By Omeiza Ajayi, Joseph Erunke & Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja
Former Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, Professor Usman Yusuf, has lamented what he called the Federal Government’s increasing militarisation of banditry in the country, stating that a million Tucano jets will not solve the problem.
Making reference to the 12 Tucano jets recently purchased by the Federal Government, Usman said banditry is a social issue.
His views were also echoed by Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, who expressed fears about the seeming infiltration of herdsmen by elements of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Gumi restated his earlier position that Nigeria has pushed the bandits to the wall and bemoaned the growing animosity towards the Fulani, saying while over 99 percent of them are good people, it is only an insignificant number of herdsmen who have taken to crimes.
They spoke at an interactive policy dialogue and cultural festival organised by the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Fulani Sociocultural Association launched with the aim of addressing challenges confronting the Fulani ethnic stock in Nigeria.
The first interactive policy dialogue and cultural festival with the theme “The future of Fulani Pastoralists in Nigeria” was held on Thursday in Abuja.
Religious, traditional leaders
Delivering his keynote address, Prof. Usman said: “Banditry is a social problem and Nigeria is increasingly militarising it. There is a role for the military, but there is not going to be a military solution to banditry anywhere in this country.
“Only if we all come in to solve this problem, and it is not time to blame anybody; we are all in this mess together and somebody told me we all bore this ‘pregnancy’ and gave birth to this monster called banditry.
“We are all responsible for this problem directly or indirectly, and the soldiers are called to clean up the mess. I told them, military, you cannot do this alone.”
Usman added that the menace is fueled by two ingredients— drugs supplied from southern Nigeria and arms supplied from the core-North and neighbouring countries like Niger.
He recalled his visits to the forests alongside Sheikh Gumi and others, saying clerics have a great role to play in resolving the issue.
Usman said: “Turji Kone of the bandit leaders waited for us for two hours. He said he waited because he heard it was a cleric.
“So also we were in Niger State; the meeting in Niger was a meeting of six war commanders from different northern states. They waited for us and you could see the respect they had for clerics.
“The clerics and traditional rulers are there to get to the heart of these kids not soldiers. We must sit down and realise where we have gone wrong.
“From Zamfara we went south down to Ilesha-Baruten, closer to the border with Benin Republic or Kogi State. The further down we went, the more we saw the beautiful Fulani we were used to with sticks.
“Up North, the sticks have been replaced with AK-47 and AK-49; you see kids living on AK-47 and AK-49.
“Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi opens his mouth and they listen, and they have the pictures of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi. These are the people we need to go through and not the military.
“You can have a million Tucano jets you cannot solve this problem.”
On his part, Gumi said; “They (bandits) have been pushed to the wall. Somebody will say they are criminals, but I wonder who is not a criminal.
“When villagers would hear on radio that this governor or accountant has stolen billions, what do you expect him to do? He would steal too.
“My only fear is the infiltration of terrorists into their midst. I think it is something we have to consider very seriously.
“We have to go in and capture them from terror. And even the terrorists themselves, I think there has been some neglect.
“I discussed with a former president who told me that he has been to some areas where you have Boko Haram and that they are ready to lay down their arms with conditions, but the government of that day refused to accept those conditions.
“Up till now, Boko Haram is not a hopeless case. We have to protect our herdsmen from the infiltration of terrorists,” he stated.