Calls have surfaced again a month after the Nigerian government ruled out a potential amnesty program for armed bandits. On March 25, 2021, Ahmad Gumi, an Islamic clergyman and federal government-backed negotiator, declared that bandits who are unsure of their safety and rehabilitation will not let go of their weapons. He claimed that the Nigerian government should grant amnesty to the bandits, just as ex-militants did in the Niger Delta.
In recent years, armed banditry has ravaged northwestern and north-central regions with mass murders, kidnappings, and looting of communities. Some affected state governments in the hotspots had hastily extended uncertain peace agreements to bandits, but it did not resolve the bandits’ violence. On March 3, 2021, Garba Shehu, a presidential spokesman, said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered security authorities to shoot anyone seen with an AK-47. This is one of the newest efforts to flush out bandits.
While the Nigerian government insists on the total crackdown on the bandits, Ahmad Gumi’s testimony suggests that if the bandits are not offered amnesty, the violence will continue. As a result, Nigeria has to prepare for increasing conflict between the Nigerian armed forces living in hotspots and armed bandits. The no-amnesty stance suggests that the era of banditry is far from over without a revamped combat action. Therefore, the Nigerian government must match words with actions.
New steps need to be taken to improve the fighting in the bandits’ vulnerable areas with the help of parishioners. The securitization of hotspots requires holistic action. Community actors play an essential role in the securitization of rural areas. Your cooperation will improve the efficiency of security personnel. The numerous non-state armed defense militias must also be involved in the securitization of violent trouble spots.
New security commitments sponsored by President Buhari in bandit-infested states in Nigeria must take into account existing defense militias that meet security needs. The armed forces must work with state governments, civil society organizations and community actors to identify and register local security actors at the destinations of renewed military operations. This will help avoid an impending crisis of gun-carrying bandits and informal security units, and alternatively turn them into productive assets for military use in the areas. The indiscriminate struggle against defense militias can radicalize them and turn them into enemies of the state, while complementing the ineffective securitization of the violent trouble spots.