Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, a well-known Islamic cleric, has condemned the Federal Government’s stance on media reporting and coverage of the country’s lingering insecurity.
He specifically criticised the government’s plan to sanction the BBC Africa Eye and Daily Trust for recent reports that he claimed exposed the politics of insecurity, the origins of the crisis, and how bandits and terrorists effectively took control of several communities in the North West.
In a statement issued on Friday, the cleric praised local and international media organisations for boldly reporting on the magnitude of the insecurity, the government’s incorrect approach to addressing the crisis, and how it has become a lucrative business for criminals and a few in positions of power and authority.
“FG’s attempt in trying to find a scapegoat to justify its glaring failure after wasting over $16 billion in the last seven years without any commensurate result on security and efforts to blackmail certain media organisations for their patriotism in reporting the crisis is unfortunate and should be resisted by all responsible media organisations,” he said.
Gumi believes the BBC documentary reflects the actual happenings in Zamfara State and was done professionally with the highest ethical standards that seek solutions to consistent attacks on vulnerable communities.
He wondered why the government could not use such independent discovery to squarely address the crisis, rather than sanction the producers.
According to the cleric, claims that the BBC and others like Daily Trust are giving undue publicity to bandits, and their activities or promoting terrorism are unfortunate, myopic, and mischievous.
He alleged that the government’s attempt was to blackmail media houses so as to cover its failure and divert public scrutiny into high-level corruption in military spending and budgetary allocations.
Gumi, therefore, urged the media not to be intimidated or succumb to official blackmail but should always make the government accountable, especially in view of its failure to protect lives and properties despite the billions at its disposal.
“What is happening in Nigeria today, especially in the North West as clearly captured by the BBC, is more of an ethnic war and reprisal killings and attacks due to the government’s failure to address well-documented instances of injustices that were initially done to the Fulanis,” he said.
“What do you expect from a society (Fulani) that was left in total ignorance and lack of education, especially when their primary means of livelihood (cattle) has been completely rustled by other criminal elements within and outside our security agencies without any effort by the government to address the injustice.
“As I talk to you now, cattle rustling has not stopped. Many law-abiding Fulanis have fallen victims to the official extortion of their cows. I have well-documented evidence involving some security agents in which I personally intervened. How do you expect as a government to address insecurity, especially related to Fulani bandits without addressing such instances of extortion and rustling?”
For Gumi, the frightening development now is that the Boko Haram terrorists whom he believes have infiltrated the Fulani bandits and that the armed men are gradually being indoctrinated to their (Boko Haram) religious belief and mission.
He advised the government that rather than using the instruments of authority to silence or blackmail the media, the security chiefs should be held accountable and responsible for any failure.
“When a Commander-in-Chief rewards failure with ambassadorial appointments in a system and a society that records increased attacks, when security agencies cannot even protect Abuja and especially when the Guards Brigade cannot even protect themselves not to talk of the President, then why blame the media for such failure and ineptitude for reporting it?” the cleric queried.