By Laleye Dipo
Prominent Kaduna based Islamic cleric Sheikh Abubakar Gunmi on Friday met with the Niger state Governor Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello at Government house Minna.
The meeting held behind closed doors was the second within 72 hrs, the first being when the cleric was on his way to Kebbi State when he had a stop over in Minna after he “became aware” of the kidnap of 27 students, some staff and members of their families.
The meeting between the duo was brief and Gunmi was said to have told the governor the outcome of his dialogue with leaders of the kidnap gang whose name has now been given as Dogo Gide.
In a brief chat with newsmen after the the meeting with the Governor, Gumi confirmed to newsmen that “negotiation is still ongoing with the bandits” adding that government should grant all the bandits amnesty as has been done for the Niger Delta militants.
Also addressing newsmen later, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello said the lidnapped victims had not been released contrary to media reports but said ” they could be released in a matter of hours or weeks”
Bello confirmed that he had had discussions with Sheikh Gumi, adding that he asked the cleric to put all his suggestions and recommendations in a memo and send back to me when he arrives Kaduna”.
Observers believed that the kidnapped victims have not been released because of the government insistence that it will not pay ransom to bandits.
Government stand was informed by the realisation that ransoms collected were being used to purchase more arms and ammunition which they in turn use to terrorise the people.
The government says it is ready to resettle the bandits to live normal lives once they lay down their arms.
It was also believed that payment of ransom for the release of the Kagara abductees was one of the conditions the bandits gave which Sheikh Gumi passed on to the governor.
Meanwhile it has now been confirmed that the kidnapped Kagara students and others as well as those abducted from the NSTA vehicle are being held hostage at the Dutsen-Magaji forest in Tegina, Rafi local government area of the state.
It was said that Sheikh Gumi and some government officials met the bandits in the forest on Thursday where they demanded for N500m before the passengers in the NSTA vehicle will be released.