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Sheikh Gumi’s insecurity shuttle: Bandits must not be pampered or amnestied

Dr Abubakar Alkali

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Sheikh Gumi is a respected Islamic cleric, his ‘diplomatic shuttle’ into the forests to meet with criminal Fulani kidnappers is genuine but it will N.O.T stop armed Fulani kidnapping. Not even close

Sheikh Gumi’s efforts though genuine will not convince these criminals to drop their weapons. These criminal Fulani kidnappers will only be buoyed by the thinking now that they are too powerful for the government that everyone including Islamic scholars have resorted to begging them to drop their arms.

When these criminal Fulani kidnappers feel the full force of our military, they will genuinely ask for amnesty.

Clearly, spiritual begging and unsolicited amnesty will never stop these criminal Fulani kidnappers from their nefarious activity.

If the kidnappers want prayers, amnesty or both, they will ask for it but a situation whereby people go on diplomatic shuttle to ‘beg’ criminal fulani kidnappers could potentially institutionalise kidnapping in Nigeria instead of solving the problem.

When they came to meet with Sheikh Gumi, these kidnappers came dressed in military fatigues, hanging AK-47 on their shoulders and displaying large cache of ammunition. They didn’t come with prayer mats or books. If they were ready to listen to Sheikh Gumi’s sermon and serious about peace, why didn’t they come with prayer mats and in civilian clothes?

After all, there were no soldiers or police around the forest as they gave a condition that no security agent  should come anywhere near the general area hosting their meeting with Sheikh Gumi.

What these Fulani criminals are doing in kidnapping and killing innocent victims whether in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina Birnin Gwari, Igangan, Ibadan, Ebonyi, Abuja or anywhere is unacceptable. They are blackmailing all right-thinking Fulanis. They do not represent us as Fulani.

Amnesty for criminal kidnappers from the Islamic perspective

Amnesty for criminals deprives justice for the victims. From the Islamic perspective, it is illegal to offer compensation to any criminal who steals and kills. Islam is a religion of peace and justice. The holy Quran has clearly emplored all Muslims to stand for justice no matter the circumstances. Surah an-Nisa states in chapter 135:

O believers! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, Allah is best to ensure their interests. So do not let your desires cause you to deviate ˹from justice˺. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then ˹know that˺ Allah is certainly All-Aware of what you do.

Every Muslim should promote justice and justice in this case is to the victims not to the criminals. Standing for justice in this case means getting these criminal Fulani kidnappers to face justice and not shielding them under the guise of ‘repentance’

We were here before: these Fulani criminals will never repent because they have found a means of job creation through kidnapping which fetches them millions. Even if they say they will repent, it is a lie. They will not repent. The solution is FULL FORCE to break their back.

Begging criminals does not amount to promotion of justice. Why are these criminals demanding compensation? From who? Who offended these Fulani criminals?

If these criminals are saying that their cattle’s were rustled to demand compensation? Who rustled their cattle? The case of cattle rustling is amongst themselves – criminal gangs within the Fulani. Why are they asking for compensation.

How about those innocent men and women killed by these heartless Fulani kidnappers. Is their blood going just like that? Don’t they deserve justice? Between those innocent victims who were killed by the Fulani kidnappers and the Fulani kidnappers, who deserves justice?

If there is any form of compensation it should go to the innocent victims who were callously kidnapped or killed by these heartless Fulani rascals. Many of these victims had to pay ransom to gain their freedom. Some were killed by these Fulani kidnappers even after ransom was paid.

It has been reported by Ibn Abbas (Sahih Al-Bukhari 6488) that ‘The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The most hated of people to Allah are three persons: a person who deviates into the unlawful, a person who seeks for the traditions of ignorance to remain in Islam, and a person who seeks to shed the blood of another without a just cause.”

In the light of this Hadith, these criminal Fulani kidnappers qualify as one of the three most hated by Allah (SWT). On what basis will anyone listen to someone who kills an innocent person at will and is proud doing it?

How many children have been turned orphans by these criminals? How many women have been turned into widows by these heartless criminals? Why is the respected sheikh Gumi calling for government to pay them compensation? Compensation for what?

Perhaps, our respected sheikh Gumi needs to be reminded that most of these criminals do not practice any religion. They mention Islam by word of mouth but they don’t pray Hamsat Salawat neither do they fast in the holy month of Ramadan. None of the five pillars of Islam is in their dictionary. Most of them cannot recite Fatiha as many of them are high on drugs and marijuana.

How could these criminals respect the oath administered on them by Sheikh Gumi? How can someone who has never read the holy Quran took and oath with the holy book and feels he is under obligation to respect such oaths? Do these Fulani criminals even understand such oaths whether Islamic or conventional?

A sense of deja vu

The criminal Fulani kidnappers are very smart indeed. They know too well that they will not drop their arms but they keep asking for amnesty so that more money will continue to come in.

As a matter of fact, during the era of former Zamfara state Governor Abdulazeez Yari, some of these Fulani kidnappers were even sponsored to Mecca to perform the Hajj and repent but they never did. They went to Hajj, came back and continued their kidnapping activities which prompted the Zamfara state government through the security agencies to arrest some of them at the airport upon arrival from Hajj.

Without doubt, amnesty and prayers for criminal will not work. Both history and mathematics have proven this to be true. Between 2016-2018 during the hey days of the notorious kidnapper/cattle rustler late Buhari Tsoho aka Buharin Daji at the height of the Fulani cattle rustling/kidnapping activities in Zamfara state, the then state Governor Abdulazeez Yari Abubakar had offered unsolicited amnesty to the bandits and kidnappers operating in the state.

Former Governor Yari gave the bandits huge amount of money in exchange for their weapons. They collected the free cash of course, dropped just a few of their weapons and retained some weapons.

One of the kidnappers’ leaders in Zamfara state popularly called Dantawaye put it in proper perspective when he said in an interview he granted a national Newspaper ‘you can’t drop all your weapons. You can drop only some of them’

Former Zamfara state Governor Yari during his reign had offered amnesty to these criminals on three occasions but they all failed. The criminals collected their free amnesty money from the Zamfara state government and went back to the forests to continue their kidnapping activity.

At some point, former Governor Yari of Zamfara state vowed never to grant amnesty to criminals ever again. So what has changed for the current Zamfara state Governor Mohammed Bello Matawalle to think that his brand of amnesty will work? Is it not the same Zamfara bandits and kidnappers as those during former Governor Yari’s era who deceived the Zamfara state government?

Clearly the Zamfara state amnesty programme for kidnappers has question marks all over it. It is a smart political move to keep these criminals away from ‘disturbing’ the government. Kept them in check so that they don’t disturb your government. If the Zamfara amnesty has secured government and its officials from the bandit attacks, has it secured the people? Of course NO.

Amnesty for Fulani kidnappers is unconstitutional: state governors have no powers to grant amnesty

The second schedule, part 1 of the 1999 constitution (as altered) places defence as No. 27 in the exclusive legislative list which means that only the National Assembly can debate and pass resolutions on such matters. In this regard, any so-called amnesty to the Fulani bandits by any state Governor remains unconstitutional, inconsequential, nonbinding, invalid, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.

The illegality of these so-called amnesty programmes by any state government is further underscored and compounded by the fact that these so-called amnesty programmes were never debated by the state houses of assembly. His excellency, the state Governor simply makes a media announcement of amnesty and that’s it. This negates the principle of separation of powers as enshrined in sections 4.5 and 6 of the 1999 constitution (as altered).

The combined effects of sections 4,5 and 6 and second schedule part 1 item 27 of the exclusive legislative list further attests to the unconstitutionality of the so-called amnesty programme for Fulani bandits, kidnappers and and non-state combatants.

The purported amnesty programme to Fulani bandits by the Zamfara and Katsina state governments qualifies as a ruse when juxtaposed with the fact that there is no proof to show that any discussions between the government and the criminals kidnappers has been held.

There is no minutes of meeting or signed agreement. There is no document to refer to for monitoring and evaluation. Where then is the proof of amnesty? Clearly, it is just a one-sided amnesty agreed and signed only by the Zamfara state government without any input from the kidnappers.

On top of these amnesty deceits, huge sums of money (which only the state Governor knows about) continues to be released for routine payments to bandits. To date, these state governors have not furnished their people with details of how much they spent to pay bandits under the so-called amnesty. How many guns they collected from the kidnappers in exchange etc.

Clearly, there is nowhere in Nigeria’s constitution where amnesty for kidnappers and other non-state combatants is mentioned. To this end, amnesty for kidnappers by any Governor cannot stand.

As a matter of fact, what the constitution says is that criminals should be prosecuted in a court of competent jurisdiction and made to face the consequences of their actions so that it serves as punitive and a deterrent to other wannabe criminals.

If indeed we are serious (permit my language), special courts would have been set up to expeditiously try these criminals and put them where they belong and not to resort to begging them to drop their arms which they will never anyway.

If Nigeria has special courts to try election cases with dispatch, why can’t our dear country set up special courts to try these killer kidnappers, other terrorists including secessionists and saboteurs of oil installations? Why can’t Nigeria produce special laws against kidnapping?

On top of all these cracks in the so-called amnesty programme, there is the potent risk that the so-called amnesty programme could jeopardise the great work our soldiers, police and other security agencies are doing to crush these criminals.

How can our soldiers be fighting these bandits while some elders go to them to beg them and even potentially give them a feeling that what they are doing is justified? A traditional medicine cannot be consumed at the same time with a western medicine.

Amnesty programmes must be debated and passed by the National Assembly: that’s what the law says.

These amnesty programmes must be approved by the military who are fighting these bandits. Any amnesty programmes must be initiated by our gallant soldiers since they know what’s on ground. Our soldiers know the capacity of the enemy and whether there is any need to negotiate, when and how.

Successful negotiation with Fulani kidnappers is not possible

These Fulani kidnappers are scattered all over the country. They are in the North as well as the South without a uniform structure. They have no union or umbrella to facilitate a uniform negotiation. Who do you negotiate with?

The grievances of Fulani kidnappers in the Tubali and Makkah forests terrorising Shinkafi and the general area in Zamfara state is different from that of the Fulani kidnappers operating in Igangan, Oyo state. So how will anyone facilitate a successful negotiation with these criminals?

The scenario is scary because as the respected Sheikh Gumi is attempting to persuade or negotiate with Fulani bandits in Birnin Gwari, kaduna state, those in Oluwa forest Ondo state are already kidnapping people and vice versa.

Criminality has no uniform structure and no formal organisation such as Miyetti Allah can stick its neck out to defend or negotiate on behalf of these criminals because the integrity of the organisation will be at stake.

These Fulani kidnappers are very smart indeed. They are not illiterate as many would think. In 2019 at the beginning of the so-called amnesty granted to the Fulani kidnappers by Zamfara state Governor Matawalle, these criminals collected money from Zamfara State government and to justify this collection, they moved to a bush around Tureta, a border town between Zamfara and Sokoto states in the Gusau – Sokoto major highway to continue their kidnapping activities.

Their idea is that since they agreed to a truce in Zamfara state, they will move somewhere close-by outside the state. They also relocated to Dogon Karfe on the Sokoto – Gusau highway just before Talata Mafara and continued kidnapping motorists.

This resulted in a temporary lull in kidnapping in Zamfara state but before the Zamfara state government would celebrate and declare victory, these bandits moved back fully into Zamfara and continued from where they stopped.

Niger Delta militants and Fulani kidnappers are different

In the context of amnesty, it simply doesn’t hold to use the Niger delta amnesty to justify amnesty for criminal Fulani kidnappers. Both are criminals albeit at different levels. Fulani kidnappers often kill their victims so their case is much more than theft, it also involves murder, rape, arson etc. These Fulani kidnappers have sacked a whole village and killed as many people as they possibly can.

Niger Delta militants are hungry economic scavengers and saboteurs. It is incongruous, unpalatable and runs counter to logic and common sense to use Niger Delta Amnesty Programme to justify amnesty for killer Fulani kidnappers. Of course, the amnesty for Niger Delta is also wrong and has not promoted lasting solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta.

The Niger Delta militants are using the amnesty as a bargain chip to force the government into coughing out more money for them in an Oliver Twist plot. They are not fighting, kidnapping or killing their people, they are fighting the federal government. They are oil thieves.

The Niger Delta amnesty programme is yet another proof that amnesty for criminals cannot work. It is but a short stop-gap measure that will back-fire at the end.

Never glorify a criminal, it will not work.

The bandwagon effect

If the government, religious, community and political leaders should go to criminals a begging, it means all that any one needs to do is to pick up an AK-47 then the government will send representatives to beg him. It means all that is needed to have the listening ears of a state Governor is to be a hardened criminal.

Amnesty for criminal Fulani kidnappers could spur wannabe criminals into taking up arms against the state to get their ‘own share’. Indeed, Nigeria is moving sleepily into a quagmire of monumental proportions if it continues to eulogise criminals and criminality.

These Fulani criminals can potentially truncate Nigeria’s hard-earned democracy. They really don’t care about the sovereignty of the nation and the consequences of their action regarding the divisibility of the country. They don’t know what is democracy. They are simply not interested. All they want is money.

In their subconscious project to destabilise Nigeria and truncate our hard earned democracy, these Fulani criminals will have enough back up from other secessionists such as IPOB and Boko haram.

Sheikh Gumi should focus on charity/ humanitarian work and leave security to the military

Sheikh Gumi’s intentions are very clear and genuine but he should leave security to the military. The respected sheikh Gumi knows this fact too well being a retired army officer himself.

Security is not within the realm of clerics albeit they can mediate if invited. Clerics must resist the temptation to dabble into politics.

With all sincerity, it is better for sheikh Gumi to cease any direct or indirect contact with these Fulani criminals. It is not worth it trying to help a hardened criminal. Leave them to the law.

Every politician has the ‘use and dump’ syndrome in his bag of tricks. Everyone must resist the lure of being used and dumped by desperate politicians seeking to protect their seats at the expense of people’s lifes.

The military has said it will not negotiate with the criminal kidnappers because the instruction from the C-In-C is to crush these criminals not to negotiate with them.

In this regard, the respected sheikh can channel his efforts towards improving the lives of the rural Fulani settlements through an NGO in terms of provision of critical amenities such as tsangaya schools (remodelled western/Islamic schools), portable drinking water, rural roads to open up such communities, good health care delivery etc.

Some foreign humanitarian organisations/international donor agencies may pick interest in such projects. This humanitarian route could draw the line  and break the cycle of violence as the younger Fulanis who grow up and obtained both Islamic and western education will not follow the part of the current crop of some hopeless Fulani youths who have taken kidnapping, banditry and criminality as a way of life.

The solution: full military force, local vigilante, technology, justice reforms

Nigeria has the capacity to crush these bandits once and for all if the will is there. These bandits can only be a problem if they are given the space.

First of all, the ultimate solution revolves around full military force using land and air components. Albeit the land component is vital. Our gallant military should attack and take the fight to the bandits and not wait until these criminals attack innocent people.

It is simply NOT true to insinuate that the Nigerian military cannot defeat these rag-tag Fulani insurgents, bandits and kidnappers.

The forests where these bandits are hiding are known so the ground forces should take the fight to these bandits, dislodge them and build military barracks and shooting ranges in these forests.

Only ground assault can successfully dislodge these criminals. Air bombardment is but a temporary measure. They will always come back after the air bombs have stopped.

Our security forces should be properly compensated with the appropriate welfare packages to upgrade troop morale necessary for success.

Secondly, local vigilante a.k.a Yansakai should be properly equipped in each community at the ward and local government levels to defend themselves and their communities working with our gallant soldiers and policemen.

These local vigilantes YanSakai  are the nemesis of the Fulani kidnappers so they should be funded by state governments and encouraged. A local vigilante has nowhere to run to, he will defend his community with all his heart.

This supports the idea of community policing which will keep the vigilante under constant monitoring by soldiers and police. Something like the civilian-JTF initiative of the Borno state government which has and continue to yield positive results so far.

Thirdly, technology is key in tackling the menace of kidnapping. It beggars belief as to how kidnappers use mobile phones with SIM cards for MTN, GLO and other national mobile networks yet our communication authorities are not tracking their numbers.

Why is the ministry of communications not devoting the right energy into tracking the phone numbers of these criminals and passing same to the security agencies for prompt action?

The right thing to do is to BLOCK all UNREGISTERED SIM CARDS IMMEDIATELY so that these criminals will not have enough space to operate using as many SIM cards as possible. Any SIM cards used to negotiate ransom for kidnapping should be traceable to the user.

Our communication ministry must give a marching order to the network providers to block and furnish the ministry with full details of any mobile numbers used to negotiate for ransom by the kidnappers.

Why is the ministry of communications thinking of using NIN now after many years of kidnapping and use of digital devices to conduct criminality? Why the delay? Are they just understanding the situation when several lives have been lost already and people kidnapped?

Fourthly, reforms of the justice system are sine qua non to bringing an end to kidnapping, insurgency and banditry in Nigeria. Currently, there is no penalty for kidnapping or banditry in Nigeria’s justice system.

How can the nation stop kidnapping without proper legislation?

If an alleged kidnapper is caught, what does the security agencies do with such a person?

There is no law to prosecute these criminal kidnappers hence some of them are released on bail or some of them extrajudicially killed in detention.

The conventional courts and laws have failed as they cannot address these challenges.

Why is the ministry of justice so much interested in dismantling the EFCC and asset recovery rather than producing laws to stop kidnapping, banditry and other forms of criminality at the grassroots?

There is the urgent need for a holistic review of the administration of criminal justice act (ACJA 2015) to provide deserving penalties for rape and kidnapping. Public hanging for kidnappers.

The National Assembly has to work with the office of the attorney general and minister of justice to enact the appropriate laws and penalties against kidnapping and other emerging trends in criminality.

Sheikh Gumi is a good man but he should continue to devote more of his time in preaching the teachings of Islam rather than trying to convince an ‘unconvinciable’ lot of criminals who do not understand the language of peace.

Dr Abubakar Alkali; alkalizai@yahoo.com

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