New Lords of Nigeria’s North West Bandits: Terrorists or Criminal Gangs?

Banditry primarily impacts rural communities—the very communities responsible for food security—and has disrupted socio-economic life in the North West.

Nigeria has a long history of violent conflicts dating back to the 1960s’ ethno-political conflicts in the Middle Belt. The return to democratic governance in 1999 saw a rise in violent non-state actors and their domination of national and sub-national security agendas. Today, these armed non-state actors include ethnic militants, gangs and cult groups, political thugs and other groups. In agitating against the established socio-political order, such groups take advantage of the relative freedom provided by democratic governance, particularly the repeal of restrictive military-era laws, such as the notorious Decree 2 of 1984, which allowed the government to detain citizens it considered a threat to national security and Decree 13 of 1984, which prohibited citizens from challenging the validity of any decree in the court of law. The emergence of Boko Haram in 2002 only relegated some of these groups to the fringes of national and regional security agenda.

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