Islamic cleric Sheikh Abubakar Gumi says bandits do not mean to kill their victims, describing deaths that have occurred in the camp of bandits as “accidental”.
During an appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Gumi said on Monday that bandits were pushed by circumstances and only killed for “revenge”.
He said, “Since there is a peace process, they are ready to lay down their arms, stop kidnapping and all the things they are doing. And you call them killer herdsmen, how many people do they kill? Sometimes, they are on drugs. They want the money.
“When they kill, it is mostly accidental, maybe somebody they took who is sick. But tell me who they have killed? How many? Few.”
The cleric stressed that the bandits were fighting an ethnic war. He also said the bandits speak Fulfulde and Hausa, adding that they are Nigerians.
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“They are Nigerians, no doubt about that. Some of them have parents in the town.
“Now we are not talking about banditry but an ethnic war between the nomadic Fulani, the herdsmen and the others – everybody who is not them.
“We are having an ethnic war, the Fulani feels his existence is threatened. What they do is to call other people from other places. Irrespective of where they are, a Fulani is a Fulani, they go to defend their kinsmen, that is why they transit the borders and then go back,” he added.
Gumi has been leading negotiations with bandits in the forests of Zamfara, Niger and some other northern states.
He had also advocated “blanket amnesty” for bandits similar to that given to militants in the Niger Delta region.