Wednesday 18, May 2022

Unpunished, Poverty and Other Crimes Fuel Banditry in Northwest Nigeria

News Desk: Rural banditry and terrorism plaguing Nigeria’s northwestern states are the product of a flawed criminal justice system, ethnic profiling and poverty-driven criminality, a group of security experts said in a report.

the Democracy and Development Center for West AfricaCDD identified the key actors and drivers of the violent crime that has killed more than 12,000 and displaced more than a million people in the region.

The raging violence in the Northwest, stretching into the north-central state of Niger, has taken on a war-grade dimension with terrorists launching daring attacks on military installations and railway lines, as well as crumbling rural communities and targeting travelers on the roads.

Although there have been heated debates about the motivations and agenda of the terrorists, known locally as bandits, CDD dispels reports that the violent businessmen are sponsored by Northeast Boko Haram insurgents, aggrieved politicians, ultra-nationalist Fulani or foreign powers. .

“The conflict in the northwest cannot be reduced to one factor or one actor,” the agency said in its report, titled: Northwest Nigeria Bandit Problem: Explaining Drivers of Conflict. “Rather, the crisis is rooted in several overlapping economic, political and social problems.”

‘Bad criminal justice system’

The mismanagement of justice, CDD said, has contributed to the rise of violent criminals in the Northwest. Corruption and ineptitude of police and judicial officials were identified as reasons for the bandits to take up arms. The report also identified the arrogance of security officers as a contributing factor to violent crime, leading to an endemic wave of murder and bloodshed.

A former highwayman told experts in the report that his father spent seven years seeking justice for his stolen cattle, detailing how justice was not achieved until the man died. “We got poorer because of the court cases, hence the decision to take up arms,” ​​said the repentant bandit.

‘Ethnic cleansing’

The Hausa Self-Defense Security Team, codenamed Yan Sakai, has deployed excessive force and violence against Fulanis in Zamfara and Sokoto on suspicion of being bandit sympathizers, the CDD said.

Volunteer guards who emerged in northwestern communities in the 2000s have repeatedly extrajudicially killed innocent Fulani relatives, fueling existing violent crime. Fulani militants, who rebelled against being targeted for ethnic cleansing, orchestrated attacks against their Hausa counterparts.

“Security forces, more so Yan Sakai, began harassing, robbing and killing ordinary herdsmen on suspicion of being bandits,” the report revealed. “When the herdsmen left the northwest for other communities or countries, they began to spread the word among their peers that the Fulani were being prosecuted in Zamfara in particular.”

poverty-driven crime

Violent crime influenced by overwhelming poverty in Northwestern states was also identified as a driver and root cause of banditry in the region. Socioeconomic development provides fertile ground for conflict and criminal violence, says the report.

“As of 2019, each Northwest state has a poverty rate higher than the national average of 40.1%, and Sokoto has the highest rate in the country: 87.73% of the state’s population lives in the poverty,” says the report. “The conflict is exacerbating this low-level education and development, as one million Nigerian children are out of school due to insecurity in the northwest.”

Another factor driving banditry and terrorism in the region, according to the Abuja-based think tank, is land use disputes between farmers and herders, leading to inter-communal clashes between the two sides. Many farmers in the northwest are said to be Hausa, while herders are predominantly Fulani.

“Some Fulani have dedicated themselves to agriculture and urban livelihood,” the report highlights in parts. “There are strong divisions between the herders and the urban Fulani.”

bandits on the prowl

Around a hundred bandit groups with more than 30,000 militants are operating in the northwest, killing, maiming and kidnapping innocent citizens and residents of the region, the CDD said.

The predominantly Fulani bandits include Hausa, Kanuri and other tribes in the region. They rely heavily on gathering information about their targets from informants who work in collusion with them.

“Some bandits command more than 1,000 fighters, although such groups tend to be loosely organized, granting significant autonomy to their commanders, colloquially known as lieutenants,” the report says. “A former bandit pointed out that in many groups, a lieutenant can even ask the commanders for permission to form a group once they have weapons and fighters.”

Political will is the way forward

The CDD recommends that any effort to crack down on terrorism and banditry in the Northwest region will require greater political will and unity among concerned leaders of the affected states.

The report noted that it is not enough to kill bandits or jail them, adding that the government must be patient and willing to make difficult compromises and a holistic view of security.

Experts in the report also suggested that the murder of the late bandit kingpin, Buharin Daji, led his group of bandits to split into almost thirty groups, which increased rather than reduced insecurity.

“Any solution to crack down on banditry will depend on security sector reform and improved trust between security agencies and local communities,” the report said.

Despite repeated assurances, the Buhari administration has failed to stop violent criminals, a measure of the president’s national security promise.


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