Armed groups taking advantage of conflict in Nigeria to perpetrate crimes, new report indicates

Armed groups taking advantage of conflict in Nigeria to perpetrate crimes, new report indicates

Organized and armed groups have increasingly indulged in criminal activity like kidnapping and armed robbery; which have exploded in northern Nigeria amid resurgent jihadist activity; and a deadly conflict between the country’s cattle herders and farmers.

This is the position of a new report published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

The report notes that the ongoing, multi-faceted conflict between ethnic Hausa farmers and Fulani herders; fuelled by competition over scarce land and water resources; has given rise to large numbers of armed groups seeking to protect their respective interests.

‘‘Amid the resulting increase in the trade for weapons, and with impoverished members of both ethnic groups; looking to support themselves via other means; organized criminal syndicates have increased their operations within northern Nigeria’s lawless forest areas; mainly in the states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto and Kebbi,’’ OCCRP stated.

Further, OCCRP avers that miners and traders in the Northern region’s gold mining sector have proven particular targets for armed robbery. Also, it notes that pillaging is commonplace. This is in addition to the more ubiquitous problems of cattle rustling and kidnapping for ransom.

The report estimates that more than 3,600 people have been taken hostage in the last eight years; with more than N3bn (US$7.6 million) paid out in Zamfara state alone.

ALSO READ: Air strikes kill 200 bandits in Katsina, Zamfara

Meanwhile, OCCRP quotes a report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) last week; which cites other crimes perpetrated by the armed groups.

Armed groups

“Apart from abducting individuals in rural communities, these groups often also ambush travellers on highways; killing those who resist or whose families fail to meet their demands.’’

Nnamdi Obasi, a senior adviser on Nigeria for the International Crisis Group (ICG), further throws more light on the situation.

“They’re a mix of different ethnicities — some are Fulani, some Hausa, some are smaller ethnic groups; and for some, even, membership is mixed,” Obasi told OCCRP on Friday.

“People say the Fulani may be more involved in cattle rustling as they have this pastoral history. The crime obviously requires an understanding of how to move herds across long distances. This was probably the earliest and most pronounced form of illegal activity in the region. But as time went on, some of the gangs found it too cumbersome, and that kidnapping was far more lucrative,” he added.

“They also raid and pillage villages, razing houses, burning down barns, and abducting and raping women. In some cases, they write letters to village heads demanding that residents pool money and pay them to be spared deadly attacks; or impose tolls on farmers as a condition for gaining access to their fields,” it adds.

Furthermore, the report states that efforts to mobilise an effective response to the growing violence by the groups; have repeatedly met with resistance from the country’s government.

“Authorities in the northwestern states where the criminal groups are most active have been trying to push the narrative that they’ve made peace with the region’s armed groups since 2019, and so are somewhat reluctant to admit that criminal violence is still fuelling a growing humanitarian challenge in the region,” Obasi said.

Meanwhile, the ICG is demanding increased cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Niger in order to stem the violence; as well as calling on international organisations to further help by providing humanitarian aid to the population.

“The porous nature of the border creates easy opportunities for bandits and jihadis to cross between the two countries. Clearly, there is a need for Nigeria and Niger to cooperate much more closely; in order to combat illegal activity in the region,” he said.

He added that the violence by the daring armed groups is having a “crippling” effect on local economies; with traders increasingly afraid to travel into the region, leaving “farmers even poorer than they were before.”

The report states that since 2011, the conflict in northern Nigeria has claimed 8,000 lives and displaced more than 200,000 people; with around 60,000 fleeing into neighbouring Niger — over a third of whom arrived within the last month alone.

About The Author

Epicurean. Wordsmith... [email protected]

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *