Bandits or terrorists (as named by the Nigerian government) have been the chief masterminds of crime and violence in the Northern region of Nigeria. These heavily armed groups of outlaws have terrorized towns, cities and villages, killing, kidnapping, displacing families from their homes and taunting the Nigerian government with their continuous actions. 

The violence which started as a local conflict between herders and farmers has aggravated into more daring attacks. In the last few months terrorists (Boko Haram & ISWAP) have orchestrated attacks on a moving train along the Abuja-Kaduna rail line and a high-profile correctional center which saw the release of over 600 terrorists, opened fire on Christian worshippers in Owo, engaged the Nigerian Army Presidential Guard Brigade in a shootout, attacked an advance convoy of the country’s president, amongst many. 

The worsening security crisis in the country which began in 2011 has resulted in the death of at least 12,000 people and the displacement of over 450,000 people despite the over N1 trillion budgets of the country’s military since 2019-till date. Also, this violence perpetrated by terrorists has not just claimed the lives of these residents but also destroyed their properties in farmlands and livestocks.

The following outlines who they are and what they want. 

Who are these bandits?
Many believe these terrorist groups, who number in tens of thousands, comprise mostly of Fulanis, including both internal mercenaries in Nigeria and external forces from neighbouring countries like Chad and the Niger Republic.

Others believe that the long-standing conflicts between cattle herders and farmers and the desire to profit from the gold mining operations in Zamfara State had forged and attracted the terrorist community causing violence in the country. 

Ayisha Osori, director at Open Society Foundations and former chairperson of Open Society West Africa once told Al Jazeera that the bandits are a mix of “those displaced by the over a decade-long violence in the northeast and those displaced by climate change – unable to farm, fish, trade.”

“[There are] also herders who – tired of their cattle being rustled and the fights with farmers – have found a more lucrative revenue-generating operation: kidnapping for ransom and trading terror for community payoffs,” she added. “The bandits also include the opportunistic – so criminally minded men, who may or may not be supported by some members of the Nigerian security force who, in a gradually collapsing economy, also find this a lucrative way of exploiting Nigerians.”

Reports say that the groups once linked to Al-Qaeda, Ansaru and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), had reportedly split from Boko Haram and are recruiting among the latter to expand their influence across the northern region and also to slowly progress to the southern region of the country. 

What do these bandits want?
The bandits have turned mass kidnappings into a lucrative business. As much as they target rural settlements, villages and schools, they also target government officials and highway ambushes, such as the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna rail lines. They reportedly charge as high as N100 million per individual and are open to negotiations. Victims of these kidnappings have reported the elimination of abductees whose families refuse to pay ransoms. 

Needless to say, that the Buhari-led administration should have a clear idea of the demands of these terrorists seeing that a video published by the terrorists after the kidnap of the Abuja-Kaduna train victims stated “the federal government knows what they want of which failure to meet their demands, spells doom.”

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