Bandits planning to buy anti-aircraft missiles, other sophisticated weapons, says Gumi
Renowned Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, has insisted that most people now referred to as bandits are victims of military reckless attacks and cattle rustling who resorted to violence to show their grievances.
Gumi, who recently visited the bandits in their fortresses across the Northwestern states to preach the message of peace to them, had advised the Northern governors to stop the war they are waging against them and enter into negotiations as a means of putting an end to the bandits’ criminal activities.
The bandits have rendered many people destitute and miserable but the cleric stressed his interaction with them showed that they are ready to drop their arms and start living normally by moving back into society.
Gumi, however, in an interview with Punch, noted that if the option of negotiation is not explored by the government the bandits operating in the forests of the northern states are planning to acquire anti-aircraft missiles to repeal attacks by the military.
He disclosed that his interaction with the bandits showed that they engage in kidnapping and collection of ransom for the purpose of raising money to buy weapons.
The cleric said, “These people were the first victims of cattle rustling, who lost all their cattle to rustlers because then, the rustlers were having the guns. Then when they lost their cattle, they joined (the rustlers) and they started to kidnap people.
“In fact, most of the kidnappings, they (the bandits) are doing it to acquire weapons. They are now trying to buy missiles, anti-aircraft missiles. This is already developing into a full-blown insurgency and we should stop that. And what we are afraid of is that if they become religiously radicalised, it will give rise to another dimension, and it will be very difficult to control. You see what Boko Haram has become.”
Gumi ruled out the possibility that the bandits were being sponsored by politicians or have foreign collaborators.
According to him, the bandits’ sophisticated weapons were acquired with proceeds of kidnapping and not given to them by politicians or foreign collaborators.
He said, “Like I said, they are collecting ransoms to buy weapons. Look at the herdsmen in Oyo and south eastern states. They are not buying skyscrapers or riding Mercedes; they are still in the bush. They don’t want money. They want their cows, not money. They are doing that (kidnapping) to raise money just to buy weapons to repel helicopters and airplanes and to attack anybody that is going to attack them. You have to understand the psychology of these people. They are not like our governors that are stealing money. They don’t want money. For them, cow is better than money.”
However, Gumi said he realised that the bandits have collaborators in the armed forces.
He said, “They have collaborators everywhere – in the armed forces, everywhere. One of them said, ‘Even this cattle rustling, we don’t have trailers to transport cattle to where they are slaughtered. We don’t have an abattoir.’ So, there are people who are (collaborating with them). Even the kidnapping of the people, they said, ‘We don’t know these people; it is the people in town that will tell us a certain person has money.”