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EMERGENCY: 23000 Nigerians fled their homes in April – why it matters

Nigerian refugees in Niger... H/T: UNHCR

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EMERGENCY: 23000 Nigerians fled their homes in April – why it matters

At least 23,000 Nigerians fled their homes and communities in the Northwest and sought refuge in the Republic of Niger last month following heightened attacks by armed groups in the region. This is according to a report by the United Nations Refugee agency which also expressed worry about the poor state of internal security in the country.

What’s happening: States like Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, and Zamfara have recorded violent attacks by gunmen who kidnap people for ransom, pillage, and loot villages for food and other valuables. Scores of people have lost their lives, sometimes in reprisal attacks by civilian vigilante groups formed by communities as an extra layer of protection due to the failure of security agencies to protect them. With dominant media coverage on COVID-19 and its devastating consequences on Nigeria’s economy, the most recent attacks and the brewing humanitarian disaster in the region have gotten little attention.

Going by the numbers:

Why it matters: Insurgent groups continue to gain prominence in the Northwest region, the most populous region in the country and home to the president, Muhammadu Buhari. There are fears that the terrorists could use the region as a ‘land bridge’ to link with other fighters in the Sahel region given its geographical location. This would complicate the fight against terrorism and pose new problems for the country’s overstretched military.

What they are saying: The Federal Government has repeatedly deployed troops to the region to curb the violence in an operation codenamed ‘Hadarin Daji’. Last week, the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari, said soldiers have been deployed to the state to protect the people from bandit attacks.

Yes, but: This is unlikely to solve the problem according to Murtala Abdullahi, a climate security expert who attributed the recent spate of attacks to the breakdown in peace talks between the government and the armed groups.

He said: “The dialogue process didn’t completely disarm these criminal gangs or ensure justice and compensation for the victims. Not much was invested in addressing the underlying factors responsible for the conflict such as deeply-rooted bad blood, vengeance resource struggle, ungoverned spaces, weak law enforcement and state presence.”

READ: Is dialogue the way out of the violence in North West Nigeria?

Peter Adeshina is a journalist who reports politics, policy and governance.

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