From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Pan-Arewa socio-political organisation North East Elders for Peace and Development (NEEPD) has distanced itself from a statement credited to Sheikh Abubakar Gumi in which he accused non-Muslim soldiers of orchestrated killings in some northern communities as retaliation for ethnic clashes in the South-East and South-West.
While leading some Niger State government officials to negotiate the release of the kidnapped school children of Government Science College, Kagara, Gumi had purportedly remarked that ‘soldiers that are involved in most of the criminalities are not Muslims. You know, soldiers have Muslims and non-Muslims. The non-Muslims are the ones causing confusion just to ignite a crisis.’
NEEPD National Coordinator Engr Zana Goni, in a statement, responded to cleric’s claim, saying it could dampen the morale of soldiers to intensify the fight against bandits and further escalate the kidnappings and killings ravaging the zone.
‘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.
‘Ordinarily, we would have commended the Sheikh for daring to do what authorities failed, but for the profiling comments attributed to him, which we consider abhorrent and unhelpful to national development and peace.
‘We insist that our military is one of the finest in the world, with zero-tolerance for partisanship, ethnic consideration and other unprofessional dispositions.
‘We warn that comments such as this have the potential of pitting the exposed soldiers against general areas in the North, where they have continued to put down their lives to protect the territorial integrity of the nation from those that seek to violate it.
‘Our 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.
‘To douse this tension, therefore, we call on relevant authorities, including prominent individuals and groups from the North,to condemn Gumi’s position in a manner that will absolve the region of conspiracy and vicarious liability, in the long run
‘In whatever position we find ourselves, we must, at all material times, endeavour to put the collective interest of Nigeria over and above all other considerations, bearing in mind the fact that when the country collapses, it will do so on all of us, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or belief.
‘Lastly, we urge Gumi to stop approbating and re-probating at the same time, and to immediately call-off his mission, if he has developed lethargy in the course of undertaking visits to deep forests,’ he said.