Rural banditry by all accounts is undermining security, peace, and development in Nigeria’s northwest.
While the unfolding crisis could be linked to a set of factors, the threat to security in a region already reeling from the effects of a decade-long Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast cannot be over-stated.
On April 11, 2019, the Governor of Katsina state, Aminu Bello Masari, spoke of how bandits were taking over parts of the state, killing people and destroying property with impunity.
Competing Narratives There are competing narratives regarding the causes and nature of the problem of armed banditry in Zamfara and neighboring states.
Non-state Security Actors The breakdown of authority at the local and state levels has created the enabling environment for the emergence of a complex informal security sector in Zamfara.
Competing and rival armed and criminal gangs operate freely in the state in the name of vigilantism.There are widespread allegations of corruption against state security operatives, police, judges, village heads, and even some vigilante groups.The public institutions responsible for offering protection and delivering justice are unable to bring bandits to justice due to inadequate resources and widespread extortion.It is also estimated that there are at least ten thousand armed bandits and cattle rustlers operating out of eight major camps in Zamfara state.Also, some reports put the number of children orphaned as a result of such attacks at forty four thousand since 2010.The Rugu, Kamara, Kunduma, and Sububu forests have become major hideouts for criminals.Worse still, with a fragile state system and waning public confidence in police and state security institutions, the allegiance of defenseless rural communities is gradually shifting toward informal, armed groups and local vigilantes.Lacking in security training, the groups are accused of criminal acts ranging from violent robbery, unlawful confiscation of properties of both bandits and their victims, and human rights abuses.Unless something is urgently done to strengthen the legitimacy and capacity of state institutions and non-state actors, including traditional authorities to address issues of corruption and widespread poverty, the security situation may likely continue to deteriorate.Some view the conflict as one of the effects of climate change, particularly decreasing amounts of rainfall, on the “scarcity” of arable land and pastures.The drop in rainfall over the years translates into the scarcity of water, which in the context of a rapid population growth rate places pressure on land, and fuels intense conflicts between pastoralists and farmers whose livelihoods and survival are based on access to land.