The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) says the use of force against repentant bandits will not yield the expected results in the government’s efforts to improve security.
In a statement on Thursday, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesperson of the group, commended Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and other “reasonable state governments” for adopting dialogue with bandits and herders.
Last week, Gumi, a prominent Islamic cleric, had met with some suspected bandits in the forests of Zamfara state and appealed for peace.
Five days later, Auwalun Daudawa, the alleged mastermind behind the abduction of some students from a secondary school in Kankara, Katsina state, “repented” and was granted amnesty by the Zamfara state government.
Suleiman asked the government to create “suitable lands and creating grazing reserves” for herdsmen to end the tension resulting from their nomadic activities.
“We emphatically repudiate the stand of the Northern Governors Forum against open grazing without first identifying suitable lands and creating grazing reserves and cattle routes, after four years of lying about resettling the pastoralists through vogue initiatives that never materialised,” he said.
“We call on the Nigerian public to note that rather than working to ensure a united, secure one Nigeria, the federal government appears to be creating and fanning the present chaotic situation in order to cover its serial misgovernance and pervasive institutional and structural corruption.
“We solidly stand with the Sheikh Ahmed Gumi initiative for engagement that could lead to amnesty, reorientation, reintegration, reassimilation for those who embrace peace and a complete crackdown on those who reject peace.
“In this regard, we support and encourage the efforts of the Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and other reasonable state governments that prefer dialogue to the hardcore counterproductive use of force for further bloodshed preferred by el-Rufai and his ilk.”
The CNG spokesman also kicked against labelling all Fulanis as herders, adding that not all herders are involved in criminal activities.
“CNG also notes that the ongoing actions, ostensibly to checkmate the rising tide of insecurity, are nevertheless without drawing distinctions between the Fulani as a race, or cattle herding as an occupation, from criminality,” Suleiman said.
“The CNG is concerned about the risk of neglecting the fact that all Fulani are not cattle herders, or that although most cattle herders in Nigeria are Fulani, there are others that are not; or that just because some herdsmen commit crimes, does not make all cattle herders criminals.
“CNG is further worried that the consciousness is eroding that the vast majority of the Fulani including those who are cattle herders are peaceful everyday people with the same needs, anxieties and hopes as the rest of Nigerians.”