el-Rufai Digs In As Obasanjo, Gumi Go Soft On Banditry

April 5, 2021
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By our Correspondents  |

The duo of former president Olusegun Obasanjo and Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gumi has advocated a softer approach to dealing with bandits but Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai will have none of it.

While Obasanjo and Gumi believe a carrot and stick approach should do the trick, Governor el-Rufai insists his government would not negotiate with them and would go further to  prosecute anyone it catches negotiating with the outlaws.

Obasanjo and Gumi’s position was contained in a joint statement they issued and personally signed yesterday in Abeokuta, Ogun State, after a closed-door meeting which lasted about four hours.

In the statement, the two leaders declared that the only means through which the menace of banditry, kidnapping and ransom payment could be overcome in Nigeria is for the federal government to “wean those who are ready to be weaned out of the bushes and crime, settle and rehabilitate them, give them skills, empower them and let them have employment”.

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They also recommended that unrepentant bandits should be given harsh treatment.

While urging the federal and state governments to adopt a common approach in tackling banditary in the country, they also called for the establishment of special courts to deal with cases of banditry, kidnapping, ransom demanding and unlawful carrying of weapons.

Sheikh Gumi had yesterday afternoon visited  Chief Obasanjo at his Hilltop Mansion located within the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL) in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, where issues of national security, particularly the recent happenings in the South-West where Fulani herders are being accused of being behind the spate of kidnappings across the region.

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Upon arrival, Gumi and his entourage went straight into a closed-door meeting with some traditional rulers in Egbaland, the state chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Bishop Tunde Akin-Akinsanya, the Chief Imam of Egbaland, Sheikh Sa’addallah Alade Bamigbola, among others, who were already waiting.

In the statement issued at the end of the meeting, both Obasanjo and Gumi identified lack of good education as well as economic disparities  as some of the principal factors fuelling the menace of insecurity in Nigeria and came to the conclusion that there is the need for both the federal  and state governments to evolve short, medium and long-term solutions towards overcoming the challenges.

Part of the solutions, according to the statement, included the use “of stick and carrot for the offender and the vulnerable” whereby hardened criminals must be hit hard.

Part of the statement read: “We acknowledge that people from different parts of the country and outside the country are involved although some people are more predominantly involved than others.

“We must not, advertently or inadvertently, in words, action or inaction encourage or support criminality.

“We identified the crisis as a micro ethnic conflict between the Fulani and many host communities,  mainly in the North West.

“We identified the remote causes as educational and economic disparities and the negative use of religion and ethnicity by unscrupulous politicians,” they said.

In some of their resolutions, they advocated that “unlawful carrying of arms should be very seriously punished” and for the federal government to seek a regional solution through the ECOWAS framework.

The meeting also advocated special protection and reward for whistleblowers against criminals living in the community just as it encouraged every community to stand firm and strong against criminals

The Obasanjo – Gumi meeting further agreed that Nigerians should desist from painting these crimes with the brush of ethnicity, region and religion, while  at the same time urging tolerance and accommodation of others.

“State governments must have adequate means of providing security for  their people and as chief executives and chief security officers of their states, they must have the means at their disposal to ensure security for all within their states.

“Federal government must be proactive, secure necessary and updated intelligence to deal with organised crimes and have common policy for the nation. It is not solving the problem when one state goes for negotiation and molly-cuddling of criminals and another one goes for shooting them. Nor should one state go for ransom payment and another one going against,” they said.

However, the Kaduna State government has maintained its uncompromising stance on tackling the menace: it has vowed not only to reject any form of negotiation with bandits, but will go on to prosecute anyone caught negotiating with bandits and terrorists in the state.

The commissioner for internal security and home affairs, Samuel Aruwan, made the government’s position known via a statement he issued yesterday.

Aruwan debunked media reports suggesting that the Governor Nasir el-Rufai administration had appointed an intermediary to negotiate with bandits on its behalf.

“The position of the Kaduna State government remains the same: the government will not negotiate with or pay ransoms to bandits. Any  person who claims to do so in any capacity, if found, will be prosecuted accordingly,” the statement partly read.

Citizens were urged to report the details of any persons posing as official government negotiators to Kaduna State authorities.

And speaking on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics yesterday, Governor Nasir el-Rufai said the recent bandits’ attacks on communities in the state were a result of the government’s decision that it would not negotiate with them.

“We have a feeling that the renewed attacks in Kaduna are not unconnected to the position that we have taken as a government that we will not negotiate with criminals,” said the governor during the interview.

He added, “We will not give them any money and they will not make any profit from Kaduna; anyone that comes to Kaduna will not get a penny from the state government, except he will get a bullet instead.”

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