The brutal insurgents are raising funds for their operations through banditry, writes Inwalomhe Donald

Bandits are members of Boko Haram. The only avenue left for Boko Haram to raise funds now is banditry. Bandits are occupying Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and Kaduna States to raise funds for Boko Haram. Boko Haram is using banditry to infiltrate all parts of Nigeria. Banditry represents the financial wing of Boko Haram to raise funds to finance terror activities. Bandits are terrorists who can raise funds for Boko Haram across Nigeria. Bandits have negotiated with many state governors in the north-west of Nigeria. President Buhari should treat bandits as terrorists. Bandits have participated in kidnappings where ransoms were collected to finance terrorism across Nigeria.

Boko Haram has also been known to raise funds through mass kidnapping of foreigners and civilians for ransom. It has a specialized kidnapping task force led by bandits that set out to abduct school children, politicians, business people, foreigners, rulers and civil servants with the intention of later trading them back for large sums of money or for the return of other Boko Haram militants. Nigeria’s North West is suffering deadly conflict involving many armed organisations which Boko Haram has used to infiltrate the region, including herder-allied groups, vigilantes, criminal gangs and jihadists. The violence has killed many people since 2011, and displaced some people, some into neighbouring Niger Republic. Despite several security operations and efforts through dialogue, durable peace remains elusive.

Frequent acts of violent crime have grown to form a major threat to Nigeria’s national security. These include instances of militancy, insurgency and banditry. Banditry includes cattle rustling, armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom. Kidnapping for ransom has remained the most virulent form of banditry in Nigeria. It has become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime in the country.

Kidnapping can be targeted at individuals or at groups. School children have been kidnapped in groups in various parts of Nigeria. Usually, the prime targets of kidnapping for ransom are those considered to be wealthy enough to pay a fee in exchange for being freed.

Kidnapping is the unlawful detention of a person through the use of force, threats, fraud or enticement. The purpose is for illicit gain in economic or material, in exchange for liberation. It may also be used to pressure someone into doing something—or not doing something.

Nigeria has one of the world’s highest rates of kidnap-for-ransom cases. Other countries high up on the list include Venezuela, Mexico, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Thousands of Nigerians have been kidnapped for ransom and other purposes over the years. Kidnapping has prevailed in spite of measures put in place by the government. The Nigerian police’s anti-kidnapping squad, introduced in the 2000s, has endeavored to stem the menace. But this has been to no avail, mainly due to a lack of manpower and poor logistics.

These efforts have also failed because of weak sanctioning and deterrence mechanisms. Kidnapping thrives in an environment that condones crime; where criminal opportunism and impunity prevail over and above deterrence. This obviously calls for an urgent review of Nigeria’s current anti-kidnapping approach to make it more effective.

Similarly, Boko Haram insurgents have used the proceeds of kidnapping to keep their insurgency afloat. The insurgents engage in single or group kidnapping as a means of generating money to fund their activities. Huge sums are often paid as ransom by the victims’ families and associates to secure their release.

In addition to militants and insurgents, organized local and transnational criminal syndicates have been involved. This is happening in apocalyptic proportions in North West Nigeria where rural bandits engage regularly in kidnapping in the states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto.

Donald wrote from Sokoto State