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Armed Banditry Is Wiping Out Communities, Displacing People

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Armed banditry has caused the abandoning of communities and the destruction of homes and schools in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions, according to satellite images analysed by the Documenting Violence and Environment Destruction (DVED) project.

The DVED project processed images obtained from Google Earth to identify some of the villages and towns that suffered varying degrees of destruction. As of June 29, the project has recorded 33 locations wholly and partially destroyed due to the insecurity.

In Kaduna one of most affected States, 27 communities were observed to have been destroyed and deserted by the residents. Some of them were located around vital routes and near the dreaded Kamuku National Park and  Kwiambana Game Reserve. These conservation areas have over the years become sanctuaries for armed groups.

The satellite images, as shown below, reveal the dramatic transformation of communities and the disappearance of buildings. This trend occurred in some cases between 2017 and 2023. Additionally, the project highlights the presence of ghost communities overgrown by vegetation.

What’s happening

Armed groups known commonly as bandits have caused widespread violence in Nigeria’s northwest and Niger state in the northcentral[1]. The security crisis involves cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom and raids targeting vulnerable communities.

A complex web of socioeconomic, political and environmental factors fuels the insecurity. These factors include weak governance, social grievances, and criminality. Others are competition over resources and unresolved tension between herders and farmers. Porous borders, weapons trafficking and weak law enforcement further complicate the crisis.

In addition to the banditry, the region is also witnessing activities of various factions of Boko Haram. These violent extremist groups are taking advantage of the chaos, ungoverned spaces and opportunities for raising funds.

The violence has caused the death of thousands of people particularly in rural communities.[2] Hundreds of thousands of people have also been displaced by armed banditry and kidnapping[3]. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in May 2024, estimated that In Zamfara and Sokoto states, armed attacks displaced at least 10,000 people and killed at least 92 in March and April, with many people kidnapped.[4] 

Note: The DVED project intends to periodically update the dataset to help policymakers and humanitarian actors better respond to the crisis in the region.


[1] https://newlinesmag.com/reportage/the-bandit-warlords-of-nigeria/

[2]https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-africa/nigeria/288-violence-nigerias-north-west-rolling-back-mayhem

[3] IOM (2024) Nigeria — North-Central and North-West — Round 13 IDP Atlas (March 2024) | Displacement Tracking Matrix

https://dtm.iom.int/reports/nigeria-north-central-and-north-west-round-13-idp-atlas-march-2024

[4]https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/northwest-nigeria-10000-people-displaced-result-conflict-last-two-months-are-urgent-need-humanitarian-assistance-warns-irc

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