'Everyone Knows Somebody Who Has Been Kidnapped'

Communities across the northwest are paying protection money to avoid being killed or abducted. Some are now forging local peace deals, writes Obi Anyadike for The New Humanitarian.

Zamfara State is the centre of a kidnap-for-ransom industry worth millions of dollars each year. The gangs have become a constant threat. Some of the hardest-hit communities, who pay protection money, have started turning to more formal peace deals, negotiated directly with local warlords. These arrangements sideline the government, but the authorities in the state capital, Gusau, give them their quiet consent.

"Virtually everyone in Zamfara State knows somebody who has been kidnapped," Buhari Moriki, a community development worker, told The New Humanitarian. "Either they've been a victim themselves, or they can tell a story."

In Nigeria, "bandits" is a catch-all term for armed rural gangs that rustle cattle, kidnap, loot, and extort villages. Kidnapping for ransom has become rampant in many parts of Nigeria. The northern part of the country has increasingly become a hub for large criminal gangs who raid villages, killing and abducting residents after looting and torching homes.

In 2022, the Zamfara State government has asked residents to "obtain guns to defend themselves against armed militants and "bandits". Zamfara also banned the use of motorcycles and the selling of petrol in three districts, to curtail criminal activity.


(file photo).

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