Co-ordinator of Ijaw Monitoring Group, Mr. Joseph Evah, a human rights activist, Ankio Briggs, Ijaw Youth Council, and Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) have condemned an Islamic scholar notable for negotiating with bandits, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, over a statement credited to him that the bandits that are terrorising the northern part of the country should be granted amnesty by the Federal Government. Gumi had said that the bandits should be granted amnesty just the way it was done to the ex-agitators of the Niger Delta.
Evah said that he once suggested, when the United Nations building was bombed under former president Goodluck Jonathan that the bandits should be granted amnesty because they were provoked by the killing of their boss. He however said that with the way the whole thing was going nobody could differentiate among Fulani herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.
“We don’t even know what is going on. So Gumi should arrange them and show us where they belong so that we know how to handle them but now the government will say do not even expose them. Bandits are doing their own, Fulani herdsmen are doing their own.
“Gumi, who is now their leader or general overseer should tell us what to do. He should gather them and show us the bandits and the herdsmen. He should gather them in an open field, separate them and tell us which one we should give amnesty,” he said. On her part, Ankio Briggs of Niger Delta Self-determination Movement said that nothing could surprise her in Nigeria anymore, while stressing that comparing bandits, Fulani herdsmen, jihadists, Boko Haram, ISIS, who she said were terrorists, with the Niger Delta agitation for justice and equity and resource ownership was annoying, and sickening. “Actually it is infuriating.
I don’t blame the people who are making these suggestions. The people I blame are the people of Niger Delta and their politicians, who are not able to represent us well because if they represented us well, we won’t find ourselves in this mess. “The only way out for us in the Niger Delta as far as our group is concerned, since the government is not going to restructure this country, is for us to push very hard for a referendum so that everybody can decide what he wants to do,” she said. Briggs maintained that those regarded as bandits were terrorists, and that they were not different from the jihadists in Afghanistan and other places.
She said: “Do we want to continue in this mess that we found ourselves? It is only the people of the Niger Delta that will make that decision and if we are not bold enough to make that decision, this is just the beginning. “How do you give amnesty to those, who are killing people and raping women? Give amnesty to armed robbers, give amnesty to all the criminals in Nigeria so that Nigeria will show the world which way to do it I suppose.” The spokesman of Ijaw Youth Council, Ebilade Ekerefe said that it was provocative and insulting for Sheikh Gumi to compare “the bloodsucking terrorists to Niger Delta ex-agitators who were fighting for resource control, environmental justice and rapid development of the region after many years of neglect by the Federal Government.”
Ekerefe noted that Sheikh Gumi’s alleged open support for armed banditry is a further justification “to the fact that some people are above the law under President Muhammadu Buhari.” “Instead of security agents to go after such people, they are rather clamping down on people who are genuinely asking for self-determination as a result of the injustices.
“Gumi should be called to order as his advocacy for amnesty for terrorists is dead on arrival. “Security agents should leave no stone unturned as they commit themselves to the total decimation of these hydra-headed monsters. “People like Sheik Gumi should be arrested because they are the kind of people trying to cause crisis in this country,” he said. He wondered why Sheik Gumi compared the agitation of the Niger Delta struggle to Fulani bandits, who he said were killing innocent people and making the entire country insecure. “The Niger Delta mili-tants fought for resource control, fairness and equitable distribution of power; in this case we don’t know what the bandits and the terrorists are fighting for. “And so it is very wrong for Gumi to compare the Niger Delta struggle with Fulani bandits, and it is statements like this that will continue to put this country on a divided line. “To us, our struggle or the struggle of the ex-agitators is for resource control, fairness and justice. We don’t know what Boko Haram members, bandits and the Fulani herdsmen are fighting for.
“So, instead of calling for them to be given amnesty, the narrative should be that security agents should clampdown on them, get all of them arrested because they are causing serous insecurity in the country and we don’t know what they are fighting for. They are just criminals,” he said. Benjamin Style, National Chairman of Host Communities of Nigeria Producing Oil and Gas (HOSTCOM) said that members of Boko Haram and the Niger Delta group were quite different and that their agitations were different. “What are they agitating for? Is it for their inclusiveness or what? These are issues that are critical, but Niger Delta militancy came up for community people to be included in the day to day running of oil and gas matters. “They have been neglected up to that moment. That was the reason these agitations came up, but we were not killing people.
“We were only destroying pipelines. The issue of Boko Haram is quite different from that of Niger Delta. “The question is what is Boko Haram agitating for, is it for religious war? Boko Haram is condemnable. Is it for bandit activities that they have embarked on or for the abductions? Is that what we should grant amnesty for or is it a kind of religious salvation? “I think Gumi should be able to come out clearly with what the North East wants. Is it that amnesty should be granted to the Boko Haram members so that the killings can be stopped. Those things should be stated clearly,” he said. However, Gumi’s position was supported by Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA), which said that Boko Haram members and bandits should be granted amnesty if that would end the killings in the northern part of the country.
John Mark Ezonebi, who spoke for RNDA said that he supported Gumi’s opinion hat the bandits should be granted amnesty. Ezonebi noted that the security agencies had done their best and that they were not getting results. He stated that any part of Nigeria that was being ravaged by bandits or killer herdsmen or by any group or insurgents was the one losing. “We are all humans and we are all Nigerians. We must call a spade a spade that we don’t want these unwarranted killings anymore.