Aminu Masari, governor of Katsina state, says he does not support the manner in which Ahmad Gumi, Islamic cleric, is going about his intervention with bandits.
Gumi has been at the forefront of those advocating for dialogue with bandits, in spite of their incessant attacks on schools and abduction of schoolchildren.
The cleric has embarked on a number of publicised visits to the bandits’ enclaves in the forest in a bid to dialogue with them.
Commenting on Gumi’s approach, the Katsina governor said it is not the right way to handle the situation.
“They [bandits] need moral and spiritual education to know the value of lives and stop killing people and stop raping innocent women,” Masari said on Wednesday during an interview aired on Channels Television.
“I don’t [support Gumi] because he is not doing it rightly. I expect him first to preach to them the implication of killing innocent people, abducting people, raping and stealing, and the consequences. That is what I expect a clergyman, first and foremost, to do.”
Masari said bandits operating in the north are not the same as Boko Haram insurgents — but they share certain elements.
The governor said it would be a serious problem if bandits degenerate into Boko Haram.
He said: “The current banditry and kidnapping that is going on now are not the style of Boko Haram but some elements of Boko Haram that have been in the forest for a very long time.
“There are some elements but the current banditry that is going on now is not Boko Haram yet, but if something is not done, we may end up having a much more serious problem.”
When asked if bandits are more dangerous than Boko Haram, he said: “It cannot be more than Boko Haram but if they are scaring parents from sending their children to school, it is going to have to stop.
“School must continue and I think the issue of attacking school is to draw attention.
“That is the issue people should understand. These people we are dealing with are not ideological inclined, they are not a group that is seeking either government recognition or are not happy with the government. These people are driven essentially by criminality.”
The governor also expressed fears that the bandits may resort to high profile kidnapping in cities and towns, adding that the government must “work hard” to prevent such an occurrence.