Popular Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has revealed that bandits are planning to acquire anti-aircraft missiles to repeal attacks by the military.
Gumi has been in the news lately after he went into the forests in Kaduna and Zamfara states to preach peace to th bandits and urge them to repent.
Zumi, despite the notorious acts perpetrated by the bandits, have called on the government to negotiate with these “bad guys” saying that they engage in kidnapping and collection of ransom for the purpose of raising money to buy weapons.
The cleric who spoke with PUNCH said his interaction with the bandits made him to understand that they took to crime to revenge the killing of their families by cattle rustlers and the military through airstrikes.
Gumi warned that the government act quickly before the bandits become religiously radicalised and uncontrollable like the Boko Haram insurgents.
“These people were the first victims of cattle rustling, who lost all their cattle to rustlers because then, the rustlers were having the guns. Then when they lost their cattle, they joined (the rustlers) and they started to kidnap people.
“In fact, most of the kidnappings, they (the bandits) are doing it to acquire weapons. They are now trying to buy missiles, anti-aircraft missiles. This is already developing into a full-blown insurgency and we should stop that. And what we are afraid of is that if they become religiously radicalised, it will give rise to another dimension, and it will be very difficult to control. You see what Boko Haram has become.”
Gumi further said the bandits were not being sponsored by politicians or have foreign collaborators, adding that their weapons were acquired with proceeds of kidnapping.
“Like I said, they are collecting ransoms to buy weapons. Look at the herdsmen in Oyo and south eastern states. They are not buying skyscrapers or riding Mercedes; they are still in the bush. They don’t want money. They want their cows, not money. They are doing that (kidnapping) to raise money just to buy weapons to repel helicopters and airplanes and to attack anybody that is going to attack them.
“You have to understand the psychology of these people. They are not like our governors that are stealing money. They don’t want money. For them, cow is better than money,” Gumi said.
However, Gumi said he realised that the bandits have collaborators in the armed forces.
“They have collaborators everywhere – in the armed forces, everywhere. One of them said, ‘Even this cattle rustling, we don’t have trailers to transport cattle to where they are slaughtered. We don’t have an abattoir.’ So, there are people who are (collaborating with them). Even the kidnapping of the people, they said, ‘We don’t know these people; it is the people in town that will tell us a certain person has money,” Gumi said.
Gumi maintained that the best approach to solve the banditry problem was through dialogue and granting amnesty to the bandits rather than using the military.
His approach of dialogue has, however, been rejected by the governors of Niger and Kaduna state who said it is impossible to bring in criminals who accumulated millions to a state where they will neither see little nor none of these funds.