The pervasive armed banditry and its associated threats to human security in the North-West region of Nigeria have become a subject of national security and public concern. The multifaceted layers of criminality involved, and the recurrent nature of the armed banditry call for effective mechanisms to mitigate the threat it poses to peace and security in the affected States.
In July 2019, the North-Western State Governors began negotiating with several armed bandits operating in the region to curb the menace and further boost internal security in the affected States. Despite its recorded successes evident in the drastic decline in attacks, the release of kidnapped victims, and weapons recovery, the renewed attacks by bandits in Zamfara, Katsina, and the Niger States between November and December 2019, posed a threat to the peace agreements negotiated by the State Governors. Data generated from the WANEP National Early Warning System (NEWS) indicates that armed banditry recorded a death toll of over 1058 people in Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, and the Niger States between January and December 2019.
Negative Impact of Armed Banditry
(1) Impact on Education
Education deprivation in the North-West region has been exacerbated by armed banditry due to the mass displacements in affected communities. However, the escalation of banditry contributed to a high number of out-of-school children in the region. Out of the 12 million out-of-school children in Nigeria, 30% are in the North-West (Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kano) and Niger State in the North Central region.
Armed banditry, facilitated the emergence of a complex informal security sector in the region, including the growth of armed local vigilante groups established to protect communities against bandits. Many of these groups lack adequate security training and often compete against one another.
(3) Internal Displacement
One of the most visible impacts of armed banditry in the North West involves the internal displacement of community residents. According to a 2019 report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Nigerian Government, over 200,000 persons were internally displaced in several communities of Zamfara, Katsina, and the Sokoto States between January-August 2019.
(4) Gender Issue Aggravation
The criminal activities perpetrated by bandits in the North West heightened the vulnerability of women and girls in the region. Some women in the affected communities were faced with early widowhood or death of their children, while some children were orphaned and forced to flee their villages for safety.
Case study of Oyo and Bayelsa Law Prohibiting Kidnapping
Armed banditry remains a major security challenge that has created instability, hampered socio-economic development, and undermined democratic governance in the North-West region. Given the observable shortcomings of the militarized responses to armed banditry, dialogue serves as a complement within a broader conflict management mechanism to address the threats.