Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has stirred fresh controversy in canvassing amnesty for bandits, equating them this time around with coup plotters and ex-Biafra soldiers.
Gumi who had voiced outrageous positions such as ‘bandits are not criminals’, wondered why they could not be pardoned like coup plotters or former Biafra soldiers.
According to a report, Gumi espoused the new position on Thursday in Kaduna in a response to the Christian Association of Nigeria.
As quoted, he said there was need to forgive bandits for the country to have peace.
“Even those that instigated civil war, the civil war that millions of people died, were pardoned. I see no reason why we cannot accept their (bandits) repentance and give them amnesty.”
Gumi added that he never betrayed soldiers of Christian faith before the bandits when he visited them.
He noted that he was misunderstood by CAN because the video that went viral about his discussion with the bandits was distorted and the actual message was manipulated.
“You ask why do we give them amnesty but they told us specifically that they are ready to drop their arms and they don’t want to be pursued with legal actions after they repented.
“If the country could pardon coup plotters who committed treasonable offences in the era of military administration, the bandits can as well enjoy similar forgiveness even better under democratic rule.
“These people in the bush, who have taken arms; they are criminals. I wonder who is not a criminal. Since Nigeria forgave coup plotters, forgave those that killed. Even those that instigated civil war; civil war that millions of people died, I see no reason why we cannot accept their repentance.
“Since that is the bottleneck and it is only the Federal Government that can give them that leverage. Strangely, we found out that they are victims too.
“They were victims of profiling. So many of them were arrested and punished just for looking like herdsmen.”
What CAN said:
In a statement on Wednesday, Joseph Daramola, the General secretary of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) expressed disappointment with Gumi, over his accusation that soldiers attacking bandits are Christians.
Daramola asked Gumi to recant. He said Gumi’s statement was divisive.
Daramola said anyone saying that Christian soldiers are the ones attacking bandits does not wish the country well.”
“If anyone said Christian soldiers are attacking communities, that person does not wish this country well and doesn’t want the war against terrorism to end in victory. Gumi’s so-called audio evidence cannot be taken seriously because audio evidence can be deliberately arranged to make a point.
“How can we ascertain the credibility of the person alleging that it was the Christian soldiers that were attacking communities and bandits?
“This unreasonable outburst is not only demoralising and a plot to divide the Nigerian military along religious lines, it equally, derogatively, portrays the non-Christian soldiers as not committed to fighting criminality.,”
CAN hoped that Gumi was misquoted. “But if it was true, then the unity and peace of the country are being threatened by the sentimental statement of this self-appointed negotiator.”
Daramola said the bandits were now being pampered, money being made available to them and highly respected politicians and religious leaders speaking for them.
“Who truly offended these terrorists? What sin did the people they are attacking and kidnapping commit against them?
“Why should anybody be speaking in favour of the terrorists? Will pampering the terrorists not truly going to be around with us in the next 20 years as foretold by the immediate past Chief of Army Staff?” he queried.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s prolonged silence is tantamount to an endorsement of Gumi’s dangerous statement, Daramola added.