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Who are the ‘bandits’ behind Nigeria’s mass kidnappings?

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For the past decade, criminal gangs in northwest Nigeria have terrorised communities, attacking villages, pillaging, raping, stealing cattle, ambushing travellers and kidnapping people.

Groups have also turned to mass kidnapping, seizing hundreds of students in a string of raids on schools — apparently emulating tactics used by jihadists hundreds of kilometres away.

Here’s what we know about these “bandits,” as the gangs are known locally:

How did the violence emerge?

Violence in Nigeria’s northwest originated with communal clashes over access to land and resources — a phenomenon that has worsened with the suspected impact of climate change.

On one side are predominantly Fulani herders and on the other mainly Hausa farmers.

After years of conflict, and land ownership laws favouring farmers, some herders turned to violent criminal activities, boosted by illegal weapons flows from as far as Libya.

How many are there?

These groups, mainly comprising Fulanis but also Hausas and other ethnic groups, set up camps in Rugu forest, in Zamfara state.

This became the springboard for attacks in neighbouring Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Niger states.

Some have hundreds of fighters and others have just a dozen, according to Nnamdi Obasi of the International Crisis Group think tank (ICG).

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In 2019, the Zamfara authorities estimated there were more than 10,000 bandits in 40 camps across the state.

What are their targets?

“Bandits” mainly target people in rural areas but also carry out highway ambushes, killing those who attempt to resist kidnapping or refuse to pay ransoms.

Between 2011 and 2019, up to 3,600 people were kidnapped in Zamfara alone, while violence has killed 8,000 people and displaced 200,000, according to the ICG.

Gangs have also stepped up attacks on workers on the informal gold mining sector.

And in recent months, they have targeted schools for boys and girls. Four mass kidnappings of students have taken place since December.

In the latest attack, 279 girls were taken from their boarding school in Zamfara last Friday.

As in other abductions, the girls were later released, in conditions that remain unclear.

Links with jihadists?

The gangs are largely driven by financial motives and have no known ideological leanings.

But there are fears they are being infiltrated by Islamists who have waged a decade-long insurgency in the northeast.

The jihadists leapt to international notoriety in 2014 with the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, sparking the #BringBackOurGirls movement.

Some bandit groups have pledged allegiance to Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, while some fighters from the rival Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) group have deserted or fled to the northwest, analysts say.

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On December 11, 344 boys were snatched from a school in Kankara, in Katsina state. Initially blamed on bandits, the kidnappings were later claimed by Boko Haram in a video.

The students were released a week later after a negotiations between the criminals and local authorities who rejected that Boko Haram had anything to do with the ordeal.

What are the authorities doing?

The Nigerian army deployed to the northwest in 2016 and launched air strikes in 2018 but attacks have persisted.

In November 2020, the air force struck camps along the Abuja-Kaduna highway, a key axis to the capital where kidnappings have become rampant.

But the military are largely focusing efforts on the northeast, where insurgents have killed at least 30,000 people in the past 10 years.

At a local level, authorities in Zamfara have attempted to negotiate with bandits, offering amnesty in return for disarmament.

A peace deal was signed in 2019, but remains fragile.

In a statement last Friday, the presidency said head of state Muhammadu Buhari urged state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits… warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”

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Division in Igala land as ruling house opposes Mathew Opaluwa’s nomination

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The announcement last week from the Igala Traditional Council that Mr Mathew Opaluwa has been chosen as the new Attah Igala to succeed the late Michael Idakwo Ameh-Oboni has sparked another bitter row amongst the ruling Oguche House.

Indeed, the preferred candidate for the exalted position, Mr Samuel Opaluwa, is challenging the choice of The Traditional Council as an act of political imposition and abuse of the law governing the selection process.

He is going ahead with his rejection of Mr Mathew Opaluwa as the new Attah Igala through an official petition he has sent to the Commissioner for Local Govt.and Chieftaincy Affairs as well as Kogi State Council of Chiefs not to accept the nomination of Mr. Mathew Opaluwa for the exalted position.

In the petition forwarded by his Lawyer, A.

S Akpala & Co., he argued that “forwarding the name of Mr Mathew Opaluwa as an Attah-Designate to the State Council of Chiefs as provided for in section 10 of Legal Notice No.

 

2 of 2015, if that were to be interpreted literally, would make the position of the Igala Area Traditional Council not only redundant but most irrelevant in such weighty case as in the recommendation of an Attah-designate”.

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It is further pointed out that “we are disgusted to note that the Review Panel shoved aside all the obvious facts in our Client’s presentation and went outside these terms to recommend a candidate who was never recommended/nominated by the relevant King makers from the Aju Ame-Achor Ruling House, and who is far junior in age to our client as a candidate for appointment to the exalted throne of Attah Igala.”

The petitioner is therefore appealing that the most elderly and qualified male contestant from the Aju Ame-Achor Ruling House, Mr. Samuel Opaluwa, who was duly screened and nominated by the kingmakers of that Ruling House be recommended to His Excellency, The Executive Governor – in Council, for appointment to the vacant throne of Attah Igala.

From  an impeccable source that Mr Samuel Opaluwa’s group of elders in the ruling Oguche House have also reacted angrily to the latest development, believing strongly that I. T. C has violated Order 2 of the procedure and regulations for the selection and Ascension to the stool of Attah Igala.

According to one of the elders of the ruling family House, Jacob Etu, a retired Deputy Commissioner of Police, “it is highly disappointing that some members of I.T.C. could be so politically and financially compromised in order to thwart the cause of Justice and peaceful life of members of the ruling family.

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With the latest development over the choice of who will succeed the late Micheal Idakwo Ameh-Oboni, the Igala people of Kogi State would still have to wait a little longer without a substantive Attah Igala.

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Big wahala dey for Niger State oo! Resident raises SOS alarm over Fulani terrorists’ invasion

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A resident of Niger State, whom we will simply refer to as “Malam Usman”, has raised a “Save Our Souls” alarm over Fulani terrorists’ invasion of the state’s towns and villages in the state.

The SOS was delivered by Malam Usman to ElombahNews through voice and text messages and subsequent telephone conversations.

In the text message, he wrote:

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“Big wahala dey for Niger State oo!

“The day before they sacked Gulbin Boka, yesterday Shadadi, today Bangi.

“By the time they are done with villages, towns will follow.

“The next step will be kidnapping while traveling from one location to another.”

According to sources within the state, the places mentioned above – Gulbin Boka, Shadadi and Bangi – are middle class towns within the state.

According to telephone conversations held with Malam Usman, who spoke in Hausa language, the bandits arrived his village, one of the three mentioned above, with about one hundred and eighty motorcycles, each one carrying a rider with two passengers.

The marauding band struck last week, robbed the whole town and set shops ablaze, after which they

left.

The whole operation lasted hours as it started early hours of the morning and continued till around 01:00PM.

Meanwhile, while the attack lasted, there was no security agent in sight!

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The distraught villagers ran helter-skelter into surrounding bushes, while the advantaged ones flew to other towns and villages the bandits are yet to attack.

Malam Usman begged the federal and state governments to authorise  residents to buy and possess gun to enable them defend themselves against the bandits.

This, he said, is because government agencies have proved futile in protecting them, while others are suspected to even connive with them to perpetrate mayhem.

Meanwhile, recently the state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani-Bello also raised alarm that Boko Haram terrorists have captured some towns and villages in the state and have hoisted their flags in the captured areas.

Presently, several elites from Northern parts of Nigeria have severely condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for the worsening insecurity in the region.

One such heavy critic is a popular Islamic cleric, Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Gumi.

Sheikh Gumi said that the bloodshed and killings in President Buhari’s government is devastating and by far more than that of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.

He called for Buhari’s resignation, blaming him for bloodshed and saying he is full of mistakes.

Speaking in a recorded video, he also apologized to former President Jonathan, saying the former president was a better president than Buhari, whom he referred to as a tribalist and a segregationist.

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a senior Army officer in the Nigeria Army Headquarters in Abuja, who confirmed the development.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, as he is not the Army spokesman, he said that the Department of State Security (DSS) has updated the Headquarters about the development and that efforts are in place to restore order in the affected areas.

 

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Donald Trump Launches New Communication Platform After Being Banned On Twitter

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Former US President, Mr. Donald Trump has launched a new “communications” website, which says it will publish content “straight from the desk” of the former US president.

Mr Trump was banned by Twitter and suspended by Facebook and YouTube after the Capitol riots in January.

The former president has since been releasing statements by press release – which the new website will now host.

Users will be able to like posts – and also share them on Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“It is a blog,” Kara Swisher, technology columnist for the New York Times told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “I was like ‘2002 is calling and it wants its blog back…’

“I don’t know what the overall plan is because he does have some very sharp digital advisers.

It is just the beginning of his attempts to try to re-establish a louder ability to participate in digital media.”

 

The move comes a day before a decision is due from Facebook’s Oversight Board on whether to permanently ban Mr Trump.

Mr Trump’s senior adviser, Jason Miller, had previously said a new social media platform was to be launched. “This new platform is going to be big,” he said in March.

But Mr Miller tweeted on Tuesday that the new website was not the social media platform he had previously hyped.

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“We’ll have additional information coming on that front in the very near future,” he said.

The website is reportedly built by Campaign Nucleus, a digital services company created by Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Several posts on the site repeat debunked claims that last year’s presidential election was rigged.

Facebook’s Oversight Board will announce its decision on whether Mr Trump is to be permanently banned from the platform on 09:00 EST (14:00 BST).

If he is allowed back on to the site, Facebook will have seven days to reactivate his account.

YouTube has said they will reactivate Mr Trump’s account when the threat of “real-world violence” reduces.

Twitter, where Mr Trump had 88 million followers, has banned him permanently.

A Twitter spokesperson told the BBC: “Generally, sharing content from the website referenced is permitted as long as the material does not otherwise violate the Twitter Rules”.

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