Armed bandits operating in different parts of the country have ended the lives of more Nigerians than the dreaded Boko Haram terrorist group and other violent criminal gangs in the last nine months.
Boko Haram, which has killed tens of thousands of Nigerians in its 10-year-old insurgency, used to be in the lead on the tally of killings by violent groups.
The terrorist organisation once captured and held on to Nigerian territories in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, declaring them as part of an Islamic Caliphate, under which communities were subjected to the group’s harsh interpretation of the Islamic law.
The sect, once ranked the world’s deadliest terrorist group by the Global Terrorism Index (a report published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace) has been in decline since 2014.
Boko Haram was flushed out of the local governments under its rule by Nigerian security forces into the fringes of Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad, from where the group has continued to launch ‘isolated’ attacks on military and civilian targets.
Both military and civilians have come under renewed attacks by the Boko Haram terrorists this year, with recent media reports showing that they were better armed than ever and had acquired sophisticated drones capable of giving them an edge in their war against Nigeria.
But a review of newspaper reports from January to September show that bandits, who also operate in the northern part of the country, have pushed Boko Haram to a second position when it comes to killing more Nigerians.
While Boko Haram killed 370, representing 18.97 per cent of 1,950 Nigerians killed by violent groups, bandits killed twice as much, with a toll of 875 to their name, which is equivalent to 44.87 per cent.
Cultists, armed robbers, kidnappers and other groups ended the lives of 705 (36.15 percent) in parts of the country.
Bandits have, in the last few years, run aggressive campaigns of killings and pillaging in mostly rural communities in parts of Zamfara, Kastina, Kaduna, and are now spilling into Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger states.
The cases reviewed show that armed bandit activities claimed the highest number of lives within the period under review, as a total of 875 killings were recorded between January and September. A monthly breakdown shows that 168 deaths relating to banditry were recorded in June, 163 in May while 151 deaths were recorded in April. Similarly, the month of August recorded 59 deaths, 159 in February and 110 in March. The months of January recorded 29 killings relating to armed bandits, while 36 were recorded in September.
Zamfara State recorded the highest number of attacks by bandits, leading to the killing of 145 people, followed by Kaduna with 253 while Katsina recorded 207 deaths.
Boko Haram activities claimed the second highest number of lives between January and September, totalling 370 in the North-East states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. While Borno topped the death toll with 335, Adamawa followed with 31 deaths and Yobe State, four deaths.
A monthly breakdown of the Boko Haram-related killings indicates that the month of August recorded the highest number of deaths, amounting to 82 while 60 killings were recorded in June. Also, 51 deaths were recorded in April, 44 in August, 39 in February, 38 in May, 25 in January while March and September recorded 6 and 24 deaths, respectively.
Cultists, armed robbers, kidnappers increase the toll
The activities of other violent groups reportedly claimed 266 lives in different parts of the country. Deaths attributed to cultists amounted to 172 while those caused by the activities of other gunmen were put at 112. Killings caused by armed robbers were put at 42 while those caused by herdsmen were 29. Six deaths were recorded as a result of kidnapping.
A monthly breakdown of killings arising from the activities of armed robbers, bandits, cultists, gunmen, herdsmen, hoodlums, kidnappers and armed militia showed that the highest number of 300 deaths were recorded in February, 267 killings in May, 265 in June while 232 killings were recorded in April.
Similarly, 199 deaths were recorded in August, 165 in March while January and September recorded 52 and 21 killings, respectively.
More deaths than reported here may have been recorded during the period covered because not all casualty figures get reported in the media.
How they spilled blood
In Zamfara, many were killed and buried in mass graves before the ceasefire deal between the state government and bandits that has helped restore peace in the state. From Ajia and Wonaka in Birnin Magaji Local Government, to Kayayi village in Shinkafi Local Government; from Yan Taskuwa to Kucheri; from Tungar Kolo to all the Kara markets in Zamfara, the bandits had left sorrow, tears and blood in their wake.
In one of the attacks recorded on March 4, 2019, no fewer than 30 people were killed by the bandits who raided Kware village of Shinkafi Local Government area in Zamfara.
Riding on motorcycles, gunmen reportedly attacked the sleepy village on the fateful Sunday night, opening fire on residents and burning homes.
Three days earlier, armed bandits had reportedly killed 32 vigilante group members at a checkpoint set up by locals in the same area. The vigilantes were part of a militia force providing security for traders in the area, as besieged communities took security into their own hands.
But killings in Nigeria in the recent past have not been restricted to armed banditry. Elsewhere in Borno State, at least 65 people were killed during an attack in July this year by the Boko Haram terror group in the North-East state during a burial rite.
The motorbike-riding members of the terrorist organisation reportedly opened fire on dozens of villagers during a burial in Badu village of Nganzai Local Government area in Borno State.
The chairman of Ngazai Local Government, Mohammad Bulama, was quoted as saying that the insurgents came on a reprisal mission, attacking mourners at a graveyard in the area, killing over 60 persons and injuring 11 others.
In another incident recorded in Borno State, three Nigerian soldiers were killed during a gun battle with insurgents in a village on the outskirts of Borno State capital, Maiduguri, on Thursday, August 15, according to reports.
The militants, believed to be from the Islamic State, West Africa Province faction of Boko Haram, were said to have attacked a military location in Molai village, near Mammanti, Maiduguri the Borno State capital.
Earlier in June, no fewer than 13 people were reported to have been killed and houses burnt in two separate attacks in Ardo Kola and Donga local government areas of Taraba State by suspected herdsmen.
Among the victims, six were said to have been killed at Ardo Kola Local Government Area, near Jalingo when armed herdsmen invaded the village on the fateful day, while seven were reportedly killed in an ambush at the border between Wukari and Donga local government areas.
In another round of bloodbath, residents of Alasiya in Abraham Adesanya Estate area, in the Eti-Osa Local Government Area of Lagos State, were thrown into panic in April as a suspected clash by rival cults left five people dead.
The clash was said to have started around midnight on the fateful day, following which the police were said to have recovered corpses of the victims.
A resident of the area told journalists: “Last night, when we were inside the factory around midnight, we heard gunshots. But when we came out this morning, we saw five corpses. The police evacuated four corpses, but the last one was not released to them because the family of the person who was killed prevented them from taking his corpse away.”
The cases cited above are among several reported incidents of killings in different parts of the country reviewed by Daily Trust on Sunday.
Investigations showed that no fewer than 1,950 Nigerians lost their lives to attacks by violent groups between January and September this year.
The deaths were due to the activities of Boko Haram, armed robbers, bandits, cultists, gunmen, herdsmen, hoodlums, kidnappers and armed militia. They were recorded in 34 states of the country, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
How to prevent killings – Ex-IGP, Abba
A former Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba, has identified the basic requirements needed to assist the Police in fighting crime in the country in order to ensure the security of its citizens.
Abba, who also served as Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, told Daily Trust on Sunday in a telephone interview that communication was key in the fight against crime.
“As criminal activities are advancing, so is the need to modernise efforts in crime control,” he said, adding that the mobility of police personnel in preventing or responding to crime is also key.
The former IGP also harped on the need for communication, saying: “The public need to effectively communicate with the police in reporting crime, while the police also need to do same in preventing crime. It is a two-way process that is based on the tenets of community policing.”