An Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, on Monday said bandits are not Boko Haram insurgents but people pushed into crime by poverty.
Gumi warned that “we have to be very careful” in handling their case to prevent them been lured by Boko Haram.
He said that unlike Boko Haram insurgents with international connections and resources, ”bandits are victims of circumstances.”
The clergy, who has for some months been in the eye of the storm for negotiating freedom of persons kidnapped by bandits spoke during a television program monitored in Lagos by The Nation.
Gumi said: “I can say categorically that they are not Boko Haram but we have to be very careful because if the pressure is too much(on them), they can be lured by the Boko Haram.
Boko Haram insurgents are more internationally connected and richer.
“If the pressure is too much, I am afraid they can be influenced by Boko Haram and we have seen the signs that Boko Haram has gone to infiltrate them but so far, they are not Boko Haram.
They are ready to lay down their arms.
“When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality that turned into banditry,
which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know
There is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing a crime.”
The herdsmen-bandits, he noted, were engaged in an ethnic war against other peoples, including sedentary Fulani.
Sheikh Gumi said: “I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality.
And this is what we should look for. Let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with nomadic herdsmen.
They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.
“It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand.
The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware.
The solution is dialogue and teaching.
“These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge. And they don’t have any ambition or anything.
They don’t have a vision of the future.
They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed; because of the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it.
“So we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behavior of the nomadic Fulani.
They were pushed into criminality.