Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, a Kaduna-based Islamic cleric and an ex-military officer, insists the abductors of Kagara boys in Niger State and other bandits terrorising several states such as Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, Zamfara and Sokoto states should not be labelled “criminals” if the country is interested in stemming the tide of insecurity.
One of the most recent attacks of these bandits is the abduction of 42 students from Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State on February 17.
The abductors are also demanding a ransom from the victims’ parents.
But while speaking with Arise Television on Wednesday evening, Gumi accused journalists of fuelling the crisis whenever they address the abductors as criminals.
“These people are listening to you. Don’t address them as criminals if you want them to succumb.,” he said.
“The youths are ready to put down their weapons; now you are calling them criminals. How do you want them to cooperate? So you have to show them they are Nigerians, that they should not hurt children and be law-abiding. This is the language we want to hear.
“When we talk with them with nice words, they are ready to listen to us, put down their weaponss. But when the language is about criminality, killing them, then this is what we will keep having.”
During attacks, these abductors use sophisticated weapons such as Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) but the Nigerian laws negate that for ordinary citizens.
The Nigerian Fire Arms Act (1990) provides that no person shall have in his possession or under his control any firearm or ammunition except such person has a licence from the President or from the Inspector General of Police.
Gumi pointed out that the nation’s problem is about the proliferation of arms, which is not necessarily domiciled with the bandits alone.
He continues by saying: “If you are stopped by armed robbers on the road, you will not use the word criminal on them. Tell them good things so that you will save yourself. We are trying to save the nation from these youths that have a false sense of authority,” he said.
“The Niger Delta militants are also already coming out to threaten the nation. It is a nationwide problem about the proliferation of arms, drugs among the semi-illiterate population. How do you deal with it? By castigating them and abusing them in the media?
“You’re talking to yourself. They don’t even listen to you, so the best for us is the clergymen, the respected people, elderly try to reach them. Put sense into them, when you go, they lower their heads, they will listen, they will start giving excuses but show them the way out. We are trying to nurture them out of this criminality.”
The cleric’s position was faulted by legal luminaries.
In a separate interview with ThisDay, senior Nigerian lawyers warned against negotiating with bandits.
The lawyers include former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN); former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu; Mr. Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) and Prof. Yemi Akinseye-George (SAN).
“This is not necessarily a matter on which the constitution provides specific instructions,” Odinkalu said. “You have to read the tea leaves and other things. It is rather simple to do so.Look, the constitution guarantees a right to life for every Nigerian and makes it a crime to kill another without lawful justification.”
He added that reprisals, such as Gumi was speaking about, are not the lawful justification for killing.
“So, that is a crime,” he said. “Government has a duty to ensure accountability for such crime, not to negotiate it away.”
Akinlaja also emphasized there was illegality in negotiating with criminals.
“Assuming without conceding that there is a legal rule that allows for negotiation with criminals, the very heinous, traumatic and pervasive nature of the banditry that has seemingly held our nation by the jugular would even make it an exception to that rule,” he stated.
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