Reflections on Banditry, Kidnapping and Armed Violence in Nigeria

Reflections on Banditry, Kidnapping and Armed Violence in Nigeria

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“If the misery of the poor be caused not by the law of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin” – Charles Darwin.


Security is vital to our existential peace and personal fulfilment in life. The buildup of banditry, kidnapping and armed violence has put millions of Nigerians in a state of gloom and despondency. The Nigerian state continues to grapple with many development challenges and the fallout continues to disrupt peace and devastate lives and livelihoods, just as it is taking a great toll on the well-being of the nation. Thus, we are faced with the question: what does sustainable peace and security hold for us as a nation?  How did we get here and how do we chart a pathway for national reconciliation devoid of partisanship? The call for national dialogue has become imperative to secure the citizens and avoid civil unrest!

This article examines the security challenges being faced by the nation by providing a critical understanding of the complex social-political milieus in which banditry and violent conflict are grounded and how social inequalities have been the bane of nation-building. It examines why economic opportunity does not always correspond uniquely with access to quality of life of an average Nigerian and it explores the changing expressions of ethnic and religious impulses as reflected in the leadership question and the calls for regional balance in the security architecture of the fragile Nigerian state. It concludes by proffering solutions to the country’s complex security challenges.

Nigeria’s political and security landscapes have changed significantly since the mid-1990s when all the hubris of rapid economic growth and development came to a halt. Evidently, the prolonged military regimes justified paternalistic authoritarian government, and the emergent politics without ideology has provided refuge for incompetent leaders to be in power. Indeed, politics and leadership are not built around critical issues of governance, but around primordial sentiments of religion, ethnicity and other divisive identities.

These challenges continue to emasculate democracy and security. Efforts to end banditry, kidnapping and other violent crimes, however well-intended and implemented they appear to be, will continue to fail as long as the political conditions for the resolution of insecurity are not transparently handled.

According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) report (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2020), Nigeria is classified as the third most terrorised country in the world. Given the widespread youth unemployment and proliferation of illicit small arms and weapons across the country, particularly the North-East and the South-South, the objectionable business of banditry and terrorism will be on the rise. Furthermore, the root causes and the overlapping drivers of conflict are radical Islam, multidimensional poverty; ethno- religious faultlines, out-of-school children; political corruption, economic recession, climate change; nepotism and exclusion have become the bane of insecurity and state fragility.

The Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PRESCOM) and other strategic stakeholders must put in place comprehensive peace-building strategies for weapons control and armed violence reduction. Weapons have become bargaining instruments for ransoms. In addition, the federal government must explore dialogue in order to prevent or deescalate conflicts by restructuring way the security gatekeepers manage its communication and behaviour change ecosystem. Further, state and local governments must create and sustain coordinated efforts by using dialogue processes at the community- to – community level to gain awareness on how to identify influences on violent crimes of banditry, terrorism and kidnapping.

Undoubtedly, the path to more robust security architecture will be a challenging one, one that calls for uncommon leadership and creativity from the President, the new service chiefs and other security service providers. It will involve a tenacious implementation of various security roadmap documents, including local government (community) policing, state police, restructuring of the top hierarchy of the military to reflect national diversity and the development of the legislative framework for the possession and the use of weapons by civilians and government officials. These should be considered by the 9th National Assembly.

The militarisation of the state by politicians is, however, a worrisome trend. Politicians must purge themselves of political thugs and other anti-social abnormalities including godfatherism, cultism and gangsterism. Therefore, comprehensive controls must be instituted, and the campaign for the prevention and reduction of armed groups (vigilantes) at the community level should be ramped up.

The Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation through its agencies, particularly the National Orientation Agency (NOA), must sustain strategic communication matrix with the Directorate of Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) to reimagine Security Sector Reforms (SSR) through a step-by-step confidence-building incentive for the Nigerian Project beyond the tokenism of 60 seconds radio jingles, press releases and reactive communication of government spokespersons.

At the level of the Military High Command, the issue of disarmament and weapons control should be addressed in a transparent manner. Access to strategic information regarding weapon holding in notorious banditry states will reduce opportunities for new recruits. Further, the military engagement tactics with kidnapping and banditry should be operationalised with the police service as a result of the rapidly changing dynamics of non-conventional warfare, including terrorism and violent crime. The federal government must take proactive action in walking its talk about pulling 20 million Nigerians out of the poverty net, and state governments will do well to mainstream pro-poor programmes, community-to-community intelligence networks and reform regional security outfits to have long-lasting impacts, especially on cultism, area boys menace and transport unions toll collectors, which are fertile grounds for nurturing and recruiting criminal elements.

Momentously, non-state actor’s particularly civil society and community groups within the West African sub-region should mobilise and engage to ensure that the root causes and potential drivers of violent conflict are brought to the fore amongst political leaders and ethnic regional influencers to forestall the danger of escalation across the region, which have dreadful consequences for sustainable peace and development.

In addition, they should build robust and inclusive peace-building, conflict resolution mechanisms and indeed capacity, solidarity, a much bigger and broader regional engagement ecosystem to champion authentic governance architecture and to act, and campaign more vigorously as strategic gatekeepers and agenda-setting for policy advocacy on banditry, kidnapping and armed violence.

In conclusion, political leaders need to act responsibly. They must redouble their efforts at tackling the root causes and the potential drivers of violent conflicts in Nigeria and indeed within the sub-region. The governments at the sub-regional (ECOWAS), national and sub-national levels must be proactive rather than reactive. The time to act is now!


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are entirely the views of the author and as such, do not represent the views of the Institute in any way.


About the author

Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje is currently the Founder/National Coordinator at Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, a not –for – profit organisation-providing research, advocacy, and social interventions. His research interest focuses on Diplomacy, International Economic Relations, Borders, African Migration, International Development, Gender, and Governance, Multidimensional Poverty, Sustainable Human Development and Development Paradigms.

He holds two Masters Degrees in Public and International Affairs, and Humanitarian and Refugee Studies from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and a certificate in forced migration from the Prestigious Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.