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Exclusive: Sheikh Gumi storms Minna forest over the abduction of Kagara schoolboys

NEWSMAN – Kaduna based popular Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, in an invitation to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State, has suggested to the Governor the importance of dialogue in its fight against banditry.

The invitation coincidentally came at a time when double tragedy has befallen the state; first with the abduction of over 30 passengers in a bus belonging to the state transport service and the latest kidnapping of school children and their teachers in Kagara.

Gumi advised Governor Bello to use part of the money his government is spending on security to address some of the major concerns and grievances of the Fulani herdsmen.

Governor Bello however said having tried the military option alone without commensurate success, he is now convinced more than ever before that dialogue and teaching the armed Fulanis about their religion and integrating them into the society is the only way to address rampant cases of insecurity particularly in his state.

He reportedly told Gumi that his administration is ready for constructive engagement and dialogue with the armed Fulanis and acknowledged that over the years Fulani herdsmen were forgotten by governments at all levels and that there has never been any provision in previous budgets for their welfare in the past.

According to DESERT HERALD, the National Security Adviser, NSA, Gen. Babagana Monguno, IGP Mohammed Adamu, Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and that of Information, Lai Mohammed also joined the meeting with Sheikh Gumi at the Government House Minna on Wednesday. The federal cabinet members were at Minna to coordinate efforts in rescuing the kidnapped victims on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The Niger Governor who has demonstrated determination to end kidnappings and armed banditry in his state assured Sheikh Gumi that whatever recommendation that comes out of his engagement with the bandits as long as it is for their welfare and full integration back to the society his government will support and mobilize resources towards actualising it.

Gumi’s peace and preaching mission at Dutsen Magaji forest is so far the most successful considering how volatile the area is and consistency of attacks. During the preaching session, each of the bandits commanders were given the chance by Gumi to address the crowd. They separately narrated their ordeal, their frustrations and why they resorted to banditry. They said they only accepted the invitation because they were told it was Sheikh Gumi.

The top bandits commander, Dogo Gide during his speech had lambasted Governor Nasir El-Rufai for his stand against dialogue and threatened the people of Kaduna state but Sheikh Gumi was quick to interrupt and assured him that all the governors of the North West are now in agreement that the Fulani herdsmen have been forgotten by governments for many years and that they will henceforth work towards giving the herdsmen special attention.

The SSG of Niger State had also delivered the message of Governor Bello to them and assured them about his government’s sincerity and commitment to address their concerns and grievances. He took note of their demands and grievances and promised to convey same to Governor Bello as soon as he arrives Minna for immediate consideration while Sheikh Gumi on his part will monitor progress of implementation before the federal government steps in.

On his part, Sheikh Gumi took time to preach to them about forgiveness, peace and dialogue in Islam. He told them that in Islam there is no justification at all for reprisal attacks, killings, kidnappings and rape. He admonished them about alcohol and drug consumption or taking the laws into their own hands.

He assured them that he will not deceive them and urged them not to disappoint him. Sheikh Gumi specifically pleaded with the armed Fulani bandits to immediately release all those they abducted particularly the recent kidnappings that made newspaper headlines across the country.

He assured them he will do whatever it takes to convince the president and the National Assembly to create a Commission for the herdsmen that will work towards addressing imbalances and injustice done to the Fulanis. He encourages them to always seek for Islamic knowledge and to be consistent in their 5 daily prayers. Gumi had distributed Islamic books to them and hundreds of wrappers for their wives. The items were contributed by the foundation under him.

Apparently satisfied with the sincerity of Sheikh Gumi, leader of the bandits, Dogo Gide assured him that he will not be disappointed and that on their part they will do everything possible to maintain the peace and give reasonable time pending when they are convinced about what government will do.

They complained of what they called excesses of local vigilantes popularly called Yan Sa Kai and how according to them they have been killing innocent Fulanis and warned that if Fulanis are not allowed to move freely without threat and molestation there won’t be end to banditry and kidnappings in the entire north.

They took Sheikh Gumi to a settlement of about 1500 people and lamented how military bombardments destroyed the entire community, razed all the houses, killed and dumped bodies of the inhabitants in about three wells.

Most of the bandits said they are missin the freedom to freely move around towns, market and to attend to their traditional and social events. One of them told DESERT HERALD on condition of anonymity that he has spent 3 years in the bush without seeing his mother and that he is willing to go back to his family but is afraid due to uncertainty and how some of them were slaughtered by Yan Sa Kai and soldiers. 

Exclusive pictures and videos of Thursday’s visit have been attached to this report. Sheikh Gumi and his entourage had arrived Minna from Dutsen Magaji forest, a journey of more than 7 hours around 3am on Friday. 

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