The Army on Wednesday warned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, against comments that embolden bandits.
Gumi, who was a guest on Arise News morning show, claimed that some soldiers were colluding with bandits to perpetrate crime.
He said banditry was a result of neglect by the government, adding that some of the bandits are children, just like their abductees.
“Why are they (child bandits) not in school?” he asked.
Gumi urged the Federal Government to offer amnesty to criminal herdsmen engaged in banditry and kidnapping.
He said the bandits do not kidnap to kill but to make money.
Gumi said the bandits were not averse to negotiation, pointing out that Boko Haram, at a point, trusted President Muhammadu Buhari to negotiate on its behalf.
According to him, amnesty for killer herdsmen should come with rehabilitation and social amenities.
On why amnesty for bandits is important, he said they control large chunks of land and thus are hampering the economy by preventing farming, just as the activities of militants in the Niger Delta affected oil production before they were granted amnesty.
“They can be used as forest guards,” Gumi suggested.
He said there is a tribal war going on in Nigeria and that the government was taking sides.
He claimed that herdsmen in parts of the country were unsafe and at risk of being killed.
Gumi drew the ire of the Nigerian Army with his comments.
Director, Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement: “The Nigerian Army has just been alerted to a submission by Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi when he featured on Arise TV Morning Show on Wednesday alleging that the Nigerian military is colluding with marauding bandits who have been responsible for various crimes and atrocities against Nigerians and the Nigerian state.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to state that contrary to Sheik Gumi’s claims, the NA remains a bonafide symbol of national unity that has conducted its constitutional responsibilities in the most professional manner in line with global best practices of adherence to the rules of engagement and protection of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry.
“The sweeping allegation peddled by the scholar is not only sad and unfortunate, but a calculated attempt to denigrate the Nigerian military and undermine the sacrifices of our patriotic troops, who are working tirelessly to restore peace and stability across the country.
“It is essential to remind ourselves that this same military, being accused of connivance, are the ones who recently put their lives on the line to rescue abductees of the Government Secondary School, Birnin Yawuri from kidnappers.
“While the Nigerian Army will not attempt to excuse the possibility of black sheep amongst its fold, it must be stated unambiguously that it will not condone any form of sabotage or aiding and assisting the enemy by any personnel, as provisions for dealing decisively with such acts are crystallised in Section 45 (1) of the Armed Forces Act CAP A 20 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“It must also be pointed out, that while the military is very much receptive to constructive criticism, it should not be perceived as a gateway for derogatory comments that have the potential to embolden criminals.
“It is also necessary to reiterate that patriotism must be taken to a trajectory where subversive conversations on the state are brought to the barest minimum.
“Opinion leaders are enjoined to demonstrate patriotism in building the peace, rather than being agents of destabilisation, thereby aggravating the current security challenges facing the nation.
“The Nigerian Army wishes to reassure law-abiding citizens that troops will continue to conduct themselves professionally in consonance with the code of conduct guiding our operations in all combat engagements, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and global best practice.
“Citizens are enjoined to continue to support military operations by providing useful information to defence and security agencies and together we shall rid our society of these criminal elements.”