Ango Abdullahi, chairman of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), says bandits willing to repent should be offered options for rehabilitation.
Many communities in the north have suffered attacks from bandits over the past months.
While making a presentation at the northern people’s summit in Kaduna on Wednesday, Abdullahi said the government should only go after those who do not want to desist from crime.
He also suggested that the government resolves the crisis involving bandits, like it did with Niger Delta militants who were offered amnesty.
“Those elements that show a genuine willingness to abandon criminality should be rehabilitated and integrated. Those who insist on pursuing criminality should be stoutly resisted by the Nigerian state and by communities,” he said.
“Those who attack and kill northerners must be stopped and be prosecuted.
“The entire phenomenon of armed criminality requires bold steps and policies to deal with it, and we should examine these and make our recommendations to those with responsibility to implement them.
“Even at this stage, however, I have to say that dealing with criminality, poverty, and destitution in the north will require a national effort to mitigate.
“The nation needs to prepare to consider massive investment in human capital development, infrastructure, and basic security if it will reverse the rising tide of frustrations, destitution and criminality which afflicts most of the north.
“Those who see this as an unnecessary concession to the region need to be reminded that this was precisely the approach that substantially resolved the Niger Delta militancy.
“The north needs not make this demand in hushed tones, or apologise for them.”
He said banditry, insurgency, cultism, piracy and irredentism are threats to the nation, and they must be treated with a mindset that appreciates their roots, complexities and solutions in a national context.
He called on federal and northern state governments to design and implement plans for the domestication of herders, and also promote policies to improve the quality of life of Fulani herder communities.
He said the Nigerian state “must come to terms with the reality that its legitimate monopoly over the use of violence has been severely damaged, and it cannot build straw fences around communities to give them a false sense of security”.
Abdullahi added that it’s time to re-evaluate the current security arrangements and address limitations which encourage criminality.
The NEF chairman joins the list of leaders, including ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ahmad Gumi, prominent Islamic cleric, who have also called on the government to rehabilitate repentant bandits.