By Emmanuel Nduka
Islamic Cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has disclosed that there are about 100,000 armed bandits in the North-West region alone, and if the Federal Government fails to negotiate with them, schools will remain unsafe.
According to Gumi, the bandits are disappointed that he negotiated with them without involving the federal government.
The Chief bandit negotiator who made this revelation in an interview with The PUNCH, stated that the bandits had demanded N200m, and later N150m from parents of the kidnapped pupils of Tegina Islamic School, Niger State.
He said despite efforts to get the pupils out, the bandits were adamant in their financial demand.
“But we are trying to talk sense to them that these are just innocent schoolchildren. We don’t even have any idea of the condition of the children. We are just saying these are young children trying to study and they did nothing, so why are you trying to take dirty money from their families?
“This (kidnap of Islamic pupils) actually proves to the nation that the bandits are not really indoctrinated, they are just looking for money and I think that this is a good prognosis. They are not targeting a religion; they are not ideologues, which are difficult to deal with. We should not forget that they are not educated, formally or informally. They are just going about with cattle, and suddenly they found a lucrative way of finding money.
“But with good engagement, education and enticements like jobs and other things, they will leave this work. But we need a partner and we need the government to understand. Individuals like me alone cannot do it.
“All those we met (have stopped kidnapping), except for one of them who is kidnapping again, and he told us his reason, that he was neglected and he thought we had the mandate to negotiate. But when he realised that we did not have the mandate from anybody, he said he was going back to his business.
“So, the earlier we go into engaging them, the better. The ones who have agreed to lay down arms, you can engineer them to take care of the rest,” he said.
Gumi further added that the Niger State Government had been making efforts to get the children released, but were faced with the problem of limited resources.