How bandits ravage Zamfara, environs: BBC African Eye releases documentary (VIDEO)

Bandits bands raid communities, assault drivers, kidnap students, and kill anyone who opposes them in northwest Nigeria.

What do these men want, and who are they?

In a new BBC Africa Eye documentary, some of the most dreaded bandits leaders in Zamfara state are exposed as the source of Nigeria’s worst security crisis.

Zamfara state in northwest Nigeria has been plagued by violence for the past ten years. Armed with Kalashnikovs and machetes; young men in gangs enter villages on motorbikes and set them on fire, rape, steal, and kill.

But even youngsters are not safe. Hundreds of students have been kidnapped from boarding schools throughout the state; held captive at bandit hideouts buried deep in the woods while being demanded for ransom.

Mass murders and abductions grab headlines, yet there hasn’t been much local reporting; leaving fundamental questions unanswered. These thieves, who are they? What are they seeking? How did this violence start, and why?

BBC Africa Eye has spent more than two years locating and interviewing some of the most infamous bandits commanders in Zamfara in an effort to find answers.

A young Nigerian journalist and law student named Yusuf Anka visited bandits commanders in isolated settlements all around the state; including one of the guys who kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a high school in Jangebe in February 2021, at great personal risk.

The most shocking facts in the movie relate to the kidnapping of the roughly 300 girls.

The girls were taken by robbers from a public high school in Jangebe in February 2021.

Subsequently, the robbers who carried out the kidnapping were never apprehended and refused to talk to the media in the past; but the BBC team managed to find one of the attackers who oversaw the attack on the school.

He says on video that the Nigerian government paid the bandits a ransom of 60 million Naira to release the girls. Anka queries, “What did you do with the money?” “We got extra weapons,” is the prompt response.

The government of Zamfara state has always denied that any ransom was paid to the bandits.
Ado Aleru, a prominent Fulani gang leader wanted by Katsina police for organising a massacre in the village of Kadisau in June 2020, gives the only media interview he has ever granted in the movie.

Aleru has been the subject of recent controversy in Nigeria after receiving the title; “Chief of the Fulani” and being “turbaned” by an emir in Zamfara state.Aleru

Specifically, he responded to the BBC’s question about how many individuals he had abducted: “My men do that; I just go and murder them.”

Aleru is evasive when it comes to his political goals. However, one of his allies expresses the complaints that are pushing many young Fulani men to join bandit bands.

The man tells us that cow herding has traditionally been a part of life for the Fulani people. However, he revealed that it has gotten harder as traditional grazing routes have been cut off; with land and water becoming rare.

According to the man, the Fulani are routinely denied access to government employment and other economic possibilities. Also, he revealed that the Nigerian Air Force regularly targets and kills innocent Fulani ranchers and their cattle. Further, he questions, “How have the Fulani become so useless in Nigeria.”

The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara offer no simple explanation for the crisis that is destroying lives across northwestern Nigeria. Nevertheless, it does reveal, with painful clarity, the human cost of violence.

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