Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Gumi, known for allegedly helping the Nigerian government negotiate with Fulani bandits on Monday said he was not a negotiator for bandits.
He spoke when a former senator, Shehu Sani, visited to seek his support to secure the release of students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna.
At least 39 students were abducted after gunmen attacked the college on March 12.
It was the third mass kidnapping from an academic institution in northern Nigeria this year.
Gumi had taken the message of peace to bandits in the forests of Kaduna, Zamfara and Niger states.
He also advised against labelling bandits as criminals if they are to surrender, and called for amnesty for them.
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Sani, who represented Kaduna Central in the Eighth Assembly, urged the cleric to help rescue the students and members of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) who were kidnapped in the state.
He said: “I am one of the Nigerians passionate about bringing an end to insecurity in the country and I will not relent. I beg you not to retreat from whatever effort you are putting in place.
“We cannot also defeat people until we understand them and win some of them over. So, do not be discouraged by words and lack of recognition from the government.”
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The lawmaker said when hostages are in the hands of their captors, all they want is freedom at all cost.
“A mother whose child is in the hand of kidnappers will simply want their release at all cost.
“I, therefore, call on you to use the privilege, the opportunity and the power which God has personally endowed you with to help free the 39 Afaka Forestry College students and the RCCG members in captivity,” Sani pleaded with the cleric.
The Sheikh said arrangements were ongoing through a contact to secure the release of the students.
He praised the former lawmaker’s effort towards peace in the country.
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“As for the college students, we have done all we can do. In fact, I had a meeting with the parents of the kidnapped students before their meeting with the government.
“I am not a negotiator for bandits. We always ensured that government officials were present in our previous discussions with bandits in the forests, before the Federal Government’s shoot on sight order.
“But, as for the college students, we are making arrangements for them through a contact to see how this problem can be solved.
“The case has been referred to someone and he is doing his best,” Gumi said.