Over 600 kidnappers and bandits including their commanders, who were terrorising communities and highways in Birnin Gwari, Igabi and Giwa local government areas of Kaduna state have agreed to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
The peace agreement came as prominent Islamic scholar, Sheikh (Dr) Ahmad Gumi took peace message to the bandits in the bush in Sabon Garin Yadi, Giwa local government area of Kaduna state. Dr Gumi was accompanied by Kaduna State Commissioner of Police, Umar Muri, who represented the IGP on the peace mission.
Sheikh Gumi in an exclusive video posted online on Wednesday by a Kaduna based medium, Desert Herald, had preached to the bandits, most of whom are Fulani, to lay down their arms and embrace peace.
Apparently moved by the Cleric’s message of peace and preaching, the bandits whose wives were moved to tears, promised to direct their members to cease hostilities and ensure security in Zaria, Giwa and the dreaded Kaduna-Birnin Gwari highway.
As they promised the Islamic cleric to mobilise their men immediately to cease hostilities, they were however quick to warn that, if government continues to bombard their families and belongings and fails to fulfill their own part of the bargain, they will continue until their grievances are addressed.
According to the report, the bandits gave rustling of their cattle, incessant harassment by security operatives and neglect by the government, as reasons for their resort to crime.
Responding to Sheikh Gumi, top commanders lamented the condition they were subjected to and expressed the frustrations that led them into kidnapping and banditry. They unanimously said that they were forced into taking up arms due to constant humiliation, harassment, arbitrary arrests, extortion and even killings of their innocent kinsmen by law enforcement agents.
According to the bandits, security personnel have killed many of their family members with many of them losing virtually all their possessions through cattle rustling, extortion by security agents and military bombardments.
“Thousands of our youths do not have anything to do and there is no means of livelihood hence the decision to go into arms struggle. We also lack government’s presence, we don’t have basic necessities like water, schools, clinics and others in all our localities, so we felt that, as long as government and the society do not change their attitudes towards us, there will never be peace,” they said They also accused government of not being sincere in ending banditry and kidnappings, saying that the Fulanis are not the only culprits in the business of kidnappings and banditry, as local intelligence they used to operate are coordinated by their accomplices in the city, as it is impossible for them who predominantly live in the bushes to personally know their targets, locations of houses or to even identify the rich without such internal collaborators.
The bandits lamented that innocent Fulani are constantly being harassed and sometimes being killed in markets and other places in the cities. They also accused Nigerian security agents of benefitting hugely from the current security challenges and told the gathering that, they only accepted the invitation to come from far and near because of the respect and confidence they have in Sheikh Gumi.
In his comment, CP Muri, who spoke in the bandits’ native language (Fulfulde) pleaded for understanding and patience and assured them that he will deliver their message to IGP Adamu.
He said the Police will continue to support any peace initiative and that the leadership of the Police under IGP Adamu recognizes the rights of all Nigerians and told them that he was ordered by the IGP directly to come because of the importance government attached to Sheikh Gumi’s peace efforts. Earlier in his preaching, Sheikh Gumi quoted verses of the Qur’an to the bandits on the need to always be patient and not take laws into their own hands. While empathising with the aggrieved members of the Fulani community, Sheikh Gumi said that was the first time he was hearing directly about their predicament, frustrations and what they went through.
He noted tha it was difficult for someone in such a condition to resist the temptation of taking up arms for revenge and for source of survival and therefore pleaded with them to give him the benefit of doubt by immediately ceasing all hostilities including kidnapping.
The Islamic Scholar promised that he would personally see President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue and the need to immediately address their grievances and demands, which include immediate release of all innocent Fulanis that were not found wanting or taking them to court to determine their guilt or otherwise.
However, in a spontaneous move, virtually all the top commanders of the armed Fulani militias pledged to work with Sheikh Gumi and assured him that they would ensure security in Zaria-Giwa axis as well as the notorious Birnin Gwari road.
Sheikh Gumi distributed brocade, clothes and copies of Islamic books to the militants and gave them a cash gift of N500,000 on behalf of Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi Initiative for the Propagation of Sunnah, the organisation spearheading the Da’awah.
Also speaking at the occasion, Chairman of the Media Department of the Da’awah Movement, who is also the Chairman/ Publisher of Desert Herald, Malam Tukur Mamu, said Sheikh Gumi is fully committed and will sacrifice anything including his own life to ensure that the message of Islam reaches the Fulanis.
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Mamu assured the Fulanis that everything will be done within the powers of the respected Sheikh to reach out to the government and to address some of the major issues they raised as soon as possible. Mamu said already constructions of boreholes have begun in some Fulani communities and that everything that are being done at the moment are being borne by him and his students.