The Department of State Services on Friday said it has invited Kaduna-based cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi for questioning.
“Sheikh Gumi was invited by the Service,” the service’s spokesmperson, Peter Afunaya, said in a response to a Channels Television enquiry.
The spokesman added that “it is not out of place for it to invite any person of interest.”
However, the cleric, speaking to Channels Television after Friday mosque duties, said he is not aware of any invitation.
“Nobody invited me for questioning or any arrest,” he said.
Although the DSS did not confirm the rationale for the invitation, Sheikh Gumi has recently been outspoken on the issue of banditry in Nigeria.
According to the cleric, amnesty should be extended to bandits, who he says have been ‘forced’ into criminality due to, in part, government neglect.
In a recent interview, Gumi alleged that some military operatives actively connive with bandits to wreak havoc on the country.
Nigeria is currently dealing with a banditry scourge, especially in the North-West region.
Students are frequently kidnapped in schools and attacks on road travelers and communities are ubiquitous.
On Thursday, at least one person was killed and 33 others abducted in a community in Kaduna state.
However, Gumi, who has visited some bandit groups in the forests where they reside, has advocated for the bandits to be treated with compassion.
“When I listened to them, I found out that it is a simple case of criminality which turned into banditry, which turned into ethnic war, and some genocide too behind the scene; people don’t know,” Sheikh Gumi said in an interview with Channels Television last February.
The cleric said that while “there is no excuse for any crime; nothing can justify crime, and they are committing crime,” the bandits were forced into criminality.
“I think it is a population that is pushed by circumstances into criminality,” he said. “And this is what we should look, let’s remove the pressure, let’s remove the things that made them into criminals because we have lived thousands of years without any problems with the nomadic herdsmen. They are peaceful people. But something happened that led them to this.”