Sheikh Ahmad Gumi says the easiest and safest way to end insecurity in the north is to negotiate peace with the bandits that have turned the region into a killing field.

Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, cleric and a major negotiator in the release of abducted students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, has said that the Federal Government’s shoot on sight order has been impeding negotiation to have the bandits lay down arms, even though he admitted that no ransom was paid for the release of the students.

The cleric said that the bandits were ready to negotiate. He said that there was not much encouragement especially with the shoot on sight order of the federal government.

He said, “If the government can improve on their stand, we can have a smooth negotiation. We have to bear a lot of their demands because we are dealing with people that are not formally educated.”

Gumi in a chat on Arise Television on Sunday said that no ransom was paid to the bandits for the release of the students. “As we are trying to negotiate with the leaders of the bandits, parents were impatient and their interference made the negotiating period longer because when we got to a particular point, a parent would call to say, ‘I am ready to pay’ so their inference caused a lot of delay. We don’t know what parents did but we followed a system that made it difficult for them to say, no. There was no ransom from our side but we don’t know what the parents did behind,” he said.

He also said that there was no fatality except for a notorious bandit who tried to molest a lady, and was killed. “The only casualty in the fracas was a bandit. The bandits didn’t want to be seen as criminals but as negotiators,” Gumi said.

While urging the government to address the demands of the bandits, Gumi said, “When you bombard forests you kill women and children and the bandits are hardened. The best way is dialogue and engagements. The government should sit down with them to negotiate, talk about schools, health care, boreholes; these are the things they are asking of. They are also asking for amnesty whereby they would not be pursued by law after they have laid down their weapons. Proper engagements by the government through intermediaries that they trust, like traditional Fulani leaders, will end banditry.”

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