By G9ija

North East Elders for Peace and Development, have distanced themselves from recent comments allegedly made by the Kaduna based Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, accusing the military of triggering the raging banditry in parts of the North.

The Kaduna-based Islamic cleric has recently held meetings with bandits in the forests across Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina and Niger States.

He was alleged to have said in one of such outings, that non-Muslim soldiers had carried out orchestrated killings in some communities, precipitating anger.

The National Coordinator of the Northern elders’ forum, Engr. Zana Goni, in a statement, explained that leading the Secretary to Niger State government on a negotiation mission for the release of kidnapped school children of Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, Gumi was quoted to have said, “What I want you people to understand is, soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and none Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite a crisis”.

Recall that the cleric had made a similar wild claim on a national television programme on Tuesday morning, maintaining that the military had allegedly carried out the said campaign between 2010 and 2015.

Consequently, the Northern elders said Gumi’s allegations were not a representation of the position of the region, saying the public must see the claims as personal sentiments of the cleric.

The North East Elders for Peace and Development, while urging the general public to discountenance the allegations, vouched for the professionalism and non-partisan nature of the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN).

In the statement, the elders vowed to resist attempts by any individual or group to profile the military, which they say remains the most visible symbol of national unity and cohesion.

According to them, there is the need for prominent groups and organisations in the North to condemn Gumi’s dangerous claims, so as not to give the impression that he was speaking for the region.

They argued that by his statement, Gumi may be justifying armed banditry and all that is associated with the crime, a development, they feared, could embolden the perpetrators.

They wondered why an Islamic cleric and scholar, who had taken the initiative to discuss with bandits, would end up taking sides, as his statements suggest.

The elders expressed worry that Gumi’s action may expose the lives and safety of non-Muslim soldiers to danger, both in the military and their operational theatres in the North.

The elders observed, “As Northern elders committed to a united and indivisible nation, we hasten to condemn in very strong terms the allegations made against the Nigerian military by one of our leading Islamic scholars, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi.”

The elders in their humble submission, noted that those that have chosen to be peace ambassadors, must be circumspect in their approaches or doing otherwise will defeat the intent and purpose of the mission.

“We rise in one voice to dissociate ourselves from the dangerous and divisive allegations levelled against our patriotic soldiers by Sheikh Gumi, in one of his missions to meet with bandits in a forest around Niger State,” the group said.

Ordinarily, according to the elders, they would have commended the Sheikh for daring to do what authorities failed, but for the profiling comments attributed to him, which they consider abhorrent and unhelpful to national development and peace.

They opined, “We insist that our military is one of the finest in the world, with zero-tolerance for partisanship, ethnic consideration and other unprofessional dispositions.”

The statement noted that their concern is further hinged on the possibility of the world concluding that the North may be offering tacit endorsement to banditry and associated crimes against society.