Former president Olusegun Obasanjo and prominent Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to rehabilitate bandits who are willing to surrender.
The call was made after Gumi led a delegation to meet with Obasanjo in Abeokuta, in Ogun State.
A source present at the meeting told Vanguard that the choice of Chief Obasanjo by Gumi, was based on the fact that the former president is a critical stakeholder and a respected elder statesman to discuss such issues with.
Gumi briefed Obasanjo on his recent peace advocacy visits to the Fulani bandits in the North, with the hope that government would understand the situation better and adopt his suggestions as the best possible way of ending the current insecurity crisis.
Those on the entourage of Sheik Gumi included Prof. Usman Yusuf, Mallam Tukur Mamu, Dr. Umar Ardo, Dr. Ibrahim Abdullahi, Suleiman Gumi, Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu and Mallam Buba Mohammed.
Others at the meeting are Oba Babajide Bakre, Agura of Gbagura, Abeokuta; Bishop Tunde Akin-Akinsanya, Chairman of Ogun State Christian Association of Nigeria; Sheikh Sa’addallah Alade Bamigbola, Chief Imam of Egbaland; Chief Kenny Martins, Chief Ola Babajide Jaiyeoba; Rev. Tony Ojeshina, Chief Imams of Oke-Ona, Gbagura, Owu and Mr. Vitalis Ortese.
In a statement jointly signed by Obasanjo and Gumi at the end of the meeting, they both agreed that the menace of banditry, kidnapping, other crimes and atrocities leading to insecurity is a nationwide phenomenon.
The statement reads: “We acknowledge that people from different parts and outside the country are involved, although some people are more predominantly involved than others.
“We must not advertently or inadvertently, in words, action or inaction, encourage or support criminality.
“We acknowledge that the security situation has gone beyond tolerance; hence Sheik Gumi’s coming to Abeokuta to confer with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.
“We identified the crisis as micro ethnic conflict between the Fulani and many host communities, mainly in the North West.
“Solutions must be seen and provided on short-, medium-, and long-term bases and must be composed of stick and carrot for the offender and the vulnerable.
“All well-meaning Nigerians have to be involved in finding solutions to the crises by desisting from blame game or ethnicising these crimes; desisting from religionising or regionalising these crimes; respecting one another individually, community-wise, locally, ethnically, religiously and socially; showing tolerance and accommodation, where necessary; condemning criminal acts, no matter where it is committed or by whomever in Nigeria; encouraging more of carrot solution, as may be found necessary; sharing information at all levels; not accepting criminality as a way of life for any individual or group in our nation.
“Since the end of the civil war, the military are the strongest and most potent instrument and symbol of national unity that we have and we must keep them so.
“The Federal government must be proactive, secure necessary and updated intelligence to deal with organised crimes, and have common policy for the nation.
“It won’t solve the problem when one state goes for negotiation and mollycoddling of criminals, and another one goes for shooting them. Nor should one state go for ransom payment and another one going against.
“Education is one main key to solve the problem in the long run, but it must start now. The 14 million children that should be in school, but are out of school, must be put in school with local authorities, state governments and Federal government working together.
“Wean those who are ready to be weaned out of the bushes and crime, settle and rehabilitate them, give them skills, empower them and let them have employment”.
“The hardened criminals must be hard hit with stick. Unlawful carrying of arms should be very seriously punished.
“The Federal Government should take the issue up seriously within ECOWAS to work for a regional solution.
“Every community must be encouraged and empowered to stand firm and strong against criminals.
“There should be protection and reward covertly for whistle blowers against criminals living in the community.
“Special courts should be created to deal promptly with cases of banditry, kidnapping and ransom demanding and unlawful carrying of weapons.
“Let the slogan be: Security is the responsibility of all Nigerians.
“We agree to continue to work together for solutions for the security of Nigeria and to seek others to join us as we widely circulate our joint statement.
“To this end, Sheik Gumi has extended an invitation to Chief Obasanjo to visit Kaduna, with a view to continuing the discourse started today, and Obasanjo has graciously accepted.
“We conclude that to keep Nigeria safe and secure for all Nigerians and others living in Nigeria is a task that all well-meaning Nigerians must engage in, separately and collectively.
“Both of us resolved that we would not relent in our efforts. The delegations on both sides acceded to this statement. We agree to meet again in due course to re-examine progress and situation of security in Nigeria.”
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