Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has said that Fulani herdsmen involved in banditry are victims of circumstances.
Gumi said this on Monday during a Channels Television programme: “Politics Today.”
He said: “When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality, which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know.”
The cleric, who had advocated amnesty for the herdsmen, however said: “There is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime.”
He added: “I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality.
“And this is what we should look, let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen.
“They are peaceful people.
“But something happened that led them to this.”
Gumi said the herdsmen-bandits are engaged in an ethnic war against other people, including sedentary Fulanis, adding: “It is a complex issue that Nigerians need to understand.
“The solution is very simple, but it’s not military hardware.
“The solution is dialogue and teaching.
“These people are acting with natural instincts, not special knowledge.
“And they don’t have any ambition or anything.
“They don’t have a vision of the future.
“They are talking about existence; their livelihood is destroyed because the cattle rustling that was going on for a long time, they are the first victims of it.
“So we need to investigate how cattle rustling became a big business in Nigeria and how it affected the socio-cultural behaviour of the nomadic Fulani.
“They were pushed into criminality.”
But for every victim of kidnapping, these herdsmen-bandits have 10 victims, Gumi said on Politics Today.
He said: “They are killed by the military, lynched in town.
“Do you know that there are situations where any man with this Fulani physique – slim, light-complexioned, even dark ones – on a motorbike is automatically arrested and incarcerated?
“They are being profiled.
“The Fulani herdsmen is seeing evil all around him.
“You can imagine when he sees his children, women, everything killed, his animals slaughtered.
“You see what happened in Oyo, his hut burnt down.
“Who is burning down his hut?
“It is somebody coming from a building, somebody coming from a car.
“He doesn’t own a car, he doesn’t own a building, he doesn’t enjoy anything of the Nigerian cake.
“Then you are coming, again, the little thing he has, to kill his animals.
“So he is seeing the evil from the other side.
“So each side is seeing the other’s side as evil.
“So it is the clergy that now has to come in the middle, Muslims and Christians.
“We have to listen to them.
“Demonising anybody is not appropriate.
“And evil is there in everybody.”
Sheikh Gumi restated his call for amnesty for victims of banditry and the herdsmen-bandits.
He told the host of Politics Today: “Amnesty comes with a package – all victims should be looked at and the government should compensate because actually it’s the responsibility of the government to protect people, their lives and livelihood; and they were not able to do.
“So since it’s a negligence from the government, then the government should come from both sides.”