Strong Links Between Boko Haram, Banditry in Nigeria Alleged

Boko Haram, particularly under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau, has long been interested in expanding its base beyond Nigeria's north-east. Its north-west and north-central regions are increasingly becoming its areas of choice due to deteriorating security and other conditions there, writes Malik Samuel for the Institute for Security Studies. There are numerous reasons for Shekau's forays into the north-west and north-central areas. These include the desire to create an islamic state that goes beyond the north-east, recruitment and the financial gains from ransom payments and other activities like illegal gold mining. But another major reason is to create a diversion. Stoking security threats elsewhere removes or reduces security forces' pressure on the north-east, particularly Sambisa Forest. This gives Shekau some breathing space from the military operations at his Sambisa base. ISS research shows that heavily-armed criminal gangs have stepped up attacks in recent years with an increase in kidnapping, rape and pillaging of villages and towns. Many communities don't feel the presence of government, especially in the area of safety and protection." This allows criminal groups to step in and take advantage by entering into social contracts with communities - not that these communities have any choice. For some, collaborating with violent extremist and criminal groups is all about survival and negotiating their safety, writes Samuel.

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