Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, has slammed journalists in Nigeria and Nigerians in general for using the word criminals to describe bandits.
Sheikh Gumi has been meeting with bandits in different forests across states in the North, reportedly preaching to them and convincing them to drop their arms.
The cleric had also put out several calls to states and the Federal Governments to grant amnesty to the bandits, insisting that they are not different from the Niger Delta militants.
Appearing on Arise Television on Thursday, the Islamic scholar accused the media of fuelling insecurity in the North by calling the bandits criminals.
The cleric said Nigerians and the media must stop addressing bandits as criminals, but should learn to address them with nice words.
According to him, using such words to describe the bandits will harden their hearts from surrendering their weapons and repenting of their sins.
“You’re emphasising on criminality, even the press are criminals too because they are putting oil into fire,” Gumi said.
“These people are listening to you, you should not address them as criminals if you want them to succumb.
“Youths are ready to put down their weapons, now you are calling them criminals. How do you want them to cooperate?
“So you have to show them they are Nigerians, that they should not hurt children, be law-abiding. This is the language we want to hear, the press should assist us in getting the boys.
“You see when we talk with them with nice words, they are ready to listen to us, put down their weapons but when the language is about criminality, killing them, then this is what we will keep having.
“Let me show you something, I don’t wish you harm but if you are stopped by armed robbers on the road, you will not use the word criminal on them.
“Tell them good things so that you will save yourself. We are trying to save the nation from these youths that have a false sense of authority. The language we use is very important.
“We have a problem now, proliferation of arms, and there are drugs and semi-illiterate population. How do you deal with it? By castigating them and abusing them in the media?”
Recall that Gumi had recently described the bandits, who are known for kidnapping, killing and maiming of innocent Nigerians as peaceful people and victims of circumstances who were forced into criminality.
The cleric had called on the government to adopt a more lenient approach in handling bandits, arguing that attacking them brings out the monster in them.
While making a case for the criminals, the Islamic scholar also explained that while bandits are citizens who recognize the government, Boko Haram terrorists are internationally connected.