is threatened.
He also cautioned against the description of those behind criminalities in the country as bandits and killer herdsmen.
Rather, he said such persons should be referred to as militants fighting an ethnic war and fighting for their existence.
Sheik Gumi, speaking on a Channels Television programme aired on Monday evening, said bandits either go on a killing spree as revenge for the killing of their kinsmen or kidnap to get money. In what he described as ethnic revenge, he said bandits usually attack persons and villages when they had discovered that a nomadic man was killed by people of a particular village.
When threatened, he noted that the Fulani mobilise others, even from across borders to defend their kinsmen.
“There is no excuse for crime. Crime is crime, it is a population that is pushed into criminality, peaceful people. We have lived together thousands of years without any problem with the nomadic herdsmen. So what happened? Something happened. It is a war between the Fulani nomad and the others, including the Fulani that is sedentary.
“I call them militants and not bandits because they are fighting an ethnic war. When they burn houses, that is ethnic war. Maybe a nomadic man went to that village and was killed and lynched.
“So, they come in group and ransack the village, not to steal but to revenge and this is their mode of instilling fear. That killing is not because of criminality but ethnic revenge and they don’t attack a village except the village did something to one of them.
“In fact, you will see that they pass many villages and go to the one they have problem with and attack it. So it is revenge.
“We are having an ethnic war. The Fulani nomad feels his existence is threatened. So, when you have a war, they call other Fulani, irrespective of where they come from. They go to defend their kinsmen and each one goes back to their ruga.
“That is why they transit the borders just for an operation and go back. But if there is calm, you will not see this type of incursion into the nation. That is why the government should be proactive on this issue. Let’s educate, register them so that we don’t have any Nigerian that can be susceptible to be used. They are fighting war to exist,” Gumi said.
He particularly warned against demonising any ethnic group, saying: “Demonising anybody is not appropriate. Evil is there in everybody.”
Pointing to the recent kidnap of people in a bus in Niger, Gumi said the demand for N500 million as ransom showed that the kidnap was done for money and not with intent to kill. He described incidences where kidnappers kill their victims as accidental, noting that they usually did so under the influence of hard drugs.
Gumi said: “You call them killer herdsmen. How many did they kill? Sometimes some of them are on drugs and kill because they want the money. They are comfortable because they are in the remote part of the bush. When they kill, it is mostly accidental.
“They are kidnapping to get money. Look at the latest case where they released a bus full of people. They are asking for N500 million but they have freed them. Nothing was paid. Even one of the victims’ father was calling to thank me.
“You can ask the victims. In front of us, he said he knows those who took the bus and he is going to talk with them but for those who took the boys, they are not sure of them but he is still going to investigate who they are and he is going to convince them to release them, because there is a peace process going on now.”
On whether the Nigerian military is short of intelligence to locate kidnappers and bandits, he said the military is aware of their location but is being too cautious on how to handle such situation. Rather than launch attacks on such bandits’ hideouts, he admonished the Nigerian military to adopt the negotiation option.
“They know where the bandits are. They see them by aerial views. They have intelligence among them. The problem is the military has learnt its lesson, they first approach the herd when they go in and start killing, they realise it is the wrong way, and they realise they are producing a monster.
“So, they are now very careful, watching and studying and seeing how they will come about it. The only element now is I am adding value to it, that is don’t just wait and watch, go in and negotiate,” Gumi said.
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