Babagana Monguno, national security adviser (NSA), says Ahmad Gumi, Islamic cleric, has offered to help the government in tackling insecurity.
Gumi who has been meeting with suspected bandits terrorising communities in the north-west and in the north-central had likened them to militants in the Niger-Delta, and asked that they are not tagged criminals.
He had also called on the federal government to grant blanket amnesty to the bandits.
At a state house briefing on Thursday, Monguno, while fielding questions from journalists, said he had met with Gumi, and that he is waiting to see how the cleric could help the government.
“Sheik Gumi is doing what he’s doing because he believes in what he’s doing. He’s a Nigerian and under the constitution he can talk to anybody. He can deal with anybody,” he said.
“I met with him when I went with the service chiefs to Kaduna, and we spoke generally during the meeting and he resolved to help government. We are waiting for him. That’s all I can say.”
The NSA said the government is not averse to holding talks with bandits, but that it cannot negotiate with people who are unreliable.
“While government is not averse to talking with these entities, it also has to fully apply its weight. You can’t negotiate with people who are unreliable and who will continue to hurt society,” he said.
“We will apply the full weight of the government to deal with these criminals.
“These are not people looking for anything that is genuine or legitimate, they’re just out to take calculated measures to inflict pain and violence on innocent people. We must deal with them the way they need to be dealt with. We will fully assert the government’s will.”
The NSA also said President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that mercenaries must not be engaged in fighting insecurity in the country.
There have been calls by governors in the north-east for the federal government to engage mercenaries.
But Monguno said Nigeria has all the resources needed to fight, but has been underutilised.
“When this administration came in, it’s true, we had these mercenaries helping out in the north-east. But the directive of the commander in chief is that we do not engage mercenaries when we have our own people to deal with this problem,” he said.
“This is basically a presidential directive. And there are so many issues when you come to the issue of mercenaries. It has to do with the issue of national pride also. I know you’d say can pride be more of a concern than our security? I do understand that.
“But what we are looking at here is that we have the resources, it’s just misapplication or underutilisation that has affected our ability to deal with these people.”