• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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Beyond Boko Haram: Bandits rise as Nigeria’s new terror threat

Beyond Boko Haram: Bandits rise as Nigeria’s new terror threat

In the ominous shadows cast over Nigeria’s northern regions, a new terror threat has risen to prominence, eclipsing the infamous spectre of Boko Haram. This editorial dives into the heart of the matter – the ascent of ruthless and audacious bandits in the northwest, challenging the very fabric of the nation.

While global attention remains fixated on the remnants of Boko Haram wreaking havoc in the northeast, a quieter storm has silently brewed in the northwest. This editorial sheds light on this growing menace, exploring the brutal tactics employed by well-armed bandits, their potential collaboration with jihadists, and the alarming implications for Nigeria’s security

In the stark reality of Nigeria’s north, these bandits aren’t just common criminals; they’re audacious warlords, orchestrating a symphony of fear that goes beyond mere criminality. The Fulani herdsmen, claiming ancestral rights, operate as a hydra of ruthless gangs, engaging in mass kidnappings, extortion, and violence against innocent civilians. The death toll from banditry in 2021 eclipsed that of Boko Haram, painting a disturbing picture.

Let’s dispel any romanticised notions – these aren’t modern-day Robin Hoods. They are power-hungry warlords, thriving on fear and ransom. The opinion confronts the idea that these bandits could be seen as anything other than a menace. It introduces the chilling prospect of an alliance between jihadists and bandits, where whispers of shared weapons, expertise, and dreams linger. This potential collaboration provides jihadists with safe havens to regroup, rearm, and plot, all while diverting attention from their nefarious activities. It’s a disturbing alliance that demands our urgent attention.

 While global attention remains fixated on the remnants of Boko Haram wreaking havoc in the northeast, a quieter storm has silently brewed in the northwest.

Turning our focus to the vulnerability of northwestern Nigeria to jihadist expansionism, the situation demands our scrutiny. The region’s geographic and social proximity to jihadi hotspots, coupled with the absence of robust state institutions and lax border control with Niger, creates a breeding ground for insurgency. It’s an environment where the predominantly Sunni population shares socioeconomic factors with the northeast, setting the stage for collaboration between bandits and jihadists eager to extend their influence.

Let’s be clear about the potential benefits for both parties involved – for jihadists, co-opting bandits is a strategic move to expand their militant networks. Simultaneously, bandits see an opportunity to legitimise their activities under the guise of a religiously ordained “higher cause.” However, we must acknowledge the complexity of the situation; banditry, described as a form of creeping terror, proves challenging for jihadists to co-opt effectively.

Shifting the narrative, we delve into the bandits’ perspective, focusing on key figures – Alhaji Shehu Shingi, Halilu Sububu, Turji, and Dogo Gide. Through interviews conducted in 2021, we gain nuanced insights into their relationships with various Nigerian jihadi groups. This challenges preconceived notions of direct collaboration, revealing a reality far more intricate than simple affiliations suggest.

A noteworthy aspect is the phenomenon of disillusioned jihadists turning to banditry, presenting itself as a more accessible and appealing alternative for militants disenchanted with the rigid structures of jihadi organisations. The article underscores the significance of wealth accumulation and autonomy in banditry, citing examples of former jihadists seamlessly transitioning into the banditry fold. It’s a stark illustration of the malleability of motivations in the face of changing circumstances.

A closer look at specific bandit commanders – Alhaji Shehu Shingi, Turji, and Halilu Sububu – provides a deeper understanding of their motivations and relationships. Shingi, portrayed as a key figure in Zamfara, is presented as engaging in a transactional dynamic with jihadists, aiming to prevent experienced lieutenants from joining rival factions. Turji’s interactions with ISWAP are explored, debunking assumptions of a strict jihadi affiliation. Halilu Sububu’s complex relationship with Turji and their recent cooperation challenge oversimplified notions of banditry.

Let’s cut through the complexities of northwestern Nigeria’s security landscape. It’s a volatile and unpredictable region that demands our careful navigation. While instances of tactical cooperation between bandits and jihadists merit continuous study, let’s not get carried away with overhyping the jihadi angle. The bandits wield formidable power, and their inherent fractious nature stands as a substantial barrier to any significant collaboration.

A series of cautionary notes are in order for analysts and stakeholders. Let’s steer clear of assumptions about a natural convergence between criminality and jihadism. The article boldly underscores the need to revamp counterterrorism and prevent/countering violent extremism approaches. Bandits aren’t just driven by religious ideology; there are deeper motivations at play. The challenges of insecurity in the northwest, rooted in conflicts between communities and an absent or complicit state, present formidable obstacles for any attempts at demobilisation, disarmament, and reintegration.

Overall, our aim is to do more than just shed light on Nigeria’s security crises; it offers nuanced insights into the often sensationalised “crime-terror nexus.” While recognising the potential collaboration between bandits and jihadists, it urges for a more nuanced understanding of the intricate and contingent factors steering these dynamics in northwestern Nigeria. It’s a call for clear-eyed analysis in the face of a multifaceted challenge.