Sheik Ahmad Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, has said bandits learnt kidnapping from the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND).
MEND was on the frontline of kidnappings when expatriates and oil workers were abducted during the height of militancy in the Niger Delta region.
However, while kidnapping is fast becoming a thing of the past among militants, bandits have been abducting residents in different parts of the country.
Speaking on an Africa Independent Television (AIT) programme on Tuesday, Gumi said if the federal government could grant amnesty to militants, why can’t the same gesture be extended to bandits.
He said if the federal government grants them amnesty, bandits will expose those perpetrating criminality.
“We didn’t take a different route of trying to solve this problem and that is why we are still here today. And when we say amnesty, we don’t mean that anyone proved to be involved in murder should go free as such.”
“They learnt kidnapping from MEND. I do not see any difference. They were the first victims of rustling. Their cattle is their oil. What we are seeing now is more of an insurgency than banditry. I can say 10 percent of the herders are criminals not 90 percent, in the end, they took up weapons to protect themselves from extinction.
“They themselves can take care of the little remnants of criminals among themselves because they don’t want anybody to bring mayhem to them,” he said.
The Sheik had went to the forests to meet with bandits and their leaders while appealing to them to shun violence.
He had asked the federal government to pardon them but many, including Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, rejected his recommendation, saying kidnappers must be punished.