The Nigerian Army and a popular Islamic cleric, Ahmad Gumi, on Wednesday disagreed over the latter’s allegation that security agents were collaborating with bandits.
Gumi, while featuring on Morning Show, a programme on Arise TV, on Wednesday, alleged that a lot of those he described as bad elements in the nation’s security forces were colluding with bandits.
The cleric stated that the bandits had been able to access assorted weapons that they used against Nigeria due to the cooperation of the security agents.
Gumi said these as The PUNCH learnt that at least 200 residents of Zamfara State had been killed in violent attacks despite an order by the President, MajorGeneral Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), declaring a ‘no-fly-zone’ over the state’s airspace.
On his part, the Kaduna-based cleric alleged that the security agents were doing business with the security and lives of Nigerians
Gumi said, “These bandits, if you don’t know, are cooperating with a lot of bad elements in our security system. This is a business. So many people are involved; you will be surprised.
“They were caught in Zamfara. They were caught everywhere. How do these big weapons cross our borders?
“How can these big weapons cross our borders and get into the forest without the cooperation of some bad elements of the security operatives assisting them? It is not possible.
“If I give you the same quantity of guns, can you take them to the UK? You can’t, because the security is at alert. Part of fighting this banditry is to overhaul our security system.”
He attributed the incessant banditry and herdsmen attacks across the country to tribal wars.
“What you call banditry, when you cross to the other side, you find out Nigeria is fighting a tribal war,” he said.
Gumi, who admitted that bandits commit atrocities, also accused the government at all levels of taking sides in the raging attacks on Nigerian communities.
“When you said these bandits are committing atrocities, yes, agree they are committing crimes. They are killing people. They are raping. They are doing all sorts of atrocities.
“But, have you for once gone to their own sides and see all sorts of atrocities that are also committed against them?” he asked.
Gumi claimed that herdsmen had been lynched across the southern region, while specifically naming Anambra and Oyo states.
The prominent cleric believes that the government should be neutral, rather than taking sides in addressing banditry and herdsmen attacks.
He stated, “The moment government takes sides, it becomes part of the conflict. And this is what I saw in Zamfara State, in Niger State and other states.
“It is very unfortunate that in the 21st century because of the fracture in our governmental structure people have turned to tribalism or religion originality to express their grievances,” he lamented.
He described the amnesty granted to bandits by the Katsina State Governor Bello Masari as “a political amnesty without any package.”
Gumi said “You granted a political amnesty, I mean an amnesty in the front of the media but in the real sense there was no amnesty.
“Amnesty comes with a package,” he maintained, stating that “the package is that you rehabilitate these criminals, you provide them social amenities.”
Allegation, attempt to undermine troops, denigrate military – Army
But the Army denied the allegation made by Gumi.
The Director of Army Public Relations, Onyema Nwachukwu, in a statement on Wednesday, described the claim by the cleric as a calculated attempt to undermine the sacrifices of the troops aimed at restoring peace in the country.
The statement was titled ‘Nigerian Army not colluding with bandits.’
It read, “The Nigerian Army has just been alerted to a submission by Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi when he featured on ARISE TV Morning Show on Wednesday, June23, 2021 alleging that the Nigerian military is colluding with marauding bandits who have been responsible for various crimes and atrocities against Nigerians and the Nigerian state.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to state that contrary to Sheik Gumi’s claims, the Nigerian Army remains a bona fide symbol of national unity that has conducted its constitutional responsibilities in the most professional manner in line with global best practices of adherence to the rules of engagement and protection of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
“The sweeping allegation peddled by the scholar is not only sad and unfortunate, but a calculated attempt to denigrate the Nigerian military and undermine the sacrifices of our patriotic troops, who are working tirelessly to restore peace and stability across the country.”
Onyema stated that the military accused of connivance recently put their lives on the line to rescue abductees of the Government Secondary School, Birnin Yawuri from bandits.
He added, “While the NA will not attempt to excuse the possibility of black sheep amongst its fold, it must be stated unambiguously that it will not condone any form of sabotage or aiding and assisting the enemy by any personnel, as provisions for dealing decisively with such acts are crystallised in Section 45 (1) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“It must also be pointed out that while the military is very much receptive to constructive criticism, it should not be perceived as a gateway for derogatory comments that have the potential to embolden criminals. It is also necessary to reiterate that patriotism must be taken to a trajectory where subversive conversations on the state are brought to the barest minimum.
“Opinion leaders are enjoined to demonstrate patriotism in building the peace, rather than being agents of destabilisation, thereby aggravating the current security challenges facing the nation.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to reassure law abiding citizens, that troops will continue to conduct themselves professionally in consonance with the code of conduct guiding our operations in all combat engagements, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and global best practice.”