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Home Breaking News Why Nigeria’s bandits are recruiting women for gunrunning

Why Nigeria’s bandits are recruiting women for gunrunning

In a strategy honed by Boko Haram, bandits are enlisting women for arms trafficking in Nigeria’s north-west.

Women are increasingly involved in banditry-linked arms trafficking in Nigeria’s north-west.

Between December 2022 and February 2023, police arrested several female gunrunners in Nigeria’s Zamfara State for allegedly supplying arms and ammunition to bandits.

Banditry – a composite crime that includes armed robbery, kidnapping, murder, rape and the illegal possession of firearms – is Nigeria’s most pressing security challenge.

Several news reports on illegal arms movements and sales in north-west Nigeria over the past three years involve women traffickers. In October 2021, a 30-year-old woman who specialised in supplying guns to bandits in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna,

Katsina and Niger states was arrested with 991 rounds of AK-47 ammunition. She was trafficking the contraband from Dabagi Village in Sokoto State to a notorious bandit kingpin responsible for terrorising Zamfara and neighbouring states.

In March 2022, Nigerian police arrested a 38-year-old female in connection with arms and ammunition smuggling from Plateau State to various bandit camps in Kaduna, Katsina and Zamfara. Eight locally made AK-revolver guns,

submachine guns and 400 rounds of AK-47 ammunition were recovered from the suspect.

An estimated 30 000 bandits in groups ranging from 10 to over 1,000 fighters operate in north-west Nigeria.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) project, attacks by these groups increased by 731 per cent between 2018 and 2022 (from 124 to 1,031 incidents).

There were around 13,485 banditry-related deaths between 2010 and May 2023. ACLED data relies on local sources and media reports, which means many incidents may go unrecorded.

Banditry pervades Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara states and is fast spreading to parts of north-central Nigeria and south-west Niger. A combination of factors makes Nigeria’s north-west susceptible to attacks. These include poorly managed security resources, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers, illegal gold mining, declining rural livelihoods, poor management of Nigeria’s international borders, weak law enforcement and a failure of security intelligence.

State officials say the major enablers of banditry are porous borders and arms trafficking. As far back as 2019, Nigeria’s information minister at the time, Lai Mohammed, said 95 per cent of weapons used for terrorism and kidnapping are trafficked through the country’s borders, emanating borders, emanating from Libya and other war-torn sub-Saharan African states.

The recent increase in women’s involvement in arms trafficking should be viewed in the context of north-west Nigeria’s economic downturn, which disproportionately impacts women, says Umaima Abdurrahman, a gender activist in Kaduna State.

She told the ENACT project that poverty is a significant driver of women’s links to criminal activities such as drugs and gunrunning.

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