Some herders turned bandits have claimed that government neglect and lack of qualitative education pushed them into banditry.
In a video published by Daily Trust, one of the bandits who was interviewed said the president has to personally negotiate with them for peace to reign, stressing that every Nigerian has to be treated equally.
The speaker said despite Nigeria’s wealth, bandits are being neglected, forcing them to bear arms.
He was quoted as saying, “It’s been long. We started not long after Zamfara state was created.
“We took up arms because we are herders and despite this country’s wealth, we are not carried along, we are not educated, we do not know anything, we do not have security, we do not have any benefit. We are the ones being killed but are always seen as the aggressors.
“We don’t have anything. Wherever a herder is, he is uneducated and has nothing. In this country, there is everything but we are not carried along. It is as though we do not exist. We are just being killed.
“You have asked for an armistice, an agreement was reached but you left that person in the forest with a gun and nothing to substitute. What do you expect? How do you want that person to survive?
“All the promises made to us, none of them were fulfilled and they enrolled the young ones in schools; we should be treated the same way and given jobs with the government and put in schools.
“The Hausas, Yorubas, and the Fulanis should be treated equally. The president should personally come and preside over the talks.
“When he was campaigning, he travelled all over, why would he not do it now? He does not take these peace talks seriously and every day, people are being killed.”
He blamed the lackadaisical attitude of the president on the continued killings in some Northern states.
According to him, herdsmen supported the Buhari administration because they felt he was going to bring about a change in the status quo,
“There is no day that someone is not killed in Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Sokoto, and Kastina; no two days pass without someone getting killed in these places.
“There is no tribe that is not spared, gunmen kill, soldiers kill, vigilantes kill. Whoever you see with (a) gun today in Nigeria, he uses it to kill people
“You may not know but if I were to tell you the situation of things in this country, you would cry. Even the president will cry. We supported this administration and accepted dialogue, it was because we thought he (Buhari) would fix this country but he won’t fix this country.
“From the time he praised Goodluck, Obasanjo, and the late (Umaru) Yar’Adua, these were not praiseworthy. It would have been better if he had praised (Sani) Abacha because, under Abacha, pastoralists were being educated. During Abacha (sic), there was allocation in the budget for nomadic communities. There has been no such thing again since (Olusegun) Obasanjo became president.
“They stopped looking after Fulani, their forests and grazing areas were taken over. You’ll see one person having as much as 1, 000 hectares, just because he is rich.”
Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi, has repeatedly called on various governments to grant amnesty to bandits, describing it as the only solution to the problem of insecurity.
Recently, he stated that amnesty should also be extended to the Fulani herders involved in killings and kidnappings in the South, just like some state governors have done for bandits in the North.