The Nigeria Union of Journalists has called on authorities and the international community to hold Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi responsible for any bandit related mishap that may happen to journalists around the country.
National President of the NUJ, Chris Isiguzo, in a statement condemned in the strongest terms Gumi’s remarks labelling journalists as criminals for calling armed bandits criminals.
Sheikh Gumi who has been visiting forests occupied by armed bandits, has advocated a blanket amnesty for the bandits.
In an interview on ARISE News, the Sheikh had said the bandits should not be called criminals and described the “press (journalists) are criminals for putting oil into fire”.
The statement reads: “This unnecessary and unprovoked attack on members of the media by a hitherto respected cleric who decided to embark on strange errands, is unacceptable and it is becoming clearer now that he is pursuing a different agenda.
“We equally recall a recent statement credited to Sheikh Gumi where he was inciting bandits, by encouraging religious biases among soldiers on the battlefield.
“We are more shocked that the same Sheikh Gumi who has used the media to speak to leaders and to advance the course of his mission to the bandits across the Northwest, is at the same time attacking the journalists for simply describing bandits as criminals.
“Sheikh Gumi’s attempts to seek amnesty for killers and abductors of innocent citizens, especially school children is most unfortunate.
“We invite Sheikh Gumi to explain to Nigerians why despite his recent negotiations with bandits in Zamfara State, the criminals have continued maiming, killing, raping and kidnapping innocent citizens, including the 300 female students just abducted in the same State.
“In saner climes, Sheikh Gumi, a non-state actor involved in negotiations with criminal elements, should have been behind bars, but alas, thanks to the weaknesses of our leaders, he continues with his reckless comments and forays into bandit territory unabated.
“By insulting the press as “criminals” Sheikh Gumi has exposed himself the more as an intolerant person who will not want his activities closely scrutinised by the media.
“It is instructive to remind Sheikh Gumi that by embarking on such an errand and choosing to speak for the bandits, the Press will continue to scrutinise his activities and also hold him accountable for his actions as enshrined in the Constitution.
“His reaction was totally unacceptable, dishonourable and reprehensible and we demand a retraction of his untoward, irritating and awkward utterances which negate simple decorum and civility.
“We, therefore, caution him to remember that ‘riding the tiger might be an exhilarating experience but the consequence is bound to be unpleasant.’ He should thus be guided.
“We equally invite the global community to document the utterances and actions of Sheikh Gumi and to hold him to account for any bandit related mishap that may happen to journalists around the country.”
By Abel Ejikeme