Zamfara: Are banditry killings in Nigeria getting worse?

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A woman in the Nigerian special forcesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Nigerian army has deployed troops across parts of Nigeria in response to rising banditry

There's growing concern in northern Nigeria over the level of banditry and kidnapping in the state of Zamfara.

In a recent video, local journalist Kadaria Ahmed, has hit out at the government over what she claims to be a surge in killings there.

"Every day we bury between 30, 40 and 50 people," she said in the video, first broadcast on television and then widely shared on social media.

She said there were more killings taking place than in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, areas in north-eastern Nigeria affected by Islamist militants Boko Haram.

So what's going on in Zamfara, and are levels of violence increasing?

Zamfara has long faced problems with armed groups stealing cattle, kidnapping for ransom and attacking communities, which has in turn prompted some local people to form vigilante gangs.

More recently, there has been a growth in informal mining activity in this mineral-rich region, which has attracted people from outside the state, further fuelling instability.

At the beginning of April, the government responded to concerns over increasing levels of violence, suspended all mining activities in the state, and deploying additional troops to the area.

The Nigeria Security Tracker, produced by the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), monitors levels of violence by collating local media reports.

This highlights a significant upsurge in killings over the past few months.

According to these figures, from the beginning of 2019, there have been 262 civilian deaths. In the whole of 2018 there were 288 and for 2017, the figure is 52.

The CFR data also indicates a sharp rise in killings of members of armed groups - which would include bandits, vigilantes and others involved in criminal activities.

However, the number of deaths each day is not as high as the 30 to 50 claimed by Kadaria Ahmed.

With 262 civilian deaths in the first 100 or so days of this year, that's between two and three deaths each day - although the CFR data does indicate that this number is rising.

Comparing Zamfara with other states in the north

In her video, Ms Ahmed also claimed that Zamfara has become more violent than the states of the north-east where Boko Haram has been active.

Taking total civilian deaths from the beginning of March to 6 April, there have been 169 deaths in Zamfara according to the CFR - that's compared with 28 in Borno State and 14 in Adamawa.

There were no such incidences recorded from Yobe.

So Ms Ahmed is correct that recent deaths in Zamfara are significantly higher than in these other states.

The decline in the number of killings in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe is a largely as a consequence of Boko Haram militants losing much of their territory in the region since 2015.

More about Zamfara:

  • 67.5% of people in poverty (National rate: 62%)
  • Literacy rate: 54.7%
  • Slogan: Farming is our Pride
  • Residents mostly farmers from Hausa and Fulani communities
  • Population: 4.5 million (2016 estimate)
  • Mostly Muslim
  • First state to reintroduce Sharia - in 2000

Source: Nigeria Data Portal, and others