By Alex Agbo
[Abuja] Nigeria’s war on crime in recent months has logged victories in its Middle Belt, but turning around a years-long slide into lawlessness may not avert famine in the war zones, TruthNigeria has learned.
Petroleum thieves in Nigeria’s South have crippled the nation’s chief source of revenue, while rampant kidnapping, banditry and insurgency in the Middle Belt have brought dire food shortages to millions stranded in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
It has been the best of times for the naira billionaires living in Lagos and Abuja, but the worst of times for small plot farmers in Benue, Nasarawa and Kaduna and far worse for the displaced farmers in war zones around Lake Chad in Nigeria’s Lake Chad region.
“Nigeria as a country is heading towards a total collapse with the myriad bestial acts being perpetrated by the terrorists’ groups such as Boko Haram, the Islamic States West Africa Province (ISWAP), bandits as well as herdsmen. These notorious gangs have massacred and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians through their notorious and senseless activities,” according to a feature in the Daily Independent last year.
Banditry Destroying Agricultural Economy
In spite of Nigeria’s vast expanses of arable land, food is becoming increasingly scarce due to terrorist ethnic cleansing that has booted more than 5 million Nigerians off of their small plot farms in several states. In the states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina and recently Kaduna, bandit gangs charge farmers a “tax” for the privilege of working their small plot farms. Kidnap gangs recently have made the lives of farmers in Kaduna’s Kauru county a living hell, according to Tom Garba, founder of TGNews.com. Farmers are even afraid to overnight in their own farm houses for fear of being kidnapped, Garba reports.
Terrorism is an umbrella term for kidnapping, Boko Haram insurgency, farmer-herders displacement, and organized gang violence, both in terms of human and security terms. Kidnapping for ransom gangs in Nigeria’s South have plagued Nigeria for 24 years, stemming from 1999 after the transition from military to civilian rule. “Before 1999, kidnapping was hardly known in Nigeria but as a result of the transition from military to civil rule in 1999, tension started to heighten between the people of the oil-rich Niger Delta and the oil companies in their communities over issues relating to environmental degradation and lack of basic social amenities in these communities,” according to Scientific Research Magazine.
However, the misery index was ratcheted upwards in 2009 with the onset of the Islamist Civil War launched by Boko Haram [western learning forbidden] in Northeast Nigeria. Since then, more than 50,000 people have been killed, according to
Far more devastating to Nigeria’s economy than the insurgencies of Boko Haram and its more powerful spinoff, The Islamic State of West Africa, are the estimated 30,000 radicalized bandits laying waste to Nigeria’s Northwestern states of Niger, Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto, and to Kaduna and Plateau in the North Central States, according to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), one of the world’s most reliable conflict data aggregators. ACLED data shows that the bandits killed more than 2,600 civilians in 2021, an increase of over 250 percent from 2020. This number dwarfs that of civilian deaths credited to Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province in the same period. Since Nigeria has the largest desperately poor people in the world, with more than 80 million, the human consequences are dire.
Kidnap for Ransom Sucks out $119 Million a year from low-income people
The bandit gangs have sucked the disposable income out of the pockets of tens of millions of citizens by kidnap-for-ransom schemes in the north central states of Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau, as documented by myriad articles in The Epoch Times, Catholic News Agency and TruthNigeria.com among others. After years of terrorizing drivers with impunity on the highway between Abuja and Kaduna with kidnapping, the gangs found in 2020 that they could abduct whole college student bodies in the forest for months until they bled dry the bank accounts of parents and churches to recover the children.
Within the period between December 2020 and August 2021, more than 1,000 students and school staff were abducted. Within the next six months, as many as 343 people were killed, while 830 others were abducted by bandits between July and September 2021 in Kaduna state alone, according to figures from the state government.
ACLED further says that a total sum of (N98 billion) $119 million was paid as ransom to kidnappers in the country within the period of December 2020 and September 2021.
A USAID report explains that, of the 217 Million estimated population of Nigeria, 83 million people in Northeast Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance. It also says that while 3.2 million people are in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, 25.3 million is the projected acutely food-insecure population across Nigeria. TruthNigeria has concluded that the true number of IDP’s in Nigeria is far above 5 million.
According to Chief Sunday Akuns, an economist and a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the social implications of the crises are devastating. “The social implications of such costs are arguably what stoke agitations for restructuring, devolution of political power, resource control and separatism as well as cryptic loss of social cohesion in Nigeria due to historical traditions of ethnic nationalities,” Akuns told TruthNigeria.
“The internecine conflict between herdsmen and landowners would simply have been about the occupational trade competition amongst trade practices as livestock breeders and crop farmers for utilisation of land as a factor input,” Akuns told www.truthnigeria.com. “Regrettably, the twin causes of the conflict revolve around lawless handling of grievances by the herdsmen and their pursuit of settler colonisation strategy. As a result, the conflict has snowballed into ethno-religious supremacy clashes, leading to criminal gangsters and herdsmen killing landowners,” Akuns said.
Chief Akuns posed a rhetorical question in conclusion: “The failure of the apparatus of coercion of the Nigerian defense and security services to end the conflicts has cast aspersion on the role of the State in the conflicts; is the Nigerian State not providing safe haven for elements of the herdsmen involved in gangster criminality?”
Alex Agbo is a Socio-economic analyst writing for TruthNigeria from Lagos.