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Nigeria’s Rampant Banditry and Some Ideas On How to Rein It in

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Gusau — ‘The problem is that the peace deals negotiated so far are badly flawed and amateurishly executed.’

They are known simply as “bandits” – heavily armed criminal gangs that have terrorised Nigeria’s rural northwest, killing, kidnapping, forcing people from their homes, and taunting the authorities with their brazenness.

The violence typically involves scores of gunmen on motorbikes sweeping into villages, shooting all the young men they can find on the assumption they belong to local vigilantes, and then carting away livestock and anything else of value.

The raids are increasingly daring. In the last few months, bandits have downed an air force jet; attacked the military’s officer training school; struck a prestige commuter rail service running between the capital, Abuja, and the city of Kaduna; and kidnapped students for ransom from schools and colleges so many times that education is now in peril.

And although bandits aren’t natural ideological bedfellows for jihadist movements, there’s also a persistent fear that al-Qaeda-linked Ansaru and Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) – the country’s largest extremist group after splitting from Boko Haram – are recruiting among them to expand their influence across the entire north.

Zamfara, one of Nigeria’s poorest states, is at the centre of the banditry. It tops the country’s league table of violent deaths, with 495 reported killings between July and October. That’s far more fatalities than northeastern Borno – where ISWAP and Boko Haram operate.

The insecurity has triggered a food emergency across the northwest, with over 450,000 people fleeing farms and rural markets. The US government’s Famine Early Warning Systems Network, known as FEWS NET, has predicted “catastrophe” levels of hunger in parts of the region – which means famine for some households.

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The following outlines what’s gone wrong in the ongoing attempts to resolve the expanding crisis, and offers some recommendations on a way forward.

The failed military response

Roughly 10 military operations have been launched against banditry in the northwest so far, but they have failed to make a dent in the insecurity. The mobile gangs take advantage of a forested, sparsely populated region, and when attacked, simply move elsewhere.

The security stick doesn’t address the root causes of the violence. Land disputes are a key issue: Expanding farms have encroached on the routes and cattle reserves used by pastoralists, resulting in friction – on both sides – when fields are trampled. Local authorities are seen to have failed to fairly adjudicate these conflicts.

Nigeria is also under-policed, so farmers turned to vigilantes – known as Yan Sakai – for protection. But the Yan Sakai have been indiscriminate in their retaliatory violence. Although the bandits do recruit from among pastoralists, the vigilantes’ response has been to target all herder communities, regardless of culpability.

The pastoralists have responded with their own, forest-based – and better-armed – self-defence groups, which over time have become almost indistinguishable from the original bandits.

What’s to be done?

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To try and stem the spreading chaos, some state governments have turned to peace deals to essentially buy off the gunmen. The model is the oil-rich Niger Delta from a decade ago, where militants protesting the government’s exploitation of the area accepted amnesty deals and development programmes to end attacks on oil facilities.

But that approach has had mixed results in the lawless northwest. Zamfara introduced an amnesty and a cash for guns scheme in 2016. Initially, it seemed to work, but it fell apart two years later with the death of warlord Buharin Daji, the lynchpin of the deal.

Zamfara tried again in 2020. This time, the new governor, Bello Matawalle, offered cows in return for guns (to avoid monetising the violence). He also ordered the disarmament of the Yan Sakai, and pledged to construct Rural Grazing Areas – settlements with dams and veterinary services set aside for pastoralists. But the attacks continued, and Matawalle made a U-turn in September, cancelling further dialogue.

A new military offensive was launched in Zamfara in September, combined with a telecommunications blackout, and bans on the sale of fuel in jerry cans to try to blunt the bandits’ mobility. But the measures have simply pushed the bandits into neighbouring states.

It has been the same story in Katsina, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, with peace deals never properly sticking. Yet pastoralists in both Zamfara and Katsina also point out that governments have failed to deliver on the development promises they made.

Some states, led by Kaduna and Niger, have taken a far harder line by refusing to negotiate over ransom demands or amnesties. But they have not fared any better, with a string of high-profile student abductions that has forced the closure of schools.

Private mediation has also been tried. The most prominent was by Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, the leader of the influential Izala Islamic sect. He held a series of forest meetings with bandits, arguing that their grievances should be taken seriously and would need the kind of political and financial investment that ended the Delta crisis.

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Why peace deals don’t work

There’s a tendency to see the bandits as an undifferentiated group of ruthless, criminally minded men, ready to welch on any deal as soon as it’s in their interests to do so. In much of Nigeria, they are referred to as “terrorists” – which clouds conciliation attempts.

Both Matawalle, the Zamfara governor, and Gumi, the cleric, have argued that among the bandits are the self-defence groups that took up arms to defend pastoralist communities against the Yan Sakai – and to protest government neglect – and these are the men the amnesties and promises of development spending aim to reach.

But regardless of government intentions, the problem is that the peace accords negotiated so far are badly flawed and amateurishly executed.

These are some of the key issues getting in the way of workable deals:

Nothing in writing: There are usually no documents that outline terms and conditions, and no legal framework to guide implementation. That’s why, one bandit leader told The New Humanitarian, he considers them a “deal”, not an “agreement”: They are essentially transient and non-binding.

Lack of consultation: The peace deals are further weakened by the lack of involvement of farming communities. As a result, the farmers believe the interests of the aggressors are prioritised over the rights of the victims. The Yan Sakai – who farmers see as vital community defenders – complain that they hear about peace deals over the radio, just like everybody else.

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Bandit proliferation: It’s estimated that there are at least 80 major gangs operating in the northwest. No chain of command unites them, and they act in their own individual interests. This means a complicated series of negotiations are needed to bring them all on board – if that’s even possible.

Hungry lieutenants: Negotiations are also complicated by the power dynamics within each gang. Deals are made with leaders, who have grown rich from banditry. They then need to sell the accord to their men, some of whom may not yet be ready to retire from a life of relatively easy money. Some deals have failed due to the overestimation of a warlord’s influence.

Guns galore: Media-friendly disarmament ceremonies don’t tell the full story. There are a lot of weapons in circulation, and it’s the village-based Yan Sakai that are at a disadvantage when it comes to surrendering them. The more mobile bandits can cache their weapons out of sight in the forests. And even though they are known to possess RPGs and anti-aircraft guns, those are usually not handed in – a lack of monitoring means they are likely to stay hidden.

No DDR: The lack of a formal disarmament, demobilisation, and rehabilitation (DRR) programme to support the reintegration of repentant bandits is also a challenge. Its absence compromises empowerment and psycho-social support programmes – which can leave surrendered bandits stranded and frustrated, vulnerable to re-recruitment.

Left and right hand: The lack of policy cohesion between the federal and state governments adds to the challenges of making peace. For instance, at the same time that Zamfara was offering an amnesty in 2018, the army was on an offensive, undermining the process.

The failure of the formally negotiated deals has seen the rise of hyper-local agreements between individual communities and the gangs, with villagers paying a tax in return for peace. In some areas, bandits now act as the law, settling local disputes and dispensing “justice”.

The way forward?

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Here are some suggestions to deliver better results:

Smarter warfare: Nigeria must adopt a whole-of-government approach, with an emphasis on a military strategy that is holistic rather than piecemeal. In the immediate term, to establish peace, the government must first gain legitimacy by protecting the people.

Coordination: Peace deals alone are not a silver bullet in the fight against banditry: But they can be managed far better than the current ad hoc approaches: They need to be part of a “joined up” strategy that involves states and the federal government.

Incentives: A formal DDR programme needs to accompany any peace arrangement, similar to what is being implemented for surrendering jihadist fighters in the country’s northeast. Many of the bandits are young pastoralists without formal education. To leave the bush, they will need incentives, in the form of training and support.

No impunity: DDR should target the low-ranking footsoldiers – but the warlords must be held accountable for their actions. Given the sclerotic and frequently corrupt formal justice system, Nigeria should consider establishing special courts to try them.

Reparations: The success of any peace deal will depend on how the victims of the banditry are treated – including compensation for losses incurred during the conflict. For peace to be seen to be just, it needs to include reparations.

Reserves: To end pastoralist encroachment on farms – and farmer encroachment on grazing lands – reserves need to be gazetted, with water points, veterinary services, and schools also provided: an ongoing plea from pastoralists.

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The government has drafted a National Livestock Transformation Plan that aims to curb the movement of cattle by encouraging pastoralists to switch to sedentary livestock production – more mechanisation and less transhumance. It’s a good start, but it is yet to be implemented – and faces financial, technical, and political challenges.

As this list of suggestions shows, for there to be any hope of ending the banditry in the long run, Nigeria must address the root causes of the conflict, and that requires far-reaching reforms in governance, and real accountability for all those associated with the insecurity.

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AFRICA

Air Traffic Controllers 2-day strike leaves Passengers stranded

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Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers, ATCs, commenced two days disruption of early morning domestic flights across the country to press home their demands for better working conditions.

The disruption is expected to last for three hours each day between 6 am and 9 am.

The action has already affected the flight schedules of many airlines as they had to reschedule.

The action of the Traffic Controllers is coming after another ATC, Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk, died in the early hours of Monday, November 22, 2021 while on duty at the Nnamidi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

A statement issued by the Controllers yesterday read: “That commencing from 0600 UTC today, 23rd November 2021, ATC units nationwide should operate flow control. That all departures should be spaced at 20 minutes intervals. That all international flights are exempted.”

“That all ATCOs should endeavour to be on high alert should there be a need to escalate this exercise beyond flow control, we are ready to further such actions. That this exercise will be for two days and will be strictly executed at the four major airports with strict coordination from adjacent aerodromes before any start up is issued”.

Speaking further on the grievances of the Controllers and action to be taken in another statement titled: An SOS On Poor Air Traffic Control Working Conditions And Staffing, signed by Abayomi Agoro, President of the association and Rev. Agbonlahor Felix, General Secretary, the union said: “Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers’ Association (NATCA) rose from an emergency meeting conveyed over the tragic, painful and avoidable exit of one of our diligent and dedicated colleague Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk in the early hours of Monday, November 22, 2021.”

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“The council observed that within the last two years, Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association has lost nine of her members on active service due to stress-related health complications which seem associated with poor working conditions and inadequate staffing. “

“Several appeals to management and other stakeholders in the industry and inactions by appropriate managers on communiqués from the Association’s past Annual General Meetings had failed to address the issues. “

“The death of Mr Aniekan Effiong Inuk on active duty at Abuja airport whose sad event is not unconnected with the unavailability of operational vehicle to move him to a hospital in record time amongst others is one too many.”

“Hence, Air Traffic Controllers are embarking on a three (3) hours flow control for two days, 23rd and 24th November, 2021 from 0600UTC to 0900UTC to register our displeasure and call the attention of relevant authorities and the public to quickly address our concerns without further delay.”

Meanwhile, Some airlines have sent messages of flight delays and adjustments to their customers who were already at the airport while some have cancelled flights outright blaming the action on ATCs.

A Green Africa Airways flight scheduled to depart Lagos for Akure at 1.34 pm was first cancelled, then rescheduled to 4.45 pm and then another notice of delay was sent to customers.

“Flight 318 from QOW to AKR scheduled for 23 Nov 2021 04:45:00 has been cancelled. This is due to an ongoing industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers. We apologise for any inconvenience this might cause you.”, the message to passengers read.

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“Please be notified that your flight 307 from AKR to LOS will be delayed due to an industrial action by Air Traffic Controllers at some major Airports in the country today.”, another message reads.

The ATCs are, amongst other demands, asking the government to “approve and implement a 500% upward review of the annual ATC medical allowance to enable ATCOs to carry out comprehensive medical assessment among other stuff.”

“That all Air Traffic controllers be enrolled in an enhanced comprehensive health and life insurance schemes that will meet their health needs. “

“That standard medical emergency kits be provided at all ATC units and yearly Health Safety Environment (HSE) training programs for ATCOs be conducted,” amongst other demands.

Source: Vanguard News Nigeria

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AFRICA

We Don’t Have Control Over Cooking Gas Price ― FG

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The federal government on Tuesday said that it has no control over the price of cooking gas because the product is fully deregulated in the country.

The minister of state for petroleum resources, Timipre Sylva, who made the declaration in a chat with correspondents however noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is worried about the hike in the price of cooking gas.

The minister was at the presidential villa, Abuja to introduce to the president the CEO, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA,

Engr. Faruk Ahmed and the CEO, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission NUPRC, Engr. Gbenga Komolafe.

He asserted that gas prices are determined by the global market, even though he indicated that government will everything possible to bring down the price of cooking gas especially during the Yuletide season.

He said, “We must understand that cooking gas is not subsidized. It is already a deregulated commodity. So the price of cooking gas is not determined by the government or by everybody in the industry. In fact, gas prices are determined internationally.

“And you all are aware that in Europe, today, gas prices have gone up. There was even a crisis in Europe relating to gas prices. So the pricing of gas internationally now affects also the price of gas in the country.

“Apart from that, there are some issues around VAT charges on imported gas, and of course, taxes on imported gas, which we are handling. But of course, quite frankly, these taxes on imported gas, you must also juxtapose it side by side with the local producers of gas.

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“So, if you incentivize the importance too much, then you will also kill the local industry. And also, you don’t want to incentivize the local industry at the expense of the imports, because if incentivize the local industry at the expense of the imports, then you will not have enough gas produced within the country.

“So, these are the issues of balancing that the midstream and downstream regulatory authority are handling and I want to assure you that we are quite concerned.

“Mr. President also is very concerned. He is aware that the price of cooking gas is high in the market, and we’re doing everything trying to see how we can bring down the price of gas especially as we approached the Yuletide.”

Sylva also disclosed that the president has directed him to proceed to Nembe, Bayelsa State to investigate the level of damage caused by the recent gas spillage in the area.

The minister stated that he will visit the affected communities on Wednesday to assess the situation.

He said; “And the question which is on the spillage in OML 29, we are quite aware of it. Unfortunately, it has happened. It is also one of the issues I discussed with the president as a minister and he has actually asked us to go and visit the site to assess the situation and report back.

“Definitely, we are quite concerned with what is happening in Nembe and will be going there very soon tomorrow. In fact, to go and look at what is happening and report back.

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“Mr. President is very personally interested and we have discussed it and he said we should go there and come back and report to him because environmental degradation issues are things that we are not going to condone but of course we’ll work with the operators of OML 29 to ensure that this spillage is brought under control as quickly as possible.”

On the resurgence of fuel queues in parts of the country, the minister directed the CEO of the Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Ahmed to answer it.

The NMDPRA CEO explained: “You see intermittent queues in some parts, maybe of Abuja and maybe the environs, basically what happened is that some of the depot owners are selling PMS, above the official ex-depot price of N148, they are selling at N156, N157.

“And the reason they adduced is that they are paying for their logistics like shipping in US dollars, they’re paying for NPH, port charges and NIMASA charges in US dollars.

“They have to go to black market to source these US dollars. And that differential between the official and the black market they buy, that is why they added about N9 to N10 to N15 and it depends on whether you are in Lagos, Calabar, Port Harcourt, or Oghara.

Now, we had a meeting the week before last on Tuesday, the 9th, and the NPA was there represented and the DG NIMASA was there as well NNPC, major marketers were all there and we all agreed and resolved that NNPC excess capacity of their shipping their vessels will be chartered to all marketing companies. We will be charging in Naira so that NNPC now will go and source for converting US dollars through the CBN.

“As for the NIMASA and NPA charges, it was all agreed that they will revert to their supervising ministry to get direction on the receipt of these charges in Naira rather than US dollars and I understand the process of that engagement with their supervising ministry has already commenced.

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“Once the NNPC from the 15th of this month, they have already converted to charging Naira instead of dollars for their excess capacity charter to all marketing companies. So, I believe with this, there will be no reason for the depot owners to increase their price beyond the official selling price of N148 naira.

“Now, we have been working tirelessly in the past few years to sensitize our people to start using LPG for example. And they were making an effort to do so. People are now interested in are working towards utilization of LPG, but then the production is not commensurate with the demand.

“And this is why we want to focus on investment in the area. Now, a lot of major oil companies like their IOCs want to invest, but the pricing framework is an issue for them. So, we’re working with the guidance of the Honourable Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to ensure that we put the pricing framework that is attractive enough for the investors but at the same time is simple enough for the consumers, whether it is power, or industrial base, or the commercial sectors.”

 

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AFRICA

Binance challenges The Nigerian Stock trading apps by offering U.S stocks

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Nigerian stock trading apps with exposure to foreign stock listing face a herculean task as Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange recently disclosed it will list three new stock tokens over the coming weeks, following the launch of stock tokens that gauged the performance of Coinbase and Tesla Stocks in early April.

The Hong Kong-based exchange in a statement released today said that such tokenized stock offerings will include MicroStrategy, in addition to tech juggernauts Apple and Microsoft.

The tokens will permit its customers to trade fractionalized units of the share tokens, at cheaper transactional fees when compared to traditional trading apps.

Fast-rising fintech trading platforms like Chaka, Trove, Bamboo, and Risevest already offer Nigerians such platform in purchasing foreign listed stocks amid the recent clampdown of such services by the Nigerian Securities Commission.

What you should know about Binance Tokens

Binance Stock Tokens are tokens of stocks (i.e., shares of public companies) that trade on traditional stock exchanges.

Each Stock Token represents one ordinary share of the relevant stock. These Stock Tokens are fully backed by a depository portfolio of underlying securities held by CM-Equity AG, Germany (“CM-E”). Holders of Stock Tokens will qualify for economic returns on the underlying shares, including potential dividends.

Blockchain technology is already revolutionizing financial system services. This technology has made the need for a third party unnecessary in transactions or access to the stock market. Conventionally, buying stocks usually required a stockbroker, paperwork, or a long list of financial assessments.

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Unlike regularly traded stocks, tokenized stocks do not require any sort of paperwork or the need for a stockbroker as a middle-man, which makes them free from the stockbroker’s fees.

Tokenized stocks are derivatives assets. This simply means that the price of a tokenized stock is determined by the price of the company’s stock. If a particular asset is traded at a certain price on a stock market, the same price or a little difference in price will be traded on different exchanges.

Tokenized stocks are digitalized forms of a company’s stock traded on secondary markets. What this means is that Tesla, Apple, Facebook, etc. stocks can be traded on a crypto exchange. Trading Tesla’s stocks, for instance, on crypto exchanges makes it easily accessible to purchase anywhere.

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AFRICA

Creative: South African woman makes dress from recycled KFC packaging

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The Internet has transformed the world into a global village today. Within a minute we get to know news from a thousand miles away and feel connected. Social media platforms also keep us informed and entertained. People are finding new ways these days to get noticed on these online platforms by doing something unique. A female fashion designer and blogger from South Africa is a recent example of this, having garnered the attention of social media users for her creative take on sustainable clothing.

The young fashion designer, who goes by the name NokuzothaNtuli on Twitter, has shared images of a beautiful dress made from recycled KFC packaging that has left people stunned.

Showing her love for KFC, the fashion designer, in a caption, explained that the dress was made out of recycled KFC packaging. She also tagged KFC South Africa in her post. The pictures were an attempt by the designer to win KFC’s Superfan contest, which had the grand prize of a year’s supply of the brand’s fried chicken products.
Take a look at NokuzothaNtuli’s post:

https://twitter.com/NokuzothaNtuli/status/1461041200299978753

Since being shared, this tweet has grabbed over 13,000 likes and a plethora of reactions by Twitter users. Enjoying the attention on social media, the fashion designer has it pinned on her profile at the moment.

After viewing the photos of the dress on Twitter, KFC South Africa themselves were pretty impressed and responded to the woman’s idea on the social networking site, saying that, “All this fresh drip, we were never ready”.

https://twitter.com/KFCSA/status/1461235360973926404

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The word drip is an urban slang word for chic and fashionable clothing.

Not only KFC South Africa but social media users also appreciated the creativity of the fashion designer. Several users found the dress very innovative and commended the fashion designer on her skills.
Some people rooted for NokuzothaNtuli to win the Superfan contest.

Others were impressed by the talent of the designer as well as the free marketing that KFC got through her.

Some people also shared their own experiences with clothing made out of recycled paper.

Now its your time, how creative do you think this dress is?

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