The Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, on Sunday, met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Mr Obasanjo’s media aide, Kehinde Akinyemi, who confirmed the meeting to newsmen on Sunday, said Mr Gumi came to Abeokuta in the company of some other religious leaders in the country.
According to Me Akinyemi, the cleric arrived at the residence of the former president inside the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library at about 11.00 a.m.
He added that the duo immediately went into a closed-door meeting thereafter.
Mr Akinyemi said: “Yes, it is true. He (Gumi) is currently meeting with Baba alongside other religious leaders.”
Although the agenda of the meeting was not disclosed, sources said it might not be unconnected with the cleric’s effort towards finding a lasting solution to banditry in the Northwestern region of the country.
Others believe that Mr Gumi was in Abeokuta to beg Mr Obasanjo to advise Governor Nasir El-Rufai to soft-pedal on his resolve not to pay ransom to bandits to release kidnap victims in the state.
Issuing a statement after the meeting, Mr Obasanjo’s spokesperson said the participants agreed that the menace of banditry, kidnapping, other crimes and atrocities leading to general insecurity is a nationwide phenomenon.
The statement read: “We acknowledge that people from different parts of the country and outside the country are involved although some people are more predominantly involved than others.
“We must not advertently or inadvertently, in words, action or inaction encourage or support criminality. We identified the crisis as micro ethnic conflict between the Fulani and many host communities mainly in the North West.
“We identified the remote causes as educational and economic disparities, and the negative use of religion and ethnicity by unscrupulous politicians.
“Solutions must be seen and provided on short, medium-, and long-term bases and must be composed of stick and carrot for the offender and the vulnerable.
“Nigerians should desist from blame game; desist from ethnicizing crimes; desist from religionizing crimes; desisting from regionalising crimes; respect one another individually, community-wise, locally, ethnically, religiously and socially;
“Show tolerance and accommodation where necessary; condemn criminal acts no matter where it is committed and by whom it is committed in Nigeria; encourage more of carrot solution as may be found necessary; share information at all levels; reject criminality as a way of life for any individual or group in our nation.
“Since the end of the civil war, the military is the strongest and most potent instrument and symbol of national unity that we have and we must keep them so.
“State governments must have adequate means of providing security for their people and as chief executives and chief security officers of their states, they must have the means at their disposal to ensure security for all within their states.
“Federal government must be proactive and secure necessary and updated intelligence to deal with organised crimes and have common policy for the nation. It is not solving the problem when one state goes for negotiation and molly-cuddling of criminals and another one goes for shooting them. Nor should one state go for ransom payment and another one going against.
“Education is one main key to solve the problem in the long run but it must start now. The 14 million children that should be in school and are out of school must be put in school with local authorities, state governments and the federal government working together.
“Wean those who are ready to be weaned out of the bushes and crime, settle and rehabilitate them, give them skills, empower them and let them have employment.
“The hardened criminals must be hard hit with sticks. Unlawful carrying of arms should be very seriously punished. Federal government should take the issue up seriously within ECOWAS to work for a regional solution.
“Every community must be encouraged and empowered to stand firm and strong against criminals. There should be protection and reward covertly for whistleblowers against criminals living in the community.”
“Special courts should be created to deal promptly with cases of banditry, kidnapping, ransom demanding and unlawful carrying of weapons.”