There were strong indications on Monday that a disagreement among bandits in Niger State was delaying the release of 27 students and 15 workers of Government Science College, Kagara, who were abducted on Wednesday.
A top government source, who confided in The PUNCH, said the bandits, who carried out the abduction, had not agreed with the warlord government negotiated with.
There was controversy over the release of the abductees on Sunday. Earlier in the day, officials of the Niger State and security sources said the abductees had been released and were on their way to Minna, the state capital.
But later, the state Governor, Sani Bello, said the abductees were still in captivity.
The government source, who spoke to one of our correspondents, stated, “There is a division among the bandits. Those who carried out the abduction are being persuaded to release the abductees.”
Also, a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, who was involved in the negotiation for the release of the abductees, explained the delay in releasing them.
Gumi, in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, said the bandits holding 42 pupils and 15 workers of the GSC Kagara were still being persuaded to release them.
While saying he could not tell when the victims would be released, Gumi said he was convinced they would be freed soon.
Gumi noted that talks were ongoing among the various factions of the bandits.
He said, “I am sure they will be released. I am very sure of that. But we cannot say the particular day. We have lost contact with those people since we left there. But we hope that they will be convinced since they want peace and they are aspiring for it. I believe it will work out.
“They are negotiating among themselves – the good and the bad. They are trying to convince them, and I believe they will do it.”
Meanwhile, the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the pan –Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere and the Middle Belt Forum on Monday berated Gumi, who on Sunday suggested that the amnesty he proposed for bandits should be extended to killer herdsmen in the South.
The groups, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, described the cleric’s proposal as outrageous, unfortunate and truly inconceivable.
Recall that Gumi, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, called for a blanket amnesty for everybody with guns, including bandits in the South.
But the National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, said such a comment from an Islamic cleric was unfortunate and outrageous.
Robinson added, “He is doing that in a country where at times wrong is considered right, and right looks wrong. PANDEF would want to say that nobody in his right frame of mind should be making these outrageous comments they have been making, calling for amnesty for bandits, criminals who, for no justifiable reason, have been destroying livelihoods, killing people, kidnapping innocent Nigerians and then making it a conduit to be collecting taxpayers’ money from the government.
“It is absurd. In a sane clime, people like Gumi should be in prison for encouraging banditry and criminality.
“But unfortunately, we find ourselves in a country where like I said earlier wrong looks right and right looks wrong,” the PANDEF spokesman stated.
Also, the spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “ It takes an enemy of Nigeria to be advocating amnesty for bandits and criminals at this point. We are sorting ourselves out as civilized Nigerians and bandits at this point.”
The Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, described Gumi’s comment as provocative and unbelievable.
The National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Alex Ogbonnia, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the telephone, said that it was even inconceivable for such a suggestion to come from a patriot.
He said “I have not seen a country like this. It is unbelievable and truly inconceivable for a patriot to even come up with such a suggestion.”
Gumi’s advice, reward for criminals – M’Belt Forum
The Middle Belt Forum, on its part, called on the Federal Government to be wary of any advice coming from the Kaduna-based Islamic cleric.
The National Publicity Secretary of the MBF, Dr Isuwa Dogo who spoke to one of our correspondents in Jos on Monday, specifically warned the Federal Government against granting amnesty for bandits in the North as proposed by the Islamic cleric which he said should also be extended to the Fulani involved in kidnappings in the South.
Dogo, who described the advice as a “reward for criminality” asked where such a proposal had solved security challenge faced by any country.
He insisted that more Nigerians would turn to banditry if government goes ahead to implement the proposal.
Dogo stated, “Where in the world does government reward criminals with amnesty to solve its security problem? Our experience has shown that bandits use the money they get from negotiation to buy additional weapons which they use to engage in more criminal activities . The huge amount of money paid to them also serves as incentives for others previously not interested in criminality.
“So, if the government buys into the idea of granting amnesty for the bandits and other criminals terrorising Nigerians, it means that more Nigerians will likely go into criminality as a way of getting patronage from the government,”Dogo stated.
The Middle Belt spokesman urged the Islamic cleric to stop deceiving himself into thinking that the present security situation in Nigeria was the same with one under the administration of former president Umaru Musa Yar’adua which made him to grant amnesty to the Niger Delta militants.
“If the Islamic cleric thinks that the two situations are the same, let him have a change of mind because they are not and let him stop making proposals that can only deepen the problem we have at hand”, he added.
S’West govs must ensure Amotekun carries sophisticated weapons – DAWN
Meanwhile, the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria has urged the South-West governors to do everything to enforce the anti-open grazing law in their states.
The Director-General of DAWN, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said this on Monday while speaking to journalists in Ibadan.
Oyeleye said banning open grazing would enhance the security in the forests in the region and would also increase investments coming in becuase many would invest in ranching.
He said the governors should use the police and Amotekun to enforce the law, saying they should not sit back and expect herders to comply with the law.
He commended the Ikun Dairy Farm in Ekiti State, saying that was an example of how cattle business should be done. He added that South-West governors did not need to create ranches but should ensure that enabling environment was created to encourage investments.
He said since animal rearing is a business, herders should embrace ranching which is the modern method of animal husbandry.
According to him, ranching is less stressful to the animals and the humans tending them, saying it is even much more profitable
Oyeleye said while a cow subjected to trekking all over the country would produce one litre of milk per day here in Nigeria, a cow being fed in a ranch in Europe would give 42 litres of milk per day.
The DAWN DG said open grazing of cows which had been described as the culture of some people was harmful to agriculture which according to him is the way of life of the Yoruba people.
The DAWN director-general said farmers in Yoruba land had been subjected to all manners of wicked acts from some criminals masquerading as herdsmen, saying influx of foreigners into the country through its porous borders must be checked.
He said, “ Our governors should use the police and Amotekun to enforce the ban on open grazing. You can’t make a law and go to bed expecting that it would be complied with. Former Governor Ayo Fayose enforced the law when he was there.
“Our governors are serious but to be seen as serious, they must enforce the anti-open grazing law.
“Open grazing has been banned by states in the South-West and we at the DAWN Commission believe this is the first step towards ensuring security in our forests.
“Everybody must comply, we don’t want open grazing. If it is the way of life of some people to graze cows, that way of life is harmful to our own way of life which is agriculture and it must stop.”
Oyeleye commended the Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Ganduje, for his position on open grazing. He said Ganduje had spoken against it and had offered land to whoever would engage in cattle ranching. He added that that was the way to go.
He stated that the Federal Government must do everything to mop up illegal arms and ammunition in circulation in the country.
He stressed that it was not right to deny the officers of the Western Nigeria Security Network Agency sophisticated weapons, while kidnappers who they were expected to fight, carried AK-47 rifles and other very sophisticated weapons.
He said while Amotekun which establishment was backed legislation was denied arms, non-state actors were carrying sophisticated weapons everywhere.
Oyeleye said, “Amotekun must be allowed to carry proper weapons. Our governors must go back to engage the Federal Government that Amotekun must be allowed to carry sophisticated weapons.”
Oyeleye, who also said restructuring would address some of the major problems facing the country, explained that those advocating restructuring were not saying that the country should be broken.
He said there must be equity if the various components which made up Nigeria were to live together in peace.
According to him, there will be no peace and development in a country where many citizens think a particular ethnic group is being protected against others no matter the crimes it commits.