Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic cleric, says if bandits are not assured of their safety and rehabilitation, they will not let go of their arms.
Gumi made the comment on Wednesday during a virtual event hosted by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies.
The meeting was organised to discuss Nigeria’s security challenges.
The cleric said he sees no reason why the government should not dialogue with the bandits who are willing to negotiate.
Gumi said: “Nobody can justify criminality, what we are saying is what we saw in the forest is an ethnic war going on between people in the forest and the neighboring villages and hamlets. When the herder felt he has grievances and nobody was listening to him, he took on weapons.
“So when we went there and they saw a listening ear, they were ready to negotiate, tell us their grievances, and ready to incorporate into the society. So in such a case, I see no reason why we should not have a dialogue with them.
Gumi said if they are not shown that they’ll be safe when reintegrated into society, they will not give up their arms.
The cleric also reiterated that they should be given amnesty in the same vein as the Niger Delta militants.
He said: “Looking at their educational status, they don’t have any official or unofficial education. How can a nation which is serious about security leave a chunk of its society so uneducated, leave it to arms and drugs? I don’t think that society is serious. How can we disperse them, rehabilitate them because they are holding arms to protect themselves.
“If you don’t show them they’re safe in the larger society, there’s no way they can leave their weapon. And that’s why we asked for amnesty for them just like we had in the Niger Delta.
“I’m not justifying their kidnapping, what they do is crime. But their kidnapping is to get more money to buy more weapons so that they can protect themselves.”