Nigerian Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, says he is also a major victim of banditry rocking several parts of the country.
Gumi, who has come under strong criticisms for championing amnesty for bandits, said his elder brother was kidnapped and only secured his freedom after payment of ransom.
He stated this in an interview with Premium Times even as he described those calling for his arrest over his interaction with bandits as clowns.
“They are clowns, they don’t know anything about the Nigerian society, they don’t know about the Nigerian constitution and liberty. It is a constitutional right for someone to express his views, so long you are not calling for violence or to harm anybody. These people calling for my arrest, I don’t see them different from the bandits.
“To say that I am supporting or sponsoring bandits is malicious. I am just trying to cure them in my own way. I am trying to prevent it my own way and I have seen how my little efforts have helped. I just have a different perspective in addressing the issue. But to encourage them? No. To help them? No. It is impossible. I am also a victim of banditry.
“My senior brother was kidnapped; we had to pay a ransom. Also in our mosque, we have paid ransom. Even now, somebody is asking me to assist him to pay ransom. Our family driver who happens to be our relative, his son, a private soldier, was killed by bandits. So how I can support such people?”
On his opposition to Federal Government’s designation of bandits as terrorists, Gumi said :”I don’t think they understand the situation. Today, very sadly, we heard a bus carrying about 30 people was burnt by bandits and Nigerians know that they don’t used to do that.
” That is as if we are teaching them to be true terrorists. It is just like a lady known to be going out and people started calling her a prostitute, there will come a time when she will come openly and say ‘I am a prostitute, so what?’ We are not using human psychology in our fight against terrorism or against banditry.”
The Islamic cleric however expressed support for the Federal Government RUGA programme.
” The RUGA that the Federal Government is suggesting is a good idea, I see it as a private-public enterprises. The Fulani herdsmen are widespread all over the country and the forests, it is not possible to put them together in a confined location. Even among themselves, they like to give space among themselves and that is their nature. The best thing to do is to establish for them satellite schooling, satellite medical centres and all the basic infrastructure that will cater for them. And it is cost effective, it will settle them down and also cure the helplessness and despondency have found themselves, suddenly, in the ever changing socioeconomic and geographical conditions the nation is facing.”